Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a towering personality who was instrumental in the vast investments that a newly independent India made in educating its citizens. His visionary thoughts are very salient and inspirational as I now think of how the Indian School of Business can contribute to India and its development.

The National Education Day is perhaps the right occasion to reaffirm our beliefs in Maulana Azad’s ideas and thoughts, embodying both the concept of ‘unity of India’ and ‘universal education for its citizens’. Azad firmly believed in the virtues of modernity. He was optimistic that scientific knowledge and rationality was an ideal way to deal with the many difficult problems that India faced. His ideas were impactful then and still animate India’s education landscape.

Here, I will talk about a select few ideas of India’s father of education –which are as relevant today as 70 years back — and which resonate with ISB’s beliefs and values

The foremost among these ideas was the stress on educating women. Maulana Azad argued that making an education policy without including women would be akin to having a policy that excludes half the society. We at ISB think, like the Maulana did, and have attempted to bring greater participation of women in all aspects of our functioning. Much more needs to be done in this priority area.

Self-reliance in education as an idea was high on Maulana’s mind. At the inaugural address of IIT Kharagpur in August 1951, Maulana Azad said: “One of the first decisions I took on assuming charge as minister was that we must so improve the facilities for higher technical education in the country that we would ourselves meet most of our needs.” In 2001, the ISB was founded with the same spirit to create self-sufficiency in business education. We were also driven by our ambition to achieve such a high reputation that bright students from all over the world should be beating down our door to be educated here. The National Education Policy will help us achieve this ambition as its many recommendations are aimed at making India an attractive international hub for higher education.

Azad understood that education should stress the rights and duties of a citizen and their ability to participate in national development. Similarly, we at ISB propagate the value of participating in national development among our students. I am particularly proud that today we have several entrepreneurs from the ISB fold, who are not only business owners, but whose firms actively participate in giving India a better tomorrow.

Research-led education has been the USP for ISB since before its foundation, and it still forms the backbone of the curriculum taught here. Azad, too, was similarly enthused with the positive impact of a research foundation in India’s education system.

“There can be no advance in either industry of technology without fundamental research work. The scope of such research should, however, be extended and cover not only the scientific subjects but also the humanities, including philosophy, the social science, anthropology, etc.”

It was Maulana Azad’s firm belief that research and evaluation should always test the effectiveness of the current curriculum and guide future educational planning. This principle is fundamental to those of us who teach at ISB and among those who come to learn here. Being among the major contributors of academic research in management from India, we continually infuse our learnings from this research to update our course offerings and curriculum.

On this National Education Day, I call on our faculty, staff, students, and alumni to pledge to these ideals of this national hero and imbibe them in our thoughts, actions and beliefs. I want to end with an inspiring quote from Maulana Azad: “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel three key societal members can make a difference. They are the Father, the Mother, and the Teacher.”

-Dean Madan Pillutla