Lucknow, Sep 23: President Pratibha Devisingh Patil said the educational scenario of the country faces challenges of both quantity and quality to become a leading nation of the world. ''As we expand our education infrastructure, it is important that the quality of eudcation is not compromised, if we want to become a leading nation of the world,'' she said.
The President was honoured with D.Litt (Honoris Causa) degree by Lucknow University (LU) Chancellor T V Rajeswar with which she has become an alumuni of the university.
Delivering her convocation address at the LU here, Ms Patil said, ''Our varsity must compete with the best in the world, as quality education for all young people was essential for securing them a better future.'' She said as the society transforms, the education system must respond to the change and a growing country like India requires a talented and well-trained population to harness opportunities into visible and concrete results. ''Universities must adopt a system for looking at the curriculum and changing and amplifying it to include new fields of knowlege to respond to the national requirements,'' the President added.
''I am told that the National Knowledge Commission has stated that India requires 1,500 universities nationwide, but the current number falls short of it,'' she expressed.
However, Ms Patil said that unfortunately, there has been a deline in our research capacity. ''This trend needs to be reversed and research facilities in our university need to be reinforced. The varsities must become centres of research and advanced research responding to the requirement of society and the various economic sectors such as agriculture and industry,'' she said.
Pointing out the evils of the society, she said,''We have to rid the society of prejudices, discrimination against women and social evils by changing the mindsets of the people. We should also fight addiction to drugs, tobacco consumption and alcoholism, which have a debilitating effect.'' The President appreciated the girl students, who had outnumbered the boys in recieving gold medals, particularly Babita Singh, who won six medals. She also recalled great people like former President Shanker Dayal Sharma and others associated with the LU, a premier educational centre of the country.
The convocation function was also addressed by LU Chancellor and UP Governor T V Rajeswar and Prof A S Brar, the Vice-Chancellor of LU, who welcomed the guests. State Higher Education Minister Rakesh Dhar Tripathi and Health Minister Anant Kumar Mishra were also present at the function.
The Chancellor conferred D Sc(Honoris Causa) degree upon emminent scientist Prof R P Rastogi and D Litt (Honoris Causa) Degree to renowned Oriya wirter Chandrashekhar Rath.
Altogether, 17 students were awarded 28 medals, with Babita Singh getting six, while Amit Kumar and Bhagyendra Kumar Verma getting two medals each.
The President said universities have contributed significantly to the economic and social development of post-independent India and today also universities have a role as institutions for new and innovative thinking. ''It is in the university that the youth can be enthused with a spirit of national unity and national development so that they are eager contributors to building a strong and modern India, through a process of inclusive growth,'' she said.
Mr Rajeswar, in his presidential address, said the University was one of the first universities to be co-educational and deemed it a privilege in honouring India's first woman citizen with a Doctor of Literature (Honoris Causa). ''Mrs Patil represents the noblest virtues of the Indian tradition,'' he said.
Expressing his concern over the state of affairs in the education system, Mr Rajeswar said the country was far behind the target of universalisation of primary education, especially with reference to the girl child. ''Violence against women, restriction on women's mobility and traditional role divisions of work continues to restrict women's life choices in education and career,'' the Governor said adding, it was unfortunate that less than 20 per cent of the youth between the age of 18 to 25 years receive higher education in the country.
The Chancellor also said one of the biggest lacunae in our higher education scene has been in the area of fundamental research in sciences, which has created a shortfall of teachers in higher institutions of Science and Management.
He said, ''In the area of global competitiveness, we need a multi-disciplinary approach to education with flexibility.'' Welcoming the guests, prof Brar demanded that the university should be converted into a centre of excellence as proposed to the Planning Commission.
The VC also took the opportunity in demanding more grants for the university as the state government support to this university is lesser as compared to some other central universities with lesser requirements. ''With freezing of state grants, it is a difficult task to maintain quality,'' he said.
Prof Brar further said that the state government would more realistically respond to the financial requirements of the varsity as this was the most crucial investment in nation building.
The President was welcomed by Guv T V Rajeswar and Chief Minister Mayawati at the Amuasi airport from where she headed towards the LU.
Ms Patil would be meeting several delegations, including the widow of martyar Abdul Hamid at Rajbhawan this evening. The Governor would hold a formal dinner for the President where she would take a night halt.
The President would leave for Kanpur tomorrow morning to attend a function.