A Samaritan who dedicated his life to education

by Subhra Kar
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Once an industrialist, Mr. Badrinath Patnaik’s ambition to make quality education accessible to everyone has made him an Ambassador of Higher Education today in Odisha. He stepped into the educational sector by starting Sri Satya Sai Institute of Information and Technology in 1995-96. And pioneer BIIT & MIIT program in Odisha. Eventually he went on to establish The Kalinga university and ever since there is no looking back. Within a year after its inception, the varsity secured “AAA” Rating by Educational Standard & Testing council of India awarded best at New Delhi and his efforts towards education were also lauded by the then President APJ Abdul Kalam.

From Utkal Sanman to Vidya Ratna, Mr. Pattnaik has been conferred with several awards and titles during his endeavour in the field of education in last more than 2 decades. We got the opportunity to interact with the man himself and know about his struggle and vision to ensure quality education for all.

While your achievements are endless, very few know about the toil it took to reach here. We would like to know about your personal background and things that influenced you in your formative years?

Hard work brought me to this place. When I started my career in 1986 from that day I have never stepped back. I have sacrificed everything for it. We did not think of it as just a business, my dedication and sincerity made me what I am today.

In 1992 Rourkela steel plant was in a bad shape and there was hardly any bleak of hope for business there. Hence we moved to Bhubaneswar and started a new life here. We have gone through a lot of ups and downsat that time. We did not even get a good return on our investment.

Again from 1995-96 we picked up in educational sector. Initially we were into higher education . Sri Satya Sai Institute of Information and Technology was a renowned institution back then. We were giving best education in Odisha by tying-up with the government of Manipal &  various Institutions in Sydney, Australia. We have introduced courses in Bachelor In Information Technology (BIT) and Masters In Information Technology (MIIT) Program for the first time in Odisha. Students from different states of India joined these courses at that time.  We were having a student strength of 1500 to 2000 then. In 2003 we were awarded by the Government of India for imparting quality education and earned praise from Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam In 2002 we started the Kalinga University in Raipur where I was the Founder and chancellor for a period of three years.

Since 2008 we have noticed a down slide in the  quality of higher education, lack of discipline was one of the major reasons. So we thought to start a school education program. That is when we started St. Xavier International School. Today we have got almost 15 branches.

I was also involved in social activities right from the beginning. One of my biggest contribution to the field I believe is submission of 11324 affidavits  in a single day to Justice BP Dash Commission for Jaganath Mandir development, which found a place in the World Book Of Records. The current development of Jaganath Mandir that you are noticing  is because of our initiation. We got support from everyone in the endeavour, President Pranab Mukharjee also took note of our efforts and praised us.

What determined you to start the Kalinga University? Do you feel you have achieved the goal with which it was started?

The idea of starting a university came to us in around 2002, from Sri Ajit Jogi, the then chief minister of Chhattisgarh . We started working on this venture the same year and  made it functional by 2003. We had a clear vision while developing the university, which helped us to cover all the facilities and develop it over a vast area of 25 acres of land. Today we feel fortunate that, while at least 108 universities had came up at that time, almost all of them are now closed due to various reasons, but Kalinga has managed to flourish even today. Because of the infrastructure we had developed, the supreme court also allowed Kalinga to function without any hindrance. I believe it to be destiny and God’s grace.

As far as goal is concerned, the major goal we wanted to achieve through Kalinga University was to make education accessible to everyone, especially the poor and the down-trodden who usually fail to afford education. While it is a continuous process, we can still say that we have managed to achieve the goal to a considerable extent.

What is the objective of your St. Xavier Educational Charitable Trust? How many and what category of people have been covered under your trust?

The main objective was to impart higher education in the state of Odisha besides Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and other neighbouring states. In the present time, education has become a costly affair, so our efforts are always directed towards providing quality education within an affordable fee structure.

In all over institutions , we have flexible fee structures which would not burden the parents of the children willing to get quality education. For instance, at Xavier we have a One Time Programme scheme where a parent/guardian has to pay only in lumpsum for the education of their children from KG to class 10th.We do not charge any additional fee on it.  It might look like a big amount initially, but in the long run, it appears to be a fruitful investment as in the long term, parents are very happy. We have managed to set an example through such schemes.

And through St. Xavier Educational Charitable Trust we aim to educate as many poor and needy students as possible. There is no such target group for this. On an average, over 25,000 children are covered under the trust till today. The numbers were higher during Covid period as we were identifying and covering children who lost their parents due to covid. We support their education, provide them uniform, fooding and every other necessary support. We also make sure such students are not identified publicly as they might suffer discrimination due to their economical background.

