Kalaburgi: With the education system facing challenges of access, affordability and quality, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said technology-led models could offer a viable solution in education and skill delivery.
"As about 400 million students are likely to seek education at different levels by 2016 and about 300 million youth have be imparted skills by 2022, to my mind, technology-led models could offer a viable solution," Mukherjee said in his second convocation address at the Central University of Karnataka here, about 650 km from Bengaluru.
Taking a cue from the world's leading universities, which applied technology model to provide quality education to their students, the president said rich course content and flexible programmes could work well for the country, as students were diverse in socio-economic background and location.
"Interactive massive open online courses, which had come up in a big way since it was started in 2008, can power vocational training and improve delivery of skills knowledge," Mukherjee said.
Noting that mobile phone technology could also be a enabler for formal and vocational education, the president said apart from providing skill training, education content from best institutions could be made available on mobiles for students.
"Though e-platform cannot substitute classroom teaching, it can play a complementary role. ICT (information and communication technologies) tools like the national knowledge network (NKN) have to be used for collaboration of ideas, knowledge and academic resources," Mukherjee said.
Observing that a developing country like India needed innovative solutions to renewable energy, climate change, drinking water, sanitation and urbanisation, the president said universities across the country should alight thier research priorities to meet these challenges.
"Our universities have to be breeding grounds for creative pursuits and cutting-edge technology. They have to inculcate scientific temper and a spirit of inquiry in their students. Research promotion at the under-graduate level could facilitate this objective," Mukherjee said.
As one of the 16 universities set up by the central government in 2009, the institute caters to students of the state's northern districts which were part of the erstwhile Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the Nizam kingdom and considered backward in socio-economic development.
Lamenting that Indian institutions of higher learning lag behind in international rankings, the president urged them to adopt a proactive approach to present their credentials better, as a higher rank would boost morale, enhances job prospects of students and helps in attracting quality faculty and bright students.
"It is a matter of satisfaction that for the first time, two Indian institutions have figured amongst the top 200 universities this year. I hope other institutions will follow suit. Nascent universities like yours through a sustained effort at better academic management can soon be in the reckoning," Mukherjee said.
Admitting that faculty shortage and attracting meritorious students were two major challenges faced by state and central universities across the country, the president advocated a flexible approach, as world-class education was feasible only with world-class faculty.
"Faculty development must be a top priority in our institutions. Theoretical framework of any discipline undergoes rapid change as new concepts emerge replacing older ones. With foresight and eagerness, our teachers can stay abreast of the latest developments in their field," he said.
The president, who is on a two-day official visit to the state, also advised universities to hire adjunct faculty from industry and research centres, as they provide an industry orientation in the higher education pedagogy.
"Specialists from abroad could inject new ideas. The Global Initiative for Academic Networks (GIAN) is a welcome step in this direction," he added.
With 1,200 students, nine schools, 16 departments and two post-graduation centres, the university waives off fee for girl students from economically weaker sections.
Governor Vajubhai R. Vala, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and other dignitaries were present on the occasion when the president gave away post-graduate degrees and medallions to meritorious students.