First Convocation Address By Dr. K. Kasturirangan

Former Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation Former Chairman, Committee on National Education Policy Chancellor, Central University of Rajasthan Chairperson, NIIT University

August 26th, 2020

 Prof Ashutosh Sharma, Chairperson, Board of Governors, Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Tirupati, Shri Amit Khare, Secretary, Ministry of Education, Prof K N Ganesh, Director, IISER Tirupati, Dr C P Mohan Kumar, Registrar, Members of the Board of Governors and Senate, faculty members and supportive staff, esteemed guests, my dear students, ladies and gentlemen
  At the outset, let me thank the Chairperson, Board of Governors, Members of the Senate and the Director for this honour done to me in inviting to deliver the first convocation address of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Tirupati. I would use this opportunity to greet all the members of the academic and supportive staff who in a sense are part of the pioneering team shaping the future of this promising institute.

 I am delighted to note that IISER, Tirupati is being mentored and guided at the highest level by none other than Prof Ashutosh Sharma, a scientist of great repute, who has further established himself as a key visionary to promote Science & Technology research in this country in its multiple dimensions. Besides being a respected academician, the Chairperson has wide ranging interests including in education. More recently, he has come out with a unique suggestion to examine how multiple institutions under DST could become part of a strong conglomerate of higher education and research through appropriate reconfiguration of their roles and structure- something very timely and important to consider.

 I am very happy to see Shri Amit Khare, Secretary, Ministry of Education, who is also a Member of the Board of Governors of this institute and who just now shared his valuable thoughts about the future evolution of higher education within the framework of the new National Education Policy 2020. I should particularly highlight the critical role that Shri Amit Khare played in moving this policy at the highest levels of the government, first through the conduct of several consultations and reviews and subsequently working with Hon’ble Minister of Education and finally with the Hon’ble Prime Minister himself. It is pertinent to mention here that Shri Amit Khare deserves lot of credit for the speed with which the entire processes were carried out and bringing his own wide-ranging professional knowledge in the subject of education to guide crucial steps at appropriate times. It is timely at this juncture to inform this erudite audience that our Hon’ble Prime Minister had several sittings with experts, policy makers, stake holders and others in reviewing every element of this policy. It is also of interest to state that the Hon’ble Prime Minister made several innovative and pragmatic suggestions both in school and higher education. One is happy to note that these steps in no way compromised the policy with respect to its original letter and spirit. Further, Hon’ble Prime Minister in his recent address at the All India Conclave of Vice Chancellors declared that NEP 2020 will be now onwards the policy of the government and that no efforts will be spared to implement the same.

 Prof K N Ganesh, who is now the Founding Director of IISER, Tirupati, has had a very illustrious career as an academic, researcher and an institution builder. As the Founding Director of IISER Pune, he brought up this institution to a position of preeminence and for over more than a decade took several innovative initiatives that transformed this centre of erudition into one of the front ranking institutions among the family of IISER’s. I can say without hesitation, the originality and creativity that he brought to bear in shaping the evolution of IISER Pune certainly gave the family of IISER’s a brand name for science education and research both nationally and internationally. It is therefore; very fortunate that such an experienced visionary is now heading IISER Tirupati which is destined to reach highest levels of excellence and erudition in the years to come. I am elaborating these three key names associated with IISER Tirupati not only because of their intrinsic stature and credentials, but, also they could serve as role models for many of you, my dear young friends who are graduating today. I also use this opportunity to compliment the academic staff; each of you have a critical role to play in the evolutionary phase of this institute, besides of course ushering an era of transformation called by the imperatives of 21st century knowledge society enunciated appropriately within the framework of the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

 My dear young friends, as the first group of students graduating from this Institute, you are in a sense pioneers and thus the torch bearers of an Institution poised to reach high level of achievements in the coming years. Further, I can also expect this Institution to be the beneficiary of the rich tradition and heritage of its sister institutes in the IISER family, spread in different parts of the country having transformed the life of more than fifteen thousand students with diverse backgrounds.

 Tirupati, called as the 'Spiritual Capital of Andhra Pradesh' is one of the major holy cities of our country, being the abode of Lord Venkateshwara. Apart from the Sri Venkateshwara temple, Tirupati is also home to centuries old temples whose architectural splendours have a heavenly aura finding their mention in the Vedas and Puranas. The Vijayanagara rulers, the Pallavas, the Cholas were all patrons of this holy city. Tirupati is one among the 100 Indian cities which have been selected to be developed as a “Smart City” under the Smart Cities Mission of Government of India. Being the most visited heritage city in the world, tourism forms the major economic component. Tirupati is also a major medical hub to the surrounding cities and is home to many educational institutions and universities. This institute located at foothills of Tirupati provides a holistic environment of peace, tranquillity, enchanting ecosystem combined with a divine force that attracts people from all walks of life both from different parts country and world. Such a unique setting, certainly will provide all the necessary ingredients for the inspirational minds of the students to bring out their highest level of creativity and originality. The academic staff will find this location most ideal to perform academic activities at the peak of excellence. The kind and ever caring Lord Venkateshwara bestows his benign blessings on one and all standing majestically atop the sacred seven hills with his consorts. His kind hearted disposition for the well-being of this institution is sure to influence the future growth and evolution of IISER, Tirupati and transform it into a world renowned centre of knowledge and erudition. The most recent significant development that could add considerable value to the performance of IISER, Tirupati is the decision to locate IIT and IIIT in the neighbourhood, thereby, increasing the potential outcome of each of these institutions through synergy in academic and related activities.

