Vice President participates in the 10th edition of The New Indian Express ‘ThinkEdu’ Conclave

New Delhi: Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for harnessing technology to enhance access and quality of learning. Referring to how the pandemic has opened new frontiers for the transmission of knowledge, Shri Naidu said that ‘Digital tools have made learning more engaging and interactive’. He called for exploring the new possibilities in technology while also addressing the widening digital divide.

Lauding the contribution of teachers in the country in ensuring continuity of learning during the pandemic, Shri Naidu said that they kept the learning process alive by swiftly shifting to online mode. “They had kept the learner at the centre of their noble mission and minimized the learning losses”, he added.

Participating in the 10th edition of The New Indian Express’ ‘ThinkEdu’ Conclave in Chennai, Shri Naidu stressed the need for ‘thinking through our vision of education and how we can make our country a ‘learning nation’’.

Referring to the National Education Policy (NEP 2020) as a blueprint to transform the education landscape in India, Shri Naidu stressed the need for holistic education and opening up of new avenues of employment to the country’s youth. “We must make education more integrated, multi-disciplinary and relevant”, the Vice President added.

Shri Naidu said that education must become an instrument of national transformation. He said that education should help build citizens who are perceptive, receptive and communicative, who are thinking and feeling individuals, who have the passion for acquiring knowledge as well as the compassion to use that knowledge for making the world a more liveable place.

Touching upon the need to get over ‘colonial hangover’ in education, Shri Naidu stressed that Indian historical figures must be cherished and celebrated and their stories must be included in school curriculum. ‘The British left a long time ago, but we are still following the Macaulay’s system’, Shri Naidu added.

In this regard, the Vice President observed that education in mother tongue, at least until the primary level, will boost learning outcomes in children and connect them with their intangible heritage. He also called for using local languages as the language of the administration and judiciary.

Shri Naidu suggested that a ‘focus on ancient systems of knowledge as well contemporary advances like artificial intelligence, and the emphasis on skill education is likely to fast track India’s progress towards an ‘assertive country’’.

An ‘assertive nation’ is one that can be built only on the foundation of quality education encompassing a wide knowledge base and a whole range of skills, Shri Naidu reiterated. “Quality education is the most promising pathway to the ‘New India’ we are dreaming of.”

The Vice President noted that the education of the future must ‘build bridges between the world of learning and the world of work’ through entrepreneurship and skill upgradation. He also called for increased interaction with industry and agriculturists to ensure higher innovation and productivity in agriculture.

Referring to India’s demographic advantage, Shri Naidu said that India is at that crucial moment in its development journey when it can derive great dividends and it will be possible if its human resource is given equitable access to quality learning opportunities. He said the government, private sector and academia as well as media must create platforms to collaborate and achieve the required synergy.

On this occasion, Shri Naidu noted India’s achievements in improving the literacy rate and approaching gender parity in gross enrolment ratios at all levels of education since independence. He said, “We have a lot to celebrate as we have moved from a literacy rate of a mere 18% when we became independent to around 80% today. ” Shri Naidu said that India has one of the largest education systems in the world which has produced many stalwarts occupying some of the most coveted leadership positions in various academic, scientific and corporate bodies in the world.

The Vice President called for redefining the meaning of ‘Vishwa Guru’. He said, “We should set out a road map for building the Shrestha Bharat, Saksham Bharat, Ayushman Bharat and Atma Nirbhar Bharat we are aspiring for.”

While urging policymakers to focus on the ‘unfinished literacy task’, the Vice President underlined the need to go further and create ‘a learning society’ with equal emphasis on all the four pillars of education enunciated by UNESCO – Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to be and Learning to live together.

Underlining one of the objectives of education as improvement in the quality of life of people, Shri Naidu called upon educationists to ‘foster this process by nurturing talent, recognizing excellence and creating a conducive environment where innovation will thrive’.

Shri Naidu complimented the organizers for adapting the conclave to the digital mode and said that he was impressed by the high quality of discussions and deliberations that took place at this Summit.

Tamil Nadu Minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, Thiru T. M. Anbarasan, Rajya Sabha MP, Shri Subramanian Swamy, Lok Sabha MP, Shri Shashi Tharoor, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, Shri Prabhu Chawla, CEO, The New Indian Express, Shri Lakshmi Menon, and others were present.

 

Following is the full text of the speech:

“Sisters and brothers,

I am very happy to be here with you in Chennai for the tenth edition of The New Indian Express ‘ThinkEdu’ Summit.

I was here before in 2018 and was thoroughly impressed by the high quality of discussions and deliberations that take place at this Summit.

Today, the format of the Conclave has undergone a change. It is being conducted both physically as well as digitally. The world has witnessed an unprecedented disruption over the last two years. The pandemic has changed the way we live, interact with each other, learn and earn.

Education system have not remained untouched. Schools have been closed for some time, online classes became the norm and the teachers, students as well as parents struggled to adjust to a new reality.

However, we must recognize the adaptability and flexibility and commitment to ensure continuity of learning that our extraordinary teachers have displayed during this time. My sincerest appreciation goes to millions of teachers across our country who have kept the learning process alive by swiftly shifting to an online mode. They had kept the learner at the centre of their noble mission and minimized the learning losses.

