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Political parties in India need to focus on education sector: VIT chancellor

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Washington, May 13 (PTI) Political parties in India should take the education sector seriously as a country’s economy is directly linked to its education, chancellor of the prestigious Vellore Institute of Technology Govindasamy Viswanathan has said.

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In an interview with PTI, he said there is a need to spend 6 per cent of the nation’s GDP on the education sector as it is vital to achieve the goal of India being a developed nation by 2047.

“The per capita income of India in 2023 is USD 2,600. Those states which are good in education like the southern states or the western states are all above the national average,” he told PTI.

“In the southern states, it varies from USD 3,500 to USD 4,000. Kerala comes first, Telangana second, and Tamil Nadu is third... They're all around USD 4,000. Whereas Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are less than USD 1,000 because they lag in education,” he said.

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“It is not known to the people. People have to be taught about this. Political parties don't take it seriously. Unless we concentrate on education, economically we cannot come up. It applies to families, society, states, and the country. That's where I would very much like the state governments and the central government to sit together and see that enough money is allotted for education,” he said.

Viswanathan, who is also the founder of the VIT, was conferred with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by the State University of New York (SUNY) in Binghamton on May 10 for his contributions to international higher education.

“Chancellor Viswanathan has been a pioneer for expanding access to higher education in India and partnering with institutions around the world,” Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said.

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On Sunday, community members and VIT alumni gathered in Arlington, a Virginia suburb of Washington DC, to felicitate him.

Responding to a question, Vishwanathan said there has been a demand for a long time to spend 6 per cent of the GDP on education. But in the last 76 years of independence, it has never crossed 3 per cent.

“This year it has gone down. Last year it was 3 per cent of the GDP. This year it has become 2.9 per cent because they're not giving priority to education. Other areas get preference. This has to change and both the central government as well as the state government put together there to sit together, decide that year after year there should be an increase,” he said.

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“All the advanced countries, it varies from 5 per cent to 7 per cent of the GDP. We have to compete with them. Now the new education policy talks about 6 per cent of the GDP should be spent on education. It won't be enough. We'll have to increase that. This (demand for) 6 per cent has been there for the last 50 years. So, it has to be increased and the government has to be convinced about it. Now they have put it in the policy, it should be implemented,” Viswanathan said.

India today has around 50,000 colleges and 1,100 universities of which almost 50 per cent are in the private sector, he said.

Viswanathan called for increasing the number of students in government institutions, improving the quality of government institutions, and helping the students who go to private institutions.

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“To become an advanced country without education is impossible. Only with education, we can become an advanced country. We must be able to compete and all of us are intent upon it. The only thing is all the governments should sit together and see that enough money is allotted,” he said.

Asked about corruption in the education sector, he said that it’s everywhere.

“Corruption is a national disease. Unless we give exemption to corruption in education, it's very difficult. All of them have to cooperate: the state governments, central government, and private sector. I think it depends on the governments and the political parties and the awareness among the public,” he said.

In the United States, he said, there is no discrimination between government and private institutions and all are treated equally.

“The other thing in the US is that the universities get funding from the federal government, state government, the industries located here and their alumni. These are the kind of income they get, which is not there in India. I think we should learn from the US. The other thing is they pay very well. The training aspect of it should be taken care of. We have to learn a lot of things from us as far as higher education is concerned,” Viswanathan said. PTI LKJ RHL

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