The Vice President Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu today called for increasing multidisciplinarity in higher education to produce well-rounded individuals from universities and realize the full potential of our demographic dividend. He observed that many career trajectories in the coming years will require employees to have wide knowledge in diverse fields.
In this regard, Shri Naidu called for a revival of the liberal arts and their integration with the curriculum of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) courses. He mentioned that various assessments have shown that exposure to arts and social sciences results in enhanced creativity, improved critical thinking, higher social and moral awareness and better teamwork and communication skills among students. Such qualities are in high demand in the 21st-century economy where no sector of the economy works in a silo, he added.
Shri Naidu also underscored the importance of updating students from humanities’ background with the latest technological developments for them to apply these advancements in their research studies.
Speaking at the virtual inauguration of the Moturi Satyanarayana Centre for Advanced Study in Humanities at KREA University, Shri Naidu highlighted that India had a ‘parampara’ of holistic education since ancient times. He said that the National Education Policy 2020 recognizes the importance of such holistic education and seeks to break the ‘rigid and artificial barriers between disciplines.
The Vice President appreciated the efforts of colleges like IIT Bombay which has recently introduced an interdisciplinary undergraduate course that includes liberal arts, science and engineering in one programme. He suggested that other institutions too should explore offering multidisciplinary courses.
Expressing concern over rote learning practices in schools, Shri Naidu appealed to parents to infuse curiosity for arts and literature in children from a young age. “In a race to make it to the top national institutions of science and engineering, we are ignoring essential subjects in schools such as languages and social sciences”, Shri Naidu remarked.
Shri Naidu complimented the staff and administration of KREA University and the family of Shri Moturi Satyanarayana for establishing the new Centre. He appealed to well-meaning families to come forward and join the government in starting similar initiatives in higher education.
He suggested that such Centres should encourage innovative research in social sciences by encouraging diverse voices. He also suggested that scholars in social sciences should work closely with the practitioners and policy-makers to get a better understanding of social issues.
On this occasion, the Vice President paid rich tributes to Shri Moturi Satyanarayana, freedom fighter and Parliamentarian. Remembering his contribution as a proponent of Indian languages, especially Hindi, Shri Naidu called for due importance be given to Indian languages at all levels of education and administration. “Language gives us identity, self-respect and makes us who we are. We must feel proud to speak in our own mother tongue”, he added.
Shri Naidu said that being proficient in one’s mother tongue fosters better learning and creativity, and enables easier learning of other languages. He further added that in addition to being competent in one’s mother tongue, we should branch out and learn as many languages as possible, including Hindi.
Shri Naidu also expressed his concern over the falling standard of debates in the parliament and state legislatures. He called upon people to elect their representative on the basis of the 4 ‘C’s — character, conduct, calibre and capacity. “Instead, some people have been weakening Indian democracy with another set of 4 Cs — caste, community, cash and criminality. People should choose their representatives wisely to protect parliamentary democracy”, Shri Naidu appealed.
Dr. Mahesh Rangarajan, Vice-Chancellor, KREA University, Shri Kapil Viswanathan, Chairman, Executive Committee, family members of Shri Moturi Satyanarayana, Prof. Mukund Padmanabhan, professors, staff and others participated in the hybrid event.
Following is the full text of the speech:
“Dear Sisters and Brothers,
It gives me immense pleasure to inaugurate the Moturi Satyanarayana Centre for Advanced Study in Humanities at KREA University today. I commend the management, staff and all those associated with this momentous milestone in KREA’s journey which has been synonymous with imparting quality education in humanities and social sciences.
Named after an eminent son of India, Padma Bhushan Sri Moturi Satyanarayana garu, I am certain that this Centre, with its academic rigour and focus on quality, will grow into a transformative and engaging hub of teaching and learning. As a freedom fighter, one of the framers of the Indian Constitution, and a Parliamentarian, Moturi Satyanarayana garu was a multi-faceted personality and a key figure in India’s political history.
An ardent follower and companion of Mahatma Gandhi, Sri Moturi Satyanarayana garu was a major proponent of the use of Indian languages in all walks of life. He took up the advocacy of Hindi in South India as a key mission in his life, while also promoting his mother tongue, Telugu, through various publications. Incidentally, he was also the founder Secretary of Telugu Bhasha Samiti.
