For the first time in more than two decades, the government of India is drafting a new education policy which will include reforms on the internationalisation in higher education, digitisation of education and skills development.
The government has released 33 discussion themes– 13 for secondary, 20 for post-secondary– to the public for consultation, a process which the government expects could take up to a year.
“It’s not whether internationalisation should happen, but how to make it happen”
Speaking about the government’s new approach to internationalisation, Richard Everitt, director of education at the British Council in India said: “It’s not whether it should happen, but how to make it happen.”
Strengthening of vocational education; promotion of languages; integrating skills development in higher education; promoting open and distance learning and online courses; and engagement with industry to link education to employability are among other topics available for discussion on the government’s website until the end of March.
International education stakeholders in the country say the list of proposed discussion themes show the government is taking a relevant approach to modernise the current education environment.
However, Lakshmi Iyer, