Vice President asks educational institutions to play a bigger role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals

New Delhi: Vice President, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu today said the contribution of educational institutions is of critical importance in achieving SDGs and urged colleges and universities to play a bigger role in this regard.

Virtually inaugurating the annual meet of Association of Indian Universities (AIU) and addressing a national seminar on ‘Realizing Sustainable Goals through Higher Education Institutions’, Shri Naidu said that primary, secondary and higher education institutions need to consciously adopt practices that lead to the achievement of SDGs.

He said colleges and universities can contribute in a number of ways such as research, policy development, and engagement with societies for creating awareness and effective implementation of sustainable development strategies.

Referring to the United Nation’s Agenda–2030 on Sustainable Development comprising 17 SDGs, he said that India was in 120th position in 2021 SDG index. Stressing the need to surmount challenges such as poverty and illiteracy in achieving various SDGs, he called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders, including civil society and educational institutions.

Observing that India’s higher education sector is the third-largest in the world with around 1050 universities, more than 10,000 professional technical institutes, and 42,343 colleges, the Vice President said that if all of them contribute towards the accomplishment of the goals, it will make a major impact on the overall world scenario.

Referring to India’s glorious past in knowledge generation, application and dissemination to world, he said the versatility of our knowledge systems and culture and their enduring significance make them relevant forever. He called upon all the Indian universities, including those in the private sector, to strive for academic excellence and make India ‘Viswaguru’ again.

Observing that the new National Education Policy—2020 is a farsighted document, the Vice President said that its implementation in letter and spirit will help us to achieve SDG agenda.

Expressing his “deep-seated wish” to see Indian Universities ranked among the top 10 universities of the world, Shri Naidu urged all universities to set high standards of academic excellence, including research, knowledge-creation, and focus on infrastructure development, while ensuring equitable access to education.

Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot, Hon’ble Governor of Karnataka, Col. Dr G. Thiruvasagam, President, AIU, Prof. G. Hemantha Kumar, Vice-Chancellor, University of Mysore, Dr. Pankaj Mittal, AIU General Secretary, and other dignitaries were present.

 

Following is the full text of the speech:

 

“Sisters and Brothers!

It is my pleasure indeed to address such a distinguished galaxy of intellectuals who are the academic captains of the country. I was informed that along with the Vice Chancellors, the executive heads of apex bodies in higher education and senior academic faculty members of Indian universities have also congregated to discuss and deliberate on crucial issues like Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this meet.

Before I share my views, let me compliment each one of you for being a part of this meet organized by the Association of Indian Universities (AIU).

It is heartening to note that this prestigious organization is one of the oldest flagship bodies of universities in the world. It is also a matter of delight that stalwarts like Dr. Syamaprasad Mookerjee, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Dr. Zakir Hussain, Dr. A L Mudaliar and many more eminent educationists and astute statesmen, adorned this organization as Presidents. Today, when AIU is celebrating its 96thFoundation Day, I deem it an honour to address you on how the Indian higher education institutions can play a vital role in realizing the SDGs set by the United Nations.

As you all are aware, the United Nation’s Agenda–2030 on Sustainable Development comprising 17 SDGs was signed by most countries more than seven years ago. Recent UN reports indicate that the progress achieved in these goals is uneven and that more needs to be done. According to the 2021 SDG Index, the three Nordic countries Finland, Sweden, and Denmark top the list. Countries like Germany, Australia, UK and Spain are in the top 20 on the list. India is in the 120th position.

We must remember the fact that saving the Planet ought to be a collective effort of all countries. We can ill-afford to lose sight of the relevance of the adage ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ in this context.

India, with the second-largest population, is one of the critical countries where the achievement of the SDGs will be essential for realizing the 2030 Agenda in the next decade. Poverty and illiteracy are challenges we need to surmount as a society in our quest to achieve SDGs. Other factors which are hindering our march to progress include child malnutrition, gender inequality, equitable access to safe water and environmental pollution. Thus, there is a long road ahead that India needs to traverse to achieve SDG Agenda 2030.