 It is refreshing to see the agenda that IISER Tirupati has drawn up as its academic program and its linkages to NEP 2020. Some of the important components that the institute proposes to introduce in the forthcoming year itself includes placing emphasis on holistic and multidisciplinary education with flexibility of subjects, provision for multiple entry and exist particularly in the 4 year UG program, a PG program with one or two years or integrated with BS/MS, doing away with MPhil as well as facility for credit transfer and availability of academic bank of credits. Even though, some of this may go beyond the coming first or second year; the resolve of the institute with regard to its implementation is in no doubt. Further, I am extremely happy to note IISER Tirupati is working towards a model to transform itself into a research intensive/ teaching intensive university. Noting that the policy does emphasize the need to have considerable attention to language development and also awareness of the Indian cultural knowledge systems, the institute is looking at appropriate institutional mechanisms to realise the same. I also note with satisfaction the review that the institute has done towards induction of technology for education. In this connection, IISER Tirupati could host a Centre of Excellence in Educational Technology and work closely with the proposed National Educational Technology Forum (NETF). Such a forum is expected to provide independent evidence based advice to central and state government agencies on the use of technology, building related intellectual and institutional capacities, identify strategic thrust areas related to educational technology, besides articulating new directions for research and innovations. I am sure, this institution hosting such a Centre of Excellence and working closely with NETF could provide new and innovative inputs that would make introduction of technologies into education, assuring among others robustness and resilience

 The vision of India’s new educational system has been crafted to ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen consistent with their needs and necessities; besides, creating a just and equitable society. The approach is to create a new system aligned with aspirational goals of 21st century education while remaining consistent with India’s value systems and ethos. The policy provides an integrated yet flexible approach to education. Further, it has kept the interconnectedness of the various phases of education in mind and how the same will enable continuity, coherence and processes to ultimately realize an end-to-end educational road-map for the country. Major emphasis is given in the policy to the aspect of holistic, multi- disciplinary education as a foundational component in the undergraduate level. The Under-Graduate (UG) level will also ultimately provide a holistic approach to education by slowly bringing in professional and vocational education into the mainstream education. At the Post-Graduate (PG) level one of the key recommendations relates to the strengthening of research in the University system. The Policy recommends the creation of a National Research Foundation for this purpose. A light but tight mechanism for regulation is envisaged under this policy. Providing a more cohesive structure for the higher educational institutions in the context of teaching and research, ensuring increased autonomy and empowered governance and effective leadership are the other features of the policy. On the whole, the policy aims at the development of 21st Century skills for the students,while giving enough flexibility in making choices consistent with the dynamics of a knowledge society.

 The vision of India’s new educational system has been crafted to ensure that it touches the life of each and every citizen consistent with their needs and necessities; besides, creating a just and equitable society. The approach is to create a new system aligned with aspirational goals of 21st century education while remaining consistent with India’s value systems and ethos. The policy provides an integrated yet flexible approach to education. Further, it has kept the interconnectedness of the various phases of education in mind and how the same will enable continuity, coherence and processes to ultimately realize an end-to-end educational road-map for the country. Major emphasis is given in the policy to the aspect of holistic, multi- disciplinary education as a foundational component in the undergraduate level. The Under-Graduate (UG) level will also ultimately provide a holistic approach to education by slowly bringing in professional and vocational education into the mainstream education. At the Post-Graduate (PG) level one of the key recommendations relates to the strengthening of research in the University system. The Policy recommends the creation of a National Research Foundation for this purpose. A light but tight mechanism for regulation is envisaged under this policy. Providing a more cohesive structure for the higher educational institutions in the context of teaching and research, ensuring increased autonomy and empowered governance and effective leadership are the other features of the policy. On the whole, the policy aims at the development of 21st Century skills for the students,while giving enough flexibility in making choices consistent with the dynamics of a knowledge society.