Dear sisters & brothers,
We must accord due importance to Indian languages, especially our mother tongue, at all levels of education and administration. We must always remember that language is one of the foremost aspects of our cultural heritage; it gives us identity, self-respect and makes us who we are. That is why, I often say, feel proud to speak in your mother tongue!
The National Education Policy 2020 is a visionary document that recognizes the importance of liberal arts and focuses on a multidisciplinary approach in education in tune with contemporary times. It aims at de-compartmentalizing Indian education and breaking the rigid and artificial barriers between ‘professional vs liberal education’.
As NEP rightly points out, even in ancient times, ‘good education’ was described as the knowledge of the 64 kalas or arts. This included knowledge in scientific fields like chemistry and mathematics, ‘vocational’ fields such as carpentry and clothes-making, ‘professional’ fields such as medicine and engineering, as well as ‘soft skills’ such as communication, discussion, and debate.
Such a holistic approach to education must be revived again, with an emphasis on liberal arts. It is unfortunate that liberal arts have been relegated to a secondary position in education in recent decades. Liberal arts nurture the qualities of critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability in an individual. These attributes are in high demand in the 21st century economy, where no sector of the economy works in a silo. We must, therefore, rediscover our ‘parampara’ in liberal arts in order to shape well-rounded individuals.
In this regard, the students pursuing the fields of STEM- Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics must get adequate exposure to liberal arts and social sciences in their undergraduate programmes. Various assessments of such courses where humanities and arts are well integrated have shown an enhanced creativity and innovation, higher social and moral awareness, improved critical thinking, teamwork and communication skills among students.
I am happy that many engineering colleges are moving in this direction. I am pleased to learn that the IIT Bombay has recently introduced an interdisciplinary undergraduate course that covers liberal arts, science and engineering in one programme. I am told that KREA University also offers such courses. This would contribute to expanding opportunities in order to open up new career pathways.
More institutions must explore offering such interdisciplinary courses. A number of career trajectories in the coming years will require employees to have wider knowledge in diverse fields. We need youth who not only have an in-depth knowledge of their specialized area, but also have the ability to assimilate perspectives from other areas, integrate knowledge from all disciplines and also have soft skills for good communication, informed discussion and debate. Possessing sound knowledge in multiple disciplines, apart from having expertise in specialized area will help in realizing the full potential of our demographic dividend.
Brothers and sisters,
My appeal to parents is to encourage and infuse in children curiosity for arts, literature and social sciences from a young age. In a race to make it to the top national institutions of science and engineering, we are ignoring essential subjects in school such as languages and social sciences.
In addition, rote learning practices will ruin the creative abilities of a child. We must rather produce engineers, doctors and scientists, who come up with innovative solutions to the challenges faced by humanity.
Higher educational institutions in liberal arts too must continue this spirit of inquiry and creativity in their campuses. In the research on social sciences, we need to encourage more diverse voices and not limit universities to become exclusionary spaces and echo chambers. It is my view that the scholars in social sciences should work closely with the practitioners and policy-makers to get a grip on real-life issues which they will be striving to understand and analyse.
Lastly, while technical institutions should integrate arts into their curriculum, students from the arts and humanities background should be given options to gain exposure to scientific disciplines such as computing, artificial intelligence and other such frontier areas. They must be abreast with the latest technological developments and skilfully apply these advances in their own research work.
As for members of the faculty, learning, recognition and empowerment in an academic ambience of collaboration, should form the basis of career development. They should focus on preparing learners to access the increasingly wide range of career opportunities open to them in this day and age.
In this regard, I am confident that this Centre will foster innovative research, nurture a new generation of social scientists, strengthen inquiry practices within and across disciplines and provide fresh insight into important public issues. I congratulate the founders, administrators and the Vice-Chancellor of the University for their efforts in setting up this centre. My heartiest compliments to the family of late Sri Moturi Satyanarayana garu who have come forward to generously fund this venture and created a corpus for the successful functioning of this Centre.
Once again, I am very happy to have inaugurated this Centre. With efforts such as these, I am sure India will become a hub of learning in humanities and social sciences, along with other fields and will emerge on the world stage once again as Vishwaguru. Together, let us strive and make great spaces for vibrant, inclusive, multidisciplinary learning again.
Thank you all.