President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday emphasised on the need for a culture of discussion rather than dispute and called for value-based education to promote ethics to make children sensitive towards the less privileged people in the society.
Praising the contribution of Pune in nation building, he stated that modern India owes much to the educational, reformist and progressive ideas that have originated in the city.
President Kovind was speaking at the inauguration of Sadhu Vaswani International School at Sadhu Vaswani Mission in Pune.
"The city of Pune has been a centre of education for Maharashtra and for the country. The story of modern India owes much to the educational, reformist and progressive ideas that have flowed from this city, and for which our nation is truly appreciative," he said.
He said it was in Pune in 1848 that Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule opened "what is believed to have been the first modern school in India exclusively for girls".
"In their determined efforts to fight caste and gender discrimination and work for the weaker sections, Jyotiba and Savitribai Phule made education their chief weapon," he said.
"They were not alone. It was in Pune that Justice M G Ranade and others set up the Maharashtra Girls Education Society in the 19th century. In 1860, the heroic freedom fighter Vasudev Balwant Phadke was among those who founded the Maharashtra Education Society.
"Bal Gangadhar Tilak and his colleagues established the Deccan Education Society. And later Gopal Krishna Gokhale was instrumental in the creation of the Servants of India Society," the president added.
The mastermind of the Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar, had a long relationship with Pune, Kovind said adding, "He, too, stressed the importance of education as an instrument for social change and for building a just and egalitarian society."
"I am happy to learn that the government of Maharashtra has begun celebrating November 7 as 'Students' Day'. This was the day, way back in the year 1900, when Babasaheb Ambedkar enrolled in a school in Satara and began his lifelong pursuit of academic excellence," he said.
The president said that all these reformists represent a range of India's achievers and the spirit of nation-building project.
"These were the people who struggled for our freedom from colonial rule and for an India free of caste, gender and other forms of discrimination for an India that could put right and redress both historical wrongs and contemporary inequities.
"Each one of them placed emphasis on education and on discourse that was informed by knowledge, wisdom and learning. Each one of them placed emphasis on a culture of discussion rather than of dispute and of addressing disagreements while being mindful of the other person's dignity," he added.
"This is the true attribute of an educated society. And this is the benchmark by which we measure Pune's intellectual vibrancy and reputation as a centre of scholarship," Kovind said.
In school, a child is taught history and geography, language and literature, mathematics and science. In class 10 and in class 12, children are examined in these and other subjects. They are given marks and grades, he said.
"While not discounting the importance of such subjects, I would draw your attention to the lessons that a child imbibes in school that may not be formally tested in a board examination.
"These are the lessons of culture, character, compassion and courage and of coping with the change in a society and a world evolving more rapidly than perhaps ever before," he said.
He said a child who imbibes these lessons and internalises these values will always be sensitive to the world outside, and to those who may be less privileged.
"Such a child will never forget to contribute to society, in whichever way he or she can. Such a child can only be reared in a school that is marked by open windows, and not by closed doors," he said.
BJP patriarch Lal Krishna Advani, Maharashtra Governor K Vidyasagar Rao, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar and Dada J P Vaswani were present on the occasion.
Kovind said values-based education helps promote ethics in society. "And I can think of no better example as an upholder of values in our public life than Shri Lal Krishna Advani," he said.
He described Sadhu Vaswani as one of the "most remarkable nation builders who taught how to combine the values of our ancient civilisation with the techniques of the modern age."
Later, Kovind also unveiled a statue of Ramabai Ambedkar, wife of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, at a garden named after her here.
Speaking on the occasion, he said that it was Babasaheb Ambedkar's partnership with Ramabai that motivated him as he championed women's rights.
"Like Babasaheb, Ramabai also contributed towards social equality and eradication of untouchability. Her life is inspirational for every Indian woman," Kovind said