Education middle path for middle-class

NEW DELHI: President Obama's India visit highlights a paradigm shift in the new government's engagement with the US on issues relating to education.

Unlike UPA that spent the better part of its second innings wooing the Americans and few European countries to set up campuses in India, NDA has moved the relationship to a new plane.

"The idea is to take the middle path. It's the ultimate destination for the Indian middle class. Engagement should be such that it enriches us rather than aspire for something that becomes politically contentious," a senior HRD official says.

The change, he says, can be seen in the way government programmes like the Global Initiative of Academic Network (GIAN) has been designed. "GIAN will have immediate impact. US government and universities are enthused," he says. The US government has recognized GIAN's potential and although no agreement would be signed, it wants India to package it so well that faculty from US campuses cannot refuse the offer.

He contrasts this with the time UPA spent on evolving a consensus on passing the Foreign Education Providers Bill but failed. "BJP was against the idea of foreign universities opening campus. Within UPA, there was diverse opinion. While many US universities showed interest, their apprehensions couldn't be addressed," he said.

"US universities wanted to be sure they aren't tied down by Indian regulations on reservation, fee and prior-commitment to not repatriate the profit. Nothing serious emerged," one official said. He said even if campuses would have come up, a miniscule minority would've benefited.

The new government believes that MoUs with foreign nations can be a good way to enhance quality. A beginning has been made by seeking US help to mentor IIT, Gandhinagar. Though initially the government was keen that new IITs announced by NDA should be mentored, it was finally decided that those already in existence should be handheld by the US.

"In the coming years we'll have similar cooperation with other countries. We need faculty exchanges, research and innovation. Fund is no longer a problem," a source said.
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