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Kalam wants big budget for education

NEW DELHI, AUG. 14. On the eve of the 58th Independence Day, the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, has said in an address to the nation that the purpose of education is the "creation of enlightened citizens" and suggested that the expenditure on education should increase from four per cent to six or seven per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Perhaps being mindful of the controversy over the de-saffronisation of textbooks, the President reminded everyone that "education in its real sense is the pursuit of truth." Education being a journey through knowledge and enlightenment, he said that "there is no scope, nor room for pettiness, disharmony, jealousy, hatred or enmity."

Saluting the armed forces and the freedom-fighters, Mr. Kalam, said "the conduct of the recent general elections and transition to a new Government has taken place in a peaceful and orderly manner." And, in an indirect word of advice to the political class that fought a bitter electoral battle, he said: "Now that the Government is in place, we all have to get on with the work of building the nation."

Multi-polar world

Though the President devoted the bulk of his address to the theme of education, he did put on record that "we cherish and advocate multi-polarity in the world order that respects the principles of sovereignty, non-intervention, freedom and democracy." He expressed satisfaction over "our continuing efforts towards good neighbourly relations, particularly the sustained progress of the peace process between India and Pakistan."

Without mentioning the current crisis in Manipur or the insurgency in Kashmir, Mr. Kalam reaffirmed that "another measure of our nation's strength is the effective, firm and fair handling of a series of internal low-intensity conflicts and the proxy war."

The President said that "containing the annual inflation rate, containing the revenue enhancement and expenditure management" were challenges before the Centre and the States. Water management

Referring to the urgent need for water management and storage, the President recommended the "construction of layered wells at the entry points" of the Kosi and Brahmaputra rivers. But he made no mention of the project for inter-linking rivers, probably aware of the fact that the new Government is not exactly sold on it.

Identifying the need "to break out of our historical mindset", the President highlighted a major concern: unequal access to educational resources. His solution is expenditure of six to seven per cent of the GDP, at least for a few years. He also wants the entire corporate sector to share the burden of educating millions who remain outside the school network.

Three-pronged strategy

As Mr. Kalam sees it, there is a need for a three-pronged strategy to create a linkage between education and employment. First, education should emphasise entrepreneurship; that means training students in a diversity of skills and inculcating in them a habit of "perseverance in work [that] makes an entrepreneur." Second, the banking system should be willing to provide funds to young entrepreneurs from the village level onward; that means the banks should be prepared to "set aside the `conventional tangible asset syndrome.'" Third, there has to be "an economic pull for [the] generation of marketable products and [the] enhancement of purchasing power among the people."

The President spoke of the need for a common all-India examination for entry into universities and professional colleges; and stressed the need for "a secure examination system"; and, reminded the nation of the recent tragedy at Kumbakonam and suggested that without "certain safety features" in school buildings, "it should not be possible to get affiliation by these schools."

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