Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam's address during the presentation of National Teachers Awards to meritorious teachers

Elevating the Young Minds

"I am indeed delighted to participate in the Teachers Day award function. On this day, we gratefully remember the great educationist Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, whose dream was that "Teachers should be the best minds in the country". I extend my greetings to all the awardees, who have worked consistently for many years, to achieve this recognition. Teachers have to realize that they are the builders of the society. The society can be built only when the students are made proficient in their subjects. In addition they have to provide a vision for life to the students and also inculcate the fundamentals of values which he should practice in the years to come.

I would like to discuss three of my teachers who gave me a vision, created an interest in mathematics and sowed the seeds of moral education in my student period.

My teacher - Iyadurai Solomon

My teacher, Iyadurai Solomon, was an ideal teacher for an eager young mind who was uncertain of the possibilities and alternatives that lay before him or her. He made his students feel very comfortable in class with his warm and open minded attitude. He used to say that a good student could learn more from a teacher than a poor student from even a skilled teacher. I have seen him giving lessons free to many students who were not doing well in the class. They used to make up and subsequently perform better. During my stay at Ramanathapuram, my relationship with him grew beyond that of teacher and pupil. In his company, I learnt that one could exercise enormous influence over the events of one's own life. Iyadurai Solomon used to say, "To succeed in life and achieve results, you must understand and master three mighty forces-desire, belief and expectation." Iyadurai Solomon, who later became a Reverend, taught me that before anything I wanted to happen I had to desire it intensely and work for it. This is a very important message for all teachers.

My Mathematics Teacher

As a young science student, I had an opportunity at St. Joseph's College to witness a unique scene of divine looking personality walking through the college campus every morning, and teaching Mathematics to various degree courses. Students looked at the personality who was a symbol of our own culture, with awe and respect. When he walked, knowledge radiated all around. The great personality was, Prof Thothatri Iyengar, our teacher. At that time, 'Calculus Srinivasan who was my mathematics teacher, used to talk about Prof Thothatri Iyengar with deep respect. They had an understanding to have an integrated class by Thothatri Iyengar for first year B.Sc. (Hons) and first year B.Sc. (Physics). Thus, I also had the opportunity to attend his classes, particularly on modern algebra, statistics and complex variables. When we were in the B.Sc first year, Calculus Srinivasan used to select top ten students to the Mathematics Club of St. Joseph's, which was addressed by Prof Thothatri Iyengar. I still remember, in 1952, he gave a lecture on great mathematicians and astronomers of India. In that lecture he introduced four great mathematicians and astronomers, which is still ringing in my ears.

He explained, based on his analysis, that Aryabhata was both an astronomer and mathematician, born in 476 AD in Kusuma-pura (now called Patna). He was known to represent a summary of all Maths at that point of time. Just when he was only 23 years old, he wrote his book ARYABHATIYAM in two parts. He covered important areas like arithmetic, algebra (first ever contributor), trigonometry and of course, astronomy. He gave formulae for the areas of a triangle and a circle and attempted to give the volumes of a sphere and a pyramid. He was the first to give value of 22/7.

My teacher added: Next comes to our mind the greatest of all geniuses ever known and acknowledged, and who lived within our present memory, Srinivasa Ramanujan. He lived just for about 33 years (1887-1920), had no practical formal education or means of living. Yet, his inexhaustible spirit and love for his subject made him contribute to treasure house of mathematical research – some of which are still under serious study and engaging all-available world mathematicians' efforts to establish formal proofs. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was Hardy who discovered Ramanujan for the world. One of the tributes to Ramanujan says that, 'every Integer is a personal friend of Ramanujan. His works cover vast areas including Prime Numbers, Hyper-geometric Series, Modular Functions, Elliptic Functions, Mock Theta Functions, even magic squares, apart from serious side works on geometry of ellipses, squaring the circle etc. During the lecture he also talked about other two great Indian mathematicians Brahmagupta who wrote BRAHMA SPHU-TA SIDDHANTA and Bhaskaracharya and his SIDDHANTHA- SIROMANI.

Now, I would like to discuss about my third teacher who laid the foundation of moral science.

Elevating the young minds

While I was in college, I remember the lectures given by highest authority of the Jesuit institution Rev Father Rector Kalathil of St. Joseph's college, Trichirappalli, Tamilnadu. Every week on Monday, he used to take class for an hour talking about good human beings, present and past, and what makes a good human being. In this class, he used to give lectures on personalities such as Buddha, Confucius, St. Augustine, Califa Omar, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln including some scientific personalities and moral stories linked to our civilizational heritage. It is essential in the secondary schools and colleges to arrange a lecture by a great teacher of the institution once in a week for one hour on India's civilizational heritage and value systems derived from it. This class can be called as a Moral Science Class. That will elevate the young minds to love the country, to love the other human beings and elevate the young to higher planes.

Now, I would like to administer a ten point oath to all the teachers assembled here.

Ten Point Oath for Teachers on
  1. First and foremost, I will love teaching. Teaching will be my soul. Teaching will be my life's mission.
  2. I realize by being a teacher, I am making an important contribution to the efforts of national development.
  3. I realize that I am responsible for shaping not just students but ignited youth who are the most powerful resource under the earth, on the earth and above the earth.
  4. I will consider myself to be a great teacher only when I am capable of elevating the average student to the high performance and when no student is left out as a non-performer.
  5. I will organize and conduct my life, in such a way that my life itself is a message for my students.
  6. I will encourage my students to ask questions and to seek answers in order to develop the spirit of enquiry, and they blossom into creative enlightened citizens.
  7. I will treat all the students equally and will not support any differentiation on account of religion, community or language.
  8. I will continuously build my own capacities in teaching so that I can impart quality education to my students.
  9. I will constantly endeavour to fill my mind, with great thoughts and spread the nobility in thinking and action among my students.
  10. I will always celebrate the success of my students.
Once again, let me congratulate all the award winners and my best wishes to all the teachers for success in their mission of elevating the young minds.

May God bless you.

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