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"Social accessibility is key to the country's progress"

Staff Reporter

Capitation fee a threat to education opportunities, says N. Ram



CONVOCATION:N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, `The Hindu' conferring degree on a student at the third annual convocation of Sri Kaliswari College at Sivakasi on Sunday. K.Rajakumar, Principal, looks on. — PHOTO: S. JAMES

SIVAKASI: "Hyper commercialisation in colleges in the name of capitation fee is a threat to providing education opportunities, and institutions must strike a balance between excellence and affordability to keep the gates wide open," N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu , said on Sunday.

Higher education institutions should not deny students a chance to enter colleges by demanding capitation fee.

"Quality infrastructure and accessibility should not be seen as contradicting and conflicting," he said, delivering the convocation address at Sri Kaliswari College here.

Stating that the key to India's future lay in `social access', he quoted Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's observation on the imbalances and inequities in the country's education system.

"The base of our [education] pyramid is not broad and strong. A huge proportion of our boys and girls drop out before they finish 5th class, and at least 55 per cent of girls before they reach 8th class," Mr. Ram said.

Whereas in Kerala, the dropout percentage, up to five years of age, was almost nil, and the ratio was only 0.7 per cent when it came to students up to 8th class.

According to him, the greater achievement of the system would be to bring in those who lacked opportunities and broaden the education system.

He urged the students to focus on learning English and communication skills, as "English has become terribly important not only as a link language but also for intellectual life."

Mr. Ram referred to the thriving fireworks industry in the town and the `blot' it had for reports of child labour employed in the manufacturing units.

"It is heartening to know that child labour is declining. The entrepreneurs of Sivakasi took it up as a mission to eliminate the dubious reputation.

The pace of change could be accelerated," he said.

"Every child must be in school but not as part of labour force."

He urged the students to focus on emerging areas such as biotechnology, which would power the country's economy.

Mr. Ram lauded the `five focal areas' of Sri Kaliswari College: management courses, catering, hotel management, biotechnology, computer applications and commerce.

He said the `big weakness' of colleges was lack of any link between teaching and research.

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