Sisters and brothers,

Challenges and adversities teach us important lessons. The pandemic, too, had many lessons for us and at the same time opened the door for us to explore new possibilities.

During the last two years, we have learnt to use technology to impart knowledge, learn new skills and run educational institutions.

New frontiers have opened up for the transmission of knowledge.

Digital tools have made learning more engaging and interactive.

Yet, there has been a glaring gap in the access to technological gadgets. The digital divide became wider and more visible.

There were reports of negative impact on the emotional well-being of students.

Now that we have some respite from the pandemic, we shall have to re-think education and see how best we can harness technology to enhance access and quality of learning. We should recognize the value of social and emotional dimensions of learning and strengthen them in the curriculum and functioning of schools.

Dear sisters and brothers,

As India celebrates the 75th year of its Independence, we should not only celebrate the achievements of our post-independence development journey but also think ahead what we need to do in the next few years.

We have a lot to celebrate as we have moved from a literacy rate of a mere 18% when we became independent to around 80% today.

More children are in schools and colleges today than they were seventy five years ago.

We have one of the largest education systems in the world which has produced many stalwarts occupying some of the most coveted leadership positions in various academic, scientific and corporate bodies in the world.

It is, indeed, heartening that we have achieved gender parity in gross enrolment ratios at all levels of school education and in higher educational institutions.

The male-female gap in literacy which was 21.59% in 2001 got narrowed down to 16.68% in 2011. This is, indeed, a cause for celebration as we mark the International Women’s Day today.

Sisters and brothers,

While we celebrate our achievements of ancient India and post-independent India, we need to think through our vision of education and how we can make our country a ‘learning nation’.

We should redefine what it means to be a Vishwa Guru.

We should set out a road map for building the Shrestha Bharat, Saksham Bharat, Ayushman Bharat and Atma Nirbhar Bharat we are aspiring for.

The New Education Policy (NEP 2020) provides this blueprint. It aims to transform the education landscape in India. NEP focuses on institutional restructuring and consolidation. It attempts to create a template for holistic education, thus opening up new avenues of employment to the country’s youth. The focus on ancient systems of knowledge as well contemporary advances like artificial intelligence, and the emphasis on skill education is likely to fast track India’s progress towards an “assertive country”.

What does it mean when we say “assertive” country? An assertive nation can be built only on the foundation of quality education encompassing a wide knowledge base, a whole range of skills and more importantly, a forward looking, receptive outlook.

We must build on our strengths and have the humility to accept the best ideas from all over the world. That’s, in fact, the spirit of our country where for many millennia, we have adopted the approach so beautifully captured by our ancient thinkers who said “Aa no Bhadraah Kratavo Yantu Vishwathah” or let noble thoughts come to us from all sides.

What the National Education Policy postulates is this connection.

Connection with our past achievements and intellectual heritage.

Connection with our native languages and cultures.

Connection with the life and livelihoods of people.

Connection with the planet and the environment.

Connection with technology and scientific knowledge.

Connection between disciplines.

I believe that the essence of education is to establish these vital connections.

The education of the future must build bridges between the world of learning and the world of work through entrepreneurship and skill upgradation.

The academia must have a more intense interaction with industry and agriculturists to ensure that knowledge leads to innovation and greater productivity.

The governance of the country should benefit from the country’s vast intellectual capital and diverse strengths of professional bodies.

Education must become an instrument of national transformation.

If this dream has to be realized, we must take the National Education Policy 2020 as the starting point, a spring board for taking the quantum leap.

We must ensure that access to learning opportunities is equitable and inclusive.

We need to bridge the digital divide as well as the rural-urban divide.

We must make education holistic, with equal emphasis on cognitive and non-cognitive aspects. We must make education more integrated, multi-disciplinary and relevant.

Education should help build citizens who are perceptive, receptive and communicative, who are thinking and feeling individuals, who have the passion for acquiring knowledge as well as the compassion to use that knowledge for making our world a more liveable place.

The bottom line is improvement in the quality of life of everyone around us.

Our knowledge and skills give us the ability to make a difference. Education empowers us to make this transformation possible. And that empowerment begins in the classrooms, in our research labs, in the seminar halls.

It is our collective responsibility to foster this process by nurturing talent, recognising excellence and creating a conducive environment where innovation will thrive.

We have to re-shape the classrooms to catalyse this national transformation.

I count on our educationists and educational planners to go the extra mile to do whatever is necessary to bring about this change. The touchstone of our success is to move from ‘thinking’ to ‘doing’, from merely ‘doing’ to ‘doing it right’, ‘doing it well’ and ‘doing it on time’. Let this not be a missed opportunity.

We must focus on the unfinished literacy task, motivate our teachers to excel and create a learning society with equal emphasis on all the four pillars of education enunciated by UNESCO – Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to be and Learning to live together.

India, with its demographic advantage, is at that crucial moment in its development journey when it can derive great dividends. However, this is only possible if our human resource is given equitable access to quality learning opportunities.

We, as a nation, must collectively engage in this task. The Government, private sector and the academia as well as media must create platforms to collaborate and achieve the required synergy.

Quality education is the most promising pathway to the new India we are dreaming of. That is what an assertive and aspirational India is eagerly looking for. Let us unite our hands, heads and hearts today to create an educated India tomorrow and unveil a Sushikshit Bharat.

Namaskar. Jai Hind.”

 

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