Dharmendra Pradhan’s first day in office as Union Education Minister started with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s virtual interaction with heads of 106 centrally-funded technical institutions (CFTIs), including 23 IITs, 31 NITs, and 25 IIITs. During the meeting, Modi underlined the importance of offering technical education in regional languages, a proposal the IITs have opposed in the past.
Pradhan, who succeeds Ramesh Pokhriyal, didn’t take any questions from journalists after the hour-long meeting on Thursday. However, he later tweeted that his ministry was “committed to make students and youth the primary stakeholders in propelling India towards an equitable knowledge society”.
The interaction focused on the research and development carried out by the CFTIs in the last two years, especially scientific solutions meant to address challenges thrown up by the Covid pandemic. IIT-Madras, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Kanpur and IISc-Bangalore made presentations highlighting their recent innovations and the future roadmap of the institutes.
So, while the IIT-Kanpur director shared the institute’s work on cancer cell therapy, prediction of Covid hotspots and ventilator production, the IISc-Bangalore director spoke of indigenously developed oxygen concentrators and a cheap and novel test to detect the presence and response of antibodies against the virus.
Sources said the meeting, invitations for which were sent out a week ago, was called against the backdrop of the latest QS World University Rankings. “Several Indian universities have improved their performance in the rankings. The PM wanted to understand the research work being carried out by the institutions. IISc, IIT-Bombay, IIT-Madras and IIT-Kanpur were selected to make the presentation because of their impressive performance in the QS Rankings,” a ministry official said.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, Modi emphasised the need to adapt to the changing environment and emerging challenges and said that this requires the institutions to reinvent and re-evaluate themselves and develop alternative and innovative models according to the country and society’s present and future needs.