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Is the time ripe for Indian education to go global?

By G. Balasubramanian

For the last two decades I have held the view that the Indian education system has all the potentials to go global. More so, I believe this is the time ripe for Indian education to redefine its perspectives and scale new peaks in education. If India could become a leader in communications technology, space technology, pharma industries, agriculture and stand the test of time in financial crises, there is no reason why it cannot reinvent itself in education. Two major factors that have been hindering our growth have been - the mindset and the infrastructure. The idea ‘the other side is greener’ has impacted our mindset terribly and we have been enjoying and celebrating a sense of inferiority. Unfortunately, the comfort level we have been enjoying with this celebration has played without educational operatives negatively. With my limited experience and interactions with the school education systems in a few other countries, I have felt that we have enough potentials to lead provided we could address some critical issues relating to education. The presence of Indian schools in different countries to meet the needs of Indian diaspora, and most recently the efforts to establish the units of the prime Indian higher education institutes in some countries, show that we have a place, a market, and a global opportunity. Unfortunately, even our leading national educational agencies have found comfort levels in meeting exigencies than addressing to the vital needs of preparing for a global leadership. In many countries, their educational advances have been on well-articulated commercial prescriptions rather than inclusive and core growth elements. If they have some, there is no reason why we did not have them; rather why we did not let those growth elements to demonstrate their power in our environment. A few attempts by some boards to position international curriculum were very methodically silenced by power players who could not take the load or credit of doing things better.

Given the current opportunities with the global positioning of India as a developing nation committed to become a developed in nation in a specified time, it is important to understand the steps to be taken for the Indian education to go global.

1. Policies need to be accommodative.

While the basics of educational policies need to be locally sensitive, it must provide elements that would nurture and empower the global learners and learning communities to feel their relevance in the system. Thus, keeping the universe of the curriculum globally relevant and competitive, opportunities should be given for differentiated methods, approaches, and gateways to learn and get certified. With technology being a great promoter of human needs and operations, this possibility cannot be ruled out. Neither language nor content are a threat to global accommodation especially for a country that accommodates nearly thirty languages and more. The current NEP has enough strength to deal with this issue.

2. Institutions need to be sanitized.

Institutions both at the higher and the secondary levels need to be sanitized from politics and intervention of the local players. The wisdom of the learned must be acknowledged, appreciated, and understood in so far as they have no conflict with the fundamental constitutional requirements. “Education for all” and “Quality secondary education for all” are no threats to growth of enterprise, opportunities, performance, and talent. Institutional managements need to be defined on quality issues rather than exhibition of authority by power mongers. While financial growth of institutions needs to be a key concern, commercialization and exploitation must be eradicated.

3. Teacher Quality

Teacher quality both at the school and the collegiate level is becoming a matter of concern increasingly. While in most cases, their degrees should not be questioned, they need to be trained to think differently, intelligently, inclusively, and intellectually. Thought dynamics of the teachers and the taught are essential to problem solving. With more focus on dealing with key current issues from different perspectives, teachers need to be given more freedom to deal with knowledge in context than textual materials. Professional audit of teachers to mentor them must be in place. The fact that the teacher quality is a concern should not be a roadblock for opening the gateways of Indian education to global markets. The evidence of many Indian teachers working abroad both at the school level and at the university level is an indicator that the possibilities do exist.

4. Infrastructure development

Many educational institutions in the country have the ambience for international accommodation. Similarly, they have also the wherewithal to reach out to other countries to highlight their learning dynamics. Unfortunately, the infrastructure in several institutions is either underutilised or used inappropriately. The investment infrastructure in such cases show low productivity. Resource and infrastructural management in schools must be addressed to open more avenues for providing current, relevant, skill-based courses. As such India is a treasure house of art, sculpture, and other forms of cultural heritage. They should attract the global population for study and development. Hierarchical, autocratic approaches to knowledge capsules should give way to more access-based, research-oriented learning.

5. Mindset to lead

With a colonial mindset over a century, our belief systems have been impacted significantly. The idea of a poor country, the projection of a superiority syndrome about things from the west, the marginalization of the oriental culture and a few other indigenous issues have been used to create a defeatist mentality. It appears that the time is ripe to recover. As Norman Cousins point out “Drugs are always not necessary, but the belief in recovery is.” It is time to acknowledge the intellectual and cultural wealth of the country in different dimensions and let the country develop not only in infrastructure and business, but in Quality education also.

Maxmullar once said “If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions, I should point to India.” And like Max Muller, many international scholars have recorded their admiration for India for her intellectual wealth and inclusive culture. I think our education system has contributed to such views from time immemorial. Is there an opportunity again to attempt for a global leadership?