Saturday, March 20, 2010

Liberalisation in Education

Yes,now it is liberalization in education.The union cabinet has given approval to Foreign Education institution Bill,2010,last week.This bill when passed by the parliament would permit foreign universities to set up campuses in India.During the last regime of UPA, as usual ,the Left parties put the brakes on government's plans to throw open Indian Education to foreign universities.This time Kabil sibal seems confident that government would be able to convince the opposition parties and get the bill passed in Parliament.Already there are institutional collaborations between Indian educational institutions and foreign educational institutions.The collaborations are either between foreign universities or autonomous foreign colleges and its Indian counterparts.They have India specific plans and partnerships.But until now they could not set up campuses in India.But the proposed legislation would permit this.Is it good for Indian education?
Kabil Sibal is extending a hearty welcome to foreign universities.But are they really interested in setting up campuses in India or happy with the present collaborative arrangement? Will it bring changes in Indian educational environment?.I apprehend this could further commercialize Indian education system.The provisions of the bill requires a foreign university to deposit $10 Million as corpus fund to start a campus in India.The fund should be in the form of 100 % Foreign Direct Investment(FDI).This means they can not raise funds in India.The University must be registered as a company under the Indian Companies Act.They can not take the profit back.The profit has to be ploughed back for development and expansion in India.Given these conditions it remains to be seen how many foreign campuses will come up in India.The only concession shown to foreign universities in the proposed bill is that they can undertake consultancy projects and profits from those projects can be siphoned out.

Assuming foreign Universities make a beeline to India,what are the advantages and disadvantages to educations system.The most vociferous supporter of the bill is of course Kabil Sibal.He says Indian students would get the benefit of quality education at affordable fees in India.It is true roughly 1.5 lakh Indian students go abroad for pursuing higher education.But it is a meager number compared to the millions pursuing higher studies in India itself.Those going abroad have to face the racial brunt of their fellow students in Countries like Australia.With more number of Quality Education Providers education could become more qualitative is another argument in favor of foreign universities.But those who had opted for foreign universities are from affluent families and they would continue to do that notwithstanding foreign universities setting up campuses in India.Even from Pre independence days if one gives a cursory glance at the list of people who had opted for foreign education one will find they were all from affluent families.To name a few Gandhiji, Panditji,JP Narain,Dr.Lohia,Dr.SD.Sharma. It is ironical that many of the Communist stalwarts had their education abroad.Jyoti Basu,Somnath Chatterji and Bhupesh Gupta were all educated abroad.But the Communist Party is opposed to this bill.By holding back at least half of the student population going abroad for higher studies India could save considerable foreign exchange.
Against the argument that these foreign universities would attract the best teaching faculty from Premier Indian Institutions like IIT's and IIM's, Kabila Sibal says it is not likely to happen.But on the same breath he says 'so what if it happens?.His contention is that after all the beneficiary is going to be Indian students and Indian teachers.Attrition from Premier institutions could provide and create better job opportunities to many more is Kabil's argument. This is an hypothetical scenario and it remains to be seen what happens.

My apprehensions are this should not open the flood gates to sub-standard foreign Universities to India.Secondly will it have a cultural impact? Will it bring an education system that has nothing to do with Indian culture? Kabil claims by 2030 India will be the only nation in world with maximum number of educated youth.Yes,but it is a demographic advantage we have as a nation. Will the foreign universities deliver what we need in our environment? .It is again ironical India had the worlds first University,the 'Nalanada University' in Patna way back in 427 CE.It is believed some of the Nalanda university buildings were constructed by the famous Tamil emperor Rajaraj Chozhan and Emperor Ashoka in those days.It is believed there were more than 60 disciplines those days in Nalanda University and thousands studied there.

Let us wait and see about the fate of this bill in Parliament.Anything could happen in India.The bill could get stalled for an indefinite period.But it would be exciting to imagine a Michigan University Campus at Madurai,should the bill get through and foreign universities swarm the Indian education scenario.

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