4 Sep : “There is a dire need for the education sector to move in tandem with the country”, were the opening remarks of His Excellency, Shri Jagannath Pahadia, Governor of Haryana, while inaugurating the two-day North Zone Vice-Chancellors’ Conference being hosted by Panjab University, Chandigarh, in collaboration with the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) at the PU campus here today.
Taking up the theme of the Conference, ‘Expanding horizons of Higher Education: Challenges’, he expressed concern at an education system that does not guarantee jobs. He also enjoined upon the gathering of Vice Chancellors, Deans and Chairpersons to ensure that along with education, the students were also taught to value their cultural heritage. In recommending uniformity in the education system all over the country, he referred to the dismal state of affairs in the state level educational institutions where vacant teaching positions, lack of infrastructure, commercialization of education, lack of vocational education were some of the lacunas. He also said that private educational institutions need to have a long term perspective and have to follow the established parameters.
Prof. Beena Shah, Secretary General, AIU, while elaborating on the theme of the Conference, cited statistics to illustrate the plan of action required in the higher education sector. With the target of reaching 30% enrolment in higher education from the current 12.5%, Prof Shah said that AIU was completely geared for the challenge and the Conference was a means to brainstorm on the entire modalities of delivering on higher education as per the needs of the country. Issues pertaining to greater interaction between universities, signing of MOUs, streamlining of the Open Credit system to include credit transfers, correction of eschewed literacy rates that are currently seeing variations of gender, caste and the urban-rural divide, revamping of distance education, promoting the Smart Classroom concept through EDUSAT were valid discussion trigger-points, she said.
Prof. G.K Chadha, CEO, South Asian University, in his keynote address, addressed the issue of higher education against the backdrop of a world scenario that is akin to a global village. Stressing on the need to break out of the 10th class pass mentality, he said, “Conventions should be there only to be ignored. We need to recognize that to be truly a global power we need to put our education system into a ‘vision and research’ mode rather than one that focuses on a degree-oriented approach”. Prof. Chadha stressed on the need for an innovative, inclusive approach to education that should be geared towards equitable distribution of education avenues. He struck a note of caution when he pointed out that a blindly egalitarian approach should not be followed when dispensing grants.
Prof. P.K. Chande, Vice-President, AIU, in his Presidential remarks called for an equitable and sustainable education sector. Citing the fact that India gave the university system to the world, he made an impassioned plea to proceed with caution where the issue of entry to foreign universities in the country was concerned. “Partnership with private universities also should be between equals and India should not be reduced to the status of a market for the educational institutions based abroad”, he said.
The technical sessions saw in-depth presentations by Prof. K.K. Bhutani, National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, Prof. Vinod Kumar Singh, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Bhopal, Prof. A.S. Brar, GNDU, Amritsar, Prof. S.S. Gill, CRRID, Dr. Parmod Kumar, IDC, Prof. M.S. Kang, PAU, Ludhiana, among others. Discussions revolved around equity in higher education, quality upgradation, focus on human capital and the repositioning of research.
While welcoming the vice chancellors of over 50 universities in the region, Prof. R.C. Sobti, Vice Chancellor, Panjab University, urged the delegates to address the elemental question: “Are we actually educating or merely giving education?” He underlined the need to bring in expansion in the higher education in tenor with the developed world so that India can create world class human infrastructure. He also referred to the responsibility of the decision makers to make education system an inclusive one so that those who are on the margin can have access to opportunity structures for capacity building. He also referred to the need to make the Universities as the knowledge hub. National Knowledge Commission’s recommendations need to be implemented in true spirit. Prof Sobti also suggested that the growing divide between the central and state universities in terms of resources should be bridged.
Dr Raj Kumar, Organizing Secretary, presented the vote of thanks.