 At this point, I would like to share some of my thoughts in the context of the importance of holistic and multidisciplinary education with focus on undergraduate education. This concept sometimes also referred to as “Liberal Education” in the contemporary discussions has its origins in India’s age old idea of liberal arts dating back to almost fourteen thousand years. In the modern day social and economic landscape this age-old Indian concept is now finding recognition in a new form. As per our policy and I quote,
 "Liberal education explores the remarkable relationships that exist among the sciences and humanities, mathematics and arts, medicine and physics etc., and more generally, the surprising unity of all fields of human endeavour"
Unquote:
 A comprehensive liberal education develops all capacities of human beings, intellectual, aesthetics, social, physical, emotional and moral in an integrated manner.
 In a specific context, I would like to bring in the importance of knowledge related to arts, crafts, architecture and aesthetics as a part of science and engineering education. For example, it is often commented that India produces very competent scientists and engineers, but falls short of being great innovators. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple was famous for his ideas on what makes products successful; according to him the secret was to bring top notch aesthetics with top notch science and engineering. He himself is known to have said about why the Macintosh computer revolutionised computing and I quote: “I think part of what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians, who also happen to be the best computer scientists in the world”. I am sure this institute with its plans for bringing multi-disciplinarity and holisticity to its various courses could be in the forefront of creating world-class innovators and producing seminal ideas coming out of a thinking process that cuts across disciplines by marrying Science education with arts and humanities and other fields.

 If one were to look at the present trends of job recruitment in the western world, it is of relevance to note that many employers, especially in hi-tech areas, emphasize the need for learning outcomes associated with integrated learning such as critical thinking, communication skills, team work and abilities for lifelong learnings. With the rapid strides in technology that include artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and communications, graduates will need transferable and uniquely human skills to be able to adoptively and continuously learn to work with and alongside new technologies. It is also important to recognise that each person entering the job market today, will look forward not only to several jobs but also to several careers in his/her working life.

 As India aspires to grow and sustain a large and vibrant economy and uplifting its society, one of the key elements to its successful realisation is to have a robust ecosystem of research and innovation. The present inadequacies in this context are very much evident through the low number of researchers in India per lakh of population which is only 15 compared to 423 for US and 825 for Israel. This in turn has implications with regard to the number of publications and most importantly patent applications and industrial growth involving indigenous technologies. The problem is very much acute in the university system, even as I recognise the increasing prominence to research and its outcomes given in institutions like IISERs, IITs and other institutions of national eminence. Considering that we have nearly 900 universities, there is a sense of urgency in boosting the research capability in our higher educational institutions, particularly in the University systems. In order to seed, nurture, grow and transform Universities into full-fledged research centres of excellence, the NEP 2020 has recommended the creation of National Research Foundation (NRF). It will support research programs in sciences, technology, social sciences, arts and humanities and many other areas. Institutions like IISERs besides taking advantage of NRF also will have the responsibility of mentoring neighbouring institutions towards establishing research capabilities

 Dear students, a word about what is in store for you. When you step out from this institution, you have to face the world which is full of challenges and uncertainties. In the very heart of challenges, there are hidden opportunities. Further, in the progress of your life, you will certainly come across hurdles, handicaps and failures. I can only advise that for everything you do, have a strong conviction, have the persistence to follow through your conviction and have the courage to face failures. I still remember the events in ISRO related to the failures of the first two Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicles. Even though, a sense of despondency overtook us initially, we did not allow this setback to override our resolve to succeed. I should say, the critical analysis and the in-depth assessment of the problems, we made and the technology and quality issues that we addressed really paved the way for the success of the present generation of PSLVs and GSLVs. In analyzing the failures, we got an insight into the inadequacies and the marginal nature of our initial design. Further our courage of conviction made us work with redoubled vigor to succeed which we did. I have often felt that life can teach you more from a failure than through success.

 Notwithstanding the considerations of professionalism, challenges, opportunities, risk and so on, you need to explore the limitless frontier of knowledge throughout your life. My dear friends, the path to great achievements and success will put enormous demands on you and call upon you to bring to bear the highest degree of professionalism inspired by being a part of a fast changing knowledge ecosystem. This in turn will imply continuous updating of your knowledge and thus making the process of learning a continuous one. The ancient Indian wisdom, reflected in the following Subhashitam shloka is apt to the situation and I quote:


" आचार्यात् पादमादत्ते पादं शिष्यः स्वमेधया ।
सब्रह्मचारिभ्यः पादं पादं कालक्रमेण च ॥ "


"A student learns one quarter from his master The second quarter accrues from one's own intelligence 18 The third from fellow-students Time and experience confers the last quarter "

Unquote:
In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that as inheritors of a society which blossomed up great values for life and a deep concern for human development, you should intensely aspire for deepening and broadening your knowledge, learn to experience the power of collective team work, and always be guided by higher values which you believe in. In all that lies before you, may God grant you wisdom, success and true sense of fulfilment of your cherished ideals and goals.


Thank you.



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  Last Modified : 29 August 2020 UTC 6:05am