Today many such students have made a mark in their careers.  They have made careers in medical, engineering and many diverse fields. Our students have got into reputed institutions like AIIMS and NISER and are rank holders in several competitive exams.

Quality teaching and dedicated teachers are our USP. We rely very less on advertising but we get recognition from the parents who send their children to our institution. We have seen students who are sending their next generation to our schools. That is the goodwill we have earned and that is what keeps us motivated.

How will NEP change the education scenario of India? Please share your views?

Currently people are resisting the National Education Policy 2020, because they are unaware of the dimensions of the policy. But I believe NEP will set a benchmark in ensuring quality education.

The pattern in which it has been designed is different from existing curriculum. I believe the existing curriculum is outdated as it quite old now and has traditional foundation which depends mostly on theoretical knowledge. On the other hand, the latest curriculum is skill based. It has far more implications in the real-life situations. It will make students adaptable and provide more job opportunities.

The NEP will put an end to the misconception most parents have that is, one can make a good career only if he/she opts for conventional subjects like Mathematics. The curriculum under NEP is based on vocational subjects which will give a wider career option to students based on their interest and skill set. It will bring massive changes to the education scenario.

 

Most parents as well as children these days are preferring to study in other states or abroad. In such a scenario, what makes students choose St. Xavier International and Kalinga University or other contemporary institutions in Odisha and what distinctive aspect do you offer?

There is a certain trend going on in Odisha as well as the whole country. While people from Western part of Odisha like Bolangir, Sonepur, Angul etc. prefer pursuing higher education at Bhubaneswar, the students from Bhubaneswar and nearby area to choose institutions in Hyderabad, Banglore and New Delhi. Similarly, the students of those places choose to pursue further studies in abroad. So, we usually get a very less inflow of students from Bhubaneswar.

But yes because of the courses and facilities we offer, we get a lot of students from rural areas of Odisha. For the students of rural areas, Bhubaneswar has been developed as an education hub where they can get quality education within their affordability. As you know, our institutions is working on the same mission, to make education accessible to everyone, therefore we are getting preference over most other institutions.

Your opinion on the education policy and system in Odisha? Would you suggest any reforms or addition?

A lot of reform is required in the education system of Odisha. Recently, I have been appointed as a member in the Higher Education Council of Andhra Pradesh, where I am coming across many pioneering steps which can be implemented in Odisha too for improving the quality of education.

When Odisha had no Higher Education Council I had presented the statute of Andhra Pradesh before the then Governor of Odisha S.C. Jamir I had proposed and requested him to set up a Higher Education Council in Odisha as there was need for a regulatory monitoring system to assess quality of education. Subsequently the act was passed in 2017 and the council was established. But there is need for different regulatory system for different institution as well as schools. Similarly, for monitoring the other aspects related to education, there is need for more regulatory bodies, like a Fees regulatory Commission. This apart, on the other fronts, there is a need for the reform of the subject curriculum, which has been running for many years now.

I am also the President of All India Private School Association which has under 7000 schools under it. I believe, private school should play a vital role in providing quality education and I try to achieve the same with the help of the fellow school directors.

Education is a noble profession and it should not be commercialized. Anyone expecting to make profit out of education should not continue in this field. I believe It is our responsibility towards society.

Apart from your professional life, what personal interests do you have? How do you spend your leisure time?

I do not spend my leisure time in any other activity. I dedicate all my time to my mission of education. I work for 12-15 hours every day. Once I am done with my work I personally inquire about the functioning of the Institutions. discuss with the teachers and administrative staffs to check if things are going smooth. My wife also helps me with it.

Where do you see your institution in next few years? What are your plans?

I want to develop 30 schools in 30 districts. A model Xavier International School in each district is my vision. This apart, one of our most ambitious project which we have undertaken recently is the first digital school of India. It will be the first of its kind school in the country where all the advanced technology including AI and robotics will be used to impart education to students. We have estimated a budget of Rs. 50 crores for this proposed school.

Everything will be centralised in the school. The students even need not carry books, everything will be digital. They just have to carry their notebooks so that they do not leave the habit of writing. Otherwise, everything will be provided in the school and they will spend a good eight hours in the school. The fees will also be nominal. We have a specific vision for the school and we hope to execute it as planned.

Any message for the youth of Odisha you would like to share?

I would only like to say that, keep a habit of reading and writing as much as you can. Sharpen your ability to learn, to comprehend and have knowledge about everything even if it comes to your use or not.

In our times, even if we got 65% it was too much for us. But today there is no end to such competition. I have seen in our school more than 120 had secured 10 CGPA which is extraordinary. That is how competitive the world has become. We should be ready for every situation

They are getting many facilities so they should harness those opportunities.

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