In India, NITI Aayog has created a national framework to work towards achieving SDGs. The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) is assisting NITI Aayog in interacting with other ministries and developing indicators on SDG goals and targets. As is evident, achieving SDGs is not the responsibility of any particular organization, Ministry, or Government. It needs a concerted effort from all stakeholders including civil society, industries, NGOs, and most importantly, our educational Institutions. The contribution of educational institutions is of critical importance. Primary, secondary and higher education institutions need to consciously adopt practices that lead to the achievement of SDGs. Colleges and universities have a bigger and a key role to play in this regard. They can contribute in a number of ways such as research, policy development, and engagement with societies for creating awareness and effective implementation of sustainable development strategies, apart from preparing students for the challenges of the 21st century.

As you are aware, India’s higher education sector is the third-largest in the world. It is a throbbing educational hub with around 1050 universities, more than 10,000 professional technical institutes, and 42,343 colleges, in both public and private sectors. If all our higher education institutions come forward to contribute towards the accomplishment of the goals, our achievement will be very significant and it will make a major impact on the overall world scenario.

Unfortunately, so far, most of the higher educational institutions have remained almost disconnected from the SDG Agenda 2030. When it comes to integration of the SDGs in the operations of higher education institutions, we still have a long way to go.

I congratulate the Association of Indian Universities for this initiative of conducting these brainstorming sessions in this seminar towards realizing SDGs.

Dear Vice Chancellors and distinguished gurus,

As you all know India has a glorious past in knowledge generation, application and dissemination to world. The existence of universities like Nalanda, Taxashila, Vikramshila, Vallabhi and Odantpuri in ancient India bear ample testimony to the fact that India had an age- old tradition of education and learning which had made it Viswaguru at one time.

The essence of ancient knowledge systems of India in the form of Vedas and Upanishads, puranas and itihasas, among others, the greatness of Indian culture and the traditional lifestyle of Indians has been passed on from generation to generation till today.

The versatility of our knowledge systems and culture and their enduring significance make them relevant forever. For example, Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, the most popular prayer of Indians in which we pray God to ‘keep all beings happy’ would be an everlasting wish of all individuals and societies.

Today, India stands poised on the threshold of a world of historic possibilities and opportunities. It is now one of the emerging superpowers with improved education, development of resources and jobs, better infrastructure and health care, among others.

The new National Education Policy—2020 is a farsighted document which is bound to transform the educational landscape of the country. Its recommendations are aligned with SDG and its scope and vision encompass complete overhauling of the Indian educational system from pre-primary to higher education along with curricular reform to institutional reform in a phased manner.

I am certain that implementation of this policy in letter and spirit will help us to achieve SDG agenda.

As I understand, there will be discussions on all the SDGs in various sessions which will primarily address the role of colleges and universities in giving an impetus to the larger objective of accomplishing SDGs.

Besides, I learn that there will be stocktaking of global progress towards achieving these goals. It is important to share knowledge, highlight success stories and good practices.

At the same time, it is also of importance to identify areas of concern and challenges and suggest the way forward in terms of action points for higher education institutions, government, and other stakeholders.

A welcome aspect is that action points for higher education institutions will cover all the three dimensions of HEIs—Teaching, Research, and Community Development.

Let me share another deep-seated wish of mine—that is to see Indian Universities ranked among the top 10 universities of the world. All universities should set high standards of academic excellence, including research, knowledge-creation, and focus on infrastructure development, while ensuring equitable access to education.

I wholeheartedly wish this Vice Chancellors’ meet a great success. I am certain that some tangible recommendations will emerge from this extensive brainstorming which will help all the stakeholders.

I also congratulate AIU for its 96 years of successful journey and convey my best wishes for all future endeavors.

Jai Hind!”

 

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