Education = Future

It is a special privilege and an honour to deliver the Convocation address of this centre of excellence in education and research. I have admired its journey from a Patshala with one teacher in 1901, to a high school, to an intermediate college to a degree college to Birla Institute of Technology & Science, a top class institution, with many firsts to its credit, from first practice school to first overseas campus. An academic institution is known for its ambition and ambience. You have both here. It is also known by its excellence and relevance. Again, you have both here. So I greatly appreciate this opportunity to speak to my young friends here, who are going to be the builders of future India.

I begin my address by quoting the statement of Shri Kumar Mangalam Birla, the Chancellor of our University. He had said something very meaningful.

“What is it that can empower our nation? The most obvious answer is education. Education that enhances livelihoods but also education that is value-based. Education that gives roots and gives wings as well.”

Let me cite a recent incidence to substantiate this statement. There was a discussion on what is possibly the most powerful equation that was ever developed by scientists. Someone said that it was the equation describing Newton’s second law, giving the relationship between force (F), mass (m) and acceleration (a), namely, F = ma. Someone else said that it is Einstein’s equation linking Energy (E) to mass (m) and the velocity of light (c), namely, E = mc2. The others came out with some other suggestions.

Then they asked me as to what I thought. I said neither Newton nor Einstein. The most powerful equation is E = F. Here E is Education and F is Future! This means education is equal to the future. This equation is universal and eternal. If there is no education, there is no future. No future for the individual, no future for the nation.

Well, you will say you are a scientist. And a scientist has to prove the equation that he proposes. So I will give you the proof.

3rd October 2011 was a very important day. American Academy of Arts & Science in USA honoured the elected fellows of the academy by admitting them in a formal function. This academy, which was established in 1780 has 200 plus Nobel Laureates as its fellows. Great personalities from Winston Churchil to Charles Darwin, from Einstein to Nelson Mandela, have been elected as its fellows. You might ask as to how many Indians have been elected as fellows. The answer is, just seven so far. Interestingly, the 6th and 7th fellows signed the book of the academy, where all these legendary figures have put their signatures. Do you know who was the 6th? It was none other than Ratan Tata. Do you know who was the 7th? It was myself, Raghunath Mashelkar. Interestingly, both of us signed on the same page one after the other. To me this is the proof of the equation E=F. You might ask how?

Well, as most of you know, I was born in Mashel in a very poor family and life was a big struggle when my mother brought me up in Mumbai under the most adverse conditions, where two meals a day was a challenge. Although I stood 11th among 1,35,000 students in SSC Examination of the Maharashtra State Board, I decided not to study further, but work, because my poor mother could not support my higher education. But it was the scholarship of Rs.60/- per month that the Sir Dorabji Trust gave me for six years that helped me to do my higher studies.

I used to go to Bombay House, where the Tata Group has its offices to collect my Tata scholarship. In 1960, if somebody had said that fifty years down the line, the head of the family of Tatas and myself will sign in the same book on the same page at the same time, I would not have believed it. But this became possible because of the power of the equation E=F. I got my future through the education that the Tata scholarship made possible.

So my young friends, the very first message that I want to deliver is that education is the key to your future and education is not merely learning, it is all about learning, doing and being. The being part of it is very very important, since it deals with your being an active participant in the society, in building the society.

Goa recognizes the importance of education in building the future of Goa. I had the privilege of chairing the Goa Golden Jubilee Development Council (GGJDC), which brought out the report ‘Goa-2035: Vision and Road Map”. You will all recollect the seven point agenda we had set up for Goa. One of them was ‘Suvidya or Knowledge Centric, Enlightened Goa’, where we had said:

“In addition to the numbers, it is important to promote quality in education. Keeping in view the national policy that each state should have a high quality institution of learning, GGJDC recommends that the state pursue setting up an Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), and Indian Institute of Management (IIM) in Goa. Such institutions will help to evolve Goa into an educational hub.”

I am happy to see that the Central Government has already announced that Goa will have an Indian Institute of Technology. This is in line with the implementation of GGJDC recommendation. I will like to congratulate our dynamic and visionary Chief Minister for making this happen. I hope the other recommendations on making Goa a great education hub will also be implemented.

You will be stepping out of the portal of this great institute today in a world that is full of opportunities. India today is not just being looked at as a third world country – it is being looked at as potentially a third most powerful country in the world. My young friends, it is going to be your responsibility to build the future of our beloved nation.

And what is going to be our future? President Obama had once said that the currency for the 21st century will be education and innovation. I will go further and say that what we need most now is education in innovation and innovation in education. And India needs it the most.

These are very interesting times for education system as a whole in India. First, the Indian system of education is undergoing a sudden massive expansion. The role of private sector in education is being redefined because of the additional need for massive resources that will be required to fulfill the aspirations.

Second, the liberalization of education sector in India. On 24 July 1991, the new industrial policy was announced. That gave us the second freedom, the freedom to compete. Although the trade and industry was liberalized on this day, the process of liberating India’s education and agriculture sector has not still been completed.

Third, the  globalization of education. As regards globalization of technology it has manifested itself in India. Practically all the leading multinational companies have set up their R&D Centres in India (almost 800 of them now employing about 200,000 Indian scientists, engineers and technologists). But what about globalization of Indian education? Indian companies are acquiring companies abroad. In fact, Ratan Tata, an Indian, is today the biggest employer of British in Britain with the acquisition of Corus, Jaguar Land Rover, and so on. What about Indian universities setting up campuses abroad? What about Indian universities hiring foreign academics as faculty? What about foreign students making a bee line for our universities?

Fourth, the issue of moving from ‘right to education’ to ‘right education’, to ‘education for all’. It translates itself into an all round inclusion of `have nots’, where this section of the excluded society gets an access to high quality education, that is “affordable and accessible”. The justifiable quest for `inclusion’ is also accompanied by the challenge of balancing `expansion, inclusion and excellence’.

For teaming young Indians, the issue of `growth’ translates into `job led growth’. And therefore, education and skills that Indian education systems impact must lead to tens of millions of jobs. And the news is not good on this front. Reportedly, we are producing over three million first degree holders annually and less than 20% of these are employable!

Fifth, innovation in education. Among other things, it involves the creative use of the fascinating advances in technology to do away with the old style classroom teaching, which is going to be a history.

Look at the dramatic changes that are happening around us due to advances in Information & Communication Technology. Digitisation, virtualisation, mobilization and personalization are the four new megatrends. All these will lead to game changing cocreative, self-organising, self correcting, borderless, globally distributed, asynchronous, dynamic and open systems. Data, voice and video will be delivered with the already existing 3G and the imminent arrival of 4G in India. The processes of self learning, interactive learning and life long learning will undergo a sea change with all these paradigm shifts.

The years 2011-2020 have been declared as the Indian Decade of Innovation. And in this Indian decade of innovation in the area of education, what pledge should we take. I suggest the following five points:

–    We will make a transition from being a weak and hesitant private sector partner to a strong practitioner of privately managed non-profit institutions
of higher education.
–    We will do away from being a tentative destination for occasional foreign students to be a preferred global destination for foreign students.
–    We will move from minor follower and a player in research and innovation to a global leader and a giant in research and innovation.
–    We will be a confident and competitive intellectual property promoter rather than being protective and restrictive intellectual property practitioner.
–    Instead of being copier of ‘best’ practices in education and research, we will become the creator of ‘next’ practices in education and research.

And it is these paradigm shifts in our attitudes and in our actions that will make the dream of creating India into a leading developed innovation nation come true, and that too sooner rather than later.