Speech of Hon’ble HRM on National Education Day
1. Respected Pradhan Mantri ji, Mr. Koichiro Matsuura, Director General, UNESCO,
Smt. D. Purandeswari, Minister of State for HRD, Secretary (School & Higher
Education) noted academics, distinguished guests, senior officers, Members of
Press/Media and dear children.
2. I feel privileged to welcome you all to celebrate our National Education Day.
Today, we commemorate the Birth Anniversary of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a
great visionary, freedom fighter, scholar, secular thinker, eminent educationist
and the first Education Minister of India.
3. On behalf of the Ministry of Human Resource Development and on my own
behalf, I have great pleasure in welcoming the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India,
Dr. Manmohan Singh who has very kindly consented to be our Chief Guest. His
commitment to ensure quality education for India to meet the challenges of the
21st Century is as visionary as the Maulana’s belief in the critical role education
plays in nation building. Thank you, Sir for being with us. It is also my
privilege to welcome Shri Koichiro Matsuura, Director General of UNESCO who
has come to participate in this celebration. While welcoming Mr. Matsuura, I
also wish to thank him personally and UNESCO for having agreed to set up the
Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development
as a Category – I Institute of UNESCO in India. I also extend a warm welcome
to Secretary Generals and delegates of the National Commission of Bangladesh,
Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka as also distinguished academics, officials
and students who have joined us today in this celebration.
4. Maulana Azad was an intellectual par excellence. His profound and vast
knowledge, sharp and luminous intellect, steadfastness of purpose, philosophy
of life and incisive worldview continues to inspire us all. He contributed to the
laying of a strong foundation for education in India. His commitment to
provide secular, liberal, modern and universal education is relevant even today
and continues to guide us for achieving education for all. The corner stone of
his education policy was his conviction that democracy cannot function without
the eradication of illiteracy. His philosophy on education is reflected in the
National Policy on Education and remained a corner stone for many
commissions and committees which built upon the broad framework of that
policy. In fact, addressing the conference on All India Education on January
16, 1948, Maulana Azad emphasized, “We must not for a moment forget, it is a
birth right of every individual to receive at least the basic education without
which he cannot fully discharge his duties as a citizen.” He emphasized on
educating the rural poor and girls. As Chairman of the Central Advisory Board
of Education, he gave thrust to adult illiteracy, universal primary education, free
and compulsory for all children upto the age of 14, girl’s education, and
diversification of secondary education and vocational training. Maulana Azad
had also chaired the General Conference of UNESCO.
5. I am happy to share with you that in the year 2009, we have achieved a key
vision of Maulana Azad. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory
Education Act, 2009 recently enacted will bring access to quality education to
an estimated 160 million children, presently out of school. Out Government
has also recently launched the Saakshar Bharat Programme focussing on
6. We in India recognize that the task of nation building, reducing poverty and
ensuring education for all, cannot be met without a large stock of human
capital equipped with quality knowledge and skills, to foster a knowledge
society. To meet the requirements of EFA and to provide secondary and
vocational training to the youth, we require millions of teachers. The young
may be hungry for learning, but we may not have quality teachers to ignite
their minds. The social order must respect teachers who all play a pivotal role
in building a peaceful and just society.
7. In higher education, we are faced with four major challenges – access to higher
education; ensuring excellence; increasing global interaction and the growing
use of technologies.
8. Unlike many other countries, where the young working age population is fast
shrinking with higher dependency ratios, India has a demographic advantage
with about 70% of the population below the age of 35. But this advantage can
only be realised if opportunities for education expand on a massive scale.
India’s Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) of around 12.4% is unacceptable
considering that the world average is 23.2%, 36.5% for countries in transition,
54.6% for the developed countries, and 22% for Asian countries. We are
committed to achieve a GER of 30% by 2020.
9. The globalisation of higher education has also added newer challenges in terms
of quality assurance system, issues of mutual recognition and equivalence of
degrees and transparency in the regulatory structures of national systems of
higher education. Towards this, our Government has initiated several reform
measures. An independent mandatory accreditation system is being proposed.
We also plan to introduce legislation to prohibit and punish malpractices and
adoption of unfair practices in higher education. Further, a legislation to
facilitate the entry of foreign education providers is also under consideration.
10. The implications of new and more diverse modes of delivery based on ICTs
including e-learning, open educational resources and mobile technologies needs
to be understood and harnessed. The ICT revolution worldwide has facilitated
ready access to information and diverse knowledge. It is, therefore, important
that our Universities and Colleges develop a system of knowledge management
to reap the benefits of the information technology revolution. We have already
launched a National Mission on Education through ICT which in the next three
years will provide internet connectivity to over 20,000 degree colleges and over
10,000 departments in Universities.
11. A globalised world will ultimately require the outsourcing of human skills in
regions which will witness a ‘demographic deficit.’ Skilled human capital will
have to be imported to certain regions to sustain economic growth. In that
sense the developed world has a huge stake in ensuring that the human
resource available in large numbers in developing economies is adequately
empowered by investing in their education and skill development. The
presence of DG, UNESCO will help in ensuring coordination and cooperation
amongst countries in empowering populations through education.
12. The three major issues of education in today’s world, namely access, equity
and quality need to be addressed in a holistic manner to ensure that our
systems of education and research not only contribute to nation building but
also to create a knowledge society, with values of sustainability, peace and
development. This was the vision of our great leaders. This is the vision that
underlines all our policies and programmes.
13. Let me conclude by quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Father of the nation on Maulana.
“Maulana is the Emperor of learning. I consider him as a person of the calibre
of Plato, Aristotle and Pythagorus.” I again extend a warm welcome to all
gathered here to pay tribute to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a freedom fighter,
revolutionary journalist, social reformer, champion of communal harmony and a
visionary Education Minister. I am sure his vision, ideas and action will
continue to inspire us in translating our endeavors to provide quality education