Education is what will determine how fast India joins the ranks of leading nations of the world, President Pranab Mukherjee said here Thursday.
"I believe education is the alchemy that can bring India its next golden age," Mukherjee said in his address at the valedictory session of the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the annual gathering of the Indian diaspora.
"The success we achieve in educating our people will determine how fast India joins the ranks of leading nations of the world," he said.
Mukherjee said that if India has to attain a growth rate of nine percent per year, as has been envisaged during the 12th Five Year Plan period, "we must put in place enabling factors, most prominent of which is education".
He pointed out that no Indian from India has won the Nobel Prize since C.V. Raman in 1930, and said educational institutes in the country should focus more on research and development.
"I have been urging our educational institutions to invest more in research and development and to pursue greater international linkages by establishing collaborations with foreign universities and inviting the best of faculty from across the world to come and teach in our institutions," the president said.
He said the government has prioritised higher education and supported it with increased resources, and enrollment to higher education institutions in the country has increased from 1.39 crore in 2006-07 to 2.18 crore in 2011-12.
"India has today 659 degree-awarding institutions and 33,023 colleges," he said.
However, despite the rise in the number of higher education institutes, India has very few institutes of global standards, Mukherjee said.
"Time has now come for us to reclaim our leadership position in the world as far as higher education is concerned. Our effort to increase 'quantity' must be matched with commensurate efforts to improve 'quality'," Mukherjee said.
He said that in a world that is facing increasing constraints on natural resources, innovation was another key area India should focus on.
"China and the US are amongst the countries at the forefront of innovation with over five lakh (500,000) patent applications filed by each country in 2011," he said.
"In contrast to this, India filed only 42,000 patent applications, which is far behind these countries. As per an international survey, only three Indian companies are amongst the world's 100 most innovative companies."
He called on both the industry and higher education institutes to emphasise on research.
"We have only 119 researchers in R&D per million people, as compared to 715 in China and 468 in the US. Out of the total student strength of 71,000 in NITs, there are only 4,000 PhD students. In IITs, there are only around 3,000 PhD students in the total student strength of 60,000," the president said.
Stating that upgrading the standards of higher education in India should be accorded top priority, he said: "Overseas Indians such as all of you gathered here can play a major role in supporting and supplementing the efforts of the government to remedy this situation."
He said the Indian economy was more resilient than most other countries.
"I am sure you have (the) confidence in the inherent resilience of our people and the dynamism of our economy which has the ability to overcome temporary downturns," he said.