Kovind urges IITs to ensure more participation of girls in science & technology

President Ram Nath Kovind today urged the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) to take the lead in ensuring the greater participation of girls in higher education, especially in science and technology, and take it to fair and acceptable levels within the coming decade.
Addressing the 64th annual convocation of IIT Kharagpur here, he said that, in the colleges and universities that he has visited across the country, he found that girl students tend to win more medals and awards than their male counterparts.
“Yet, when it comes to IITs, the intake of girl students is distressingly low. In 2017, about 160,000 candidates appeared for the IIT Joint Entrance Examination (Advanced). Only some 30,000 were girls. In 2017, 10,878 students got admission into the undergraduate class of the IITs. Only 995 were girls,” he added.
He noted that of the 11,653 students enrolled at IIT Kharagpur, only 1,925 were girls, a little over 16%. “This cannot go on. We need to do something about these numbers. The participation of women in higher education, in science and technology and in the workforce of our country has to rise to fair and acceptable levels within the coming decade. This should be a national priority, and the IIT community must take the lead,” he added.
Mr Kovind said IIT Kharagpur has its origins in a committee that was set up by the government shortly after Independence to take stock of technical education. The committee was headed by the British Nobel laureate Dr A.V. Hill who recommended the setting up of an institution modelled on the pattern of MIT in the United States. The use of global experts to conceive this Institute was appropriate.
“Over the years, IIT Kharagpur and in fact the IIT network and community has become an important window to the world. This is in keeping with our country’s and our civilisation’s character. Exchange of ideas, of expertise, of knowledge – across fields, from engineering to economics, from medicine to management – has contributed to our policy choices and our people’s development. We must continue to celebrate this,” he added.
IIT Kharagpur’s diverse and trans-disciplinary academic portfolio has led to joint research programmes with several institutions. These include the Indian Statistical Institute, the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science, and Tata Medical Centre, all located in Kolkata.
“With its wealth of knowledge, it is for IIT Kharagpur to continue to guide the nation by helping find solutions to the pressing problems of our age – whether agricultural productivity or emerging infectious diseases, whether renewable energy or low-cost housing and sustainable cities," Mr Kovind said.
He noted that IIT Kharagpur has signed a MoU with the Ministry of Rural Development to set up a Centre for Excellence in Big Data Analytics for Rural Development.
The President also unveiled the foundation stone for the Savitribai Phule Girls’ Hostel and the APJ Abdul Kalam International Visitors’ Guest House on the occasion.
Mr Kovind said, “Of all the IITs, I understand IIT Kharagpur has the largest percentage of women in leadership roles. This must translate into more girl students as well. Your institute has created 113 supernumerary seats for girl candidates in the undergraduate programme. I have also been told about a special initiative, with support from the Infosys Foundation, to fund women researchers who wish to attend major international conferences. These are good steps but a long road lies ahead of us."
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