Vellore, Aug 31 : Former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf might be out of sight (after being forced to vacate the presidency), but he is not out of the minds of the Indian intelligentsia, at least to say, as one of the most respected personalities in the field of higher education in southern India, G. Viswanathan today recalled his experiment of increasing the professors' salaries manifold in June 2007, which bore fruits in terms of Pakistan making significant progress in higher education there.
Viswanathan is the Chancellor of Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), one of the two jewels of Vellore; the other being the CMC (Christian Medical College). Spread on an area of 300 acres, VIT is an "a place to learn and a chance to grow" for nearly 14,000 students, including 800 foreigners, mainly from China. Placed, among the top ten institutes in the country, VIT is a students' paradise, with lush green lawns, metalled roads with a clear line of trees and calm environs.
Urging the Union Government to improve the infrastructure for higher education, the politician-turned-educationist said that the Government should work on "war footing" to increase the number of teachers and lay a strong foundation of infrastructure for the future.
The Chancellor said that nearly five lakh Indian students were studying abroad, on whom an estimated amount Rs 13 billion dollars are being spent. "Every year about 1.5 lakh students go abroad for higher studies, if we have a strong educational infrastructure within the country, we can save such a big amount being spent abroad," said Viswanatha, a former minister in Tamil Nadu government during MGR regime and also a two-time MP.
He said that even as there was a huge dearth of teachers, the Government was giving relaxations in basic qualifications needed for teachers' appointment, which, he added, "means quality of teachers is going down."
"Today, the scenario is so bad that teachers are appointed on contract basis and those who teach students of middle standard are barely matriculates. Such teachers are hired for remuneration as low as Rs 1500-2500 per month," Viswanathan said addressing students on the occasion of 23rd convocation of the VIT (Vellore Institute of Technology).
According to him, presently only ten percent of students had the access to higher education, and in the next ten years it is targeted to go up to 15 percent. "This can only be done by increasing more universities, and more universities, in turn, means further shortage of teachers," he said and added that the issue of lack of teachers had to addressed amicably if the standard of higher education had to taken up.
Going by current figures, there was a net dearth of eight lakh teachers for Classes I to VIII and another 12 lakhs for Classes XI and XII, added the VIT Chancellor.
Speaking on the occasion, Chief Guest and noted journalist N Ram said that the four southern states, namely Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Kerala, had more than 1000 engineering colleges, which account for nearly two-thirds of such institutes across the country. "This gives us a platform to take off to the developed nation status as far as engineering education is concerned," he said but also underlined the lack of quality education and shortage of good faculty in the educational institutes.
He said that India had to respond to the great challenge whereby India was being discussed more as compared to China at the international for a, by building up a strong education framework. "Knowledge society uses its knowledge
N Ram wished the outgoing students "hard work, success and every happiness in life", and also hailed Viswanathan's efforts in setting up the state-of-art VIT, which, according to him, had come up as one of the premier institutes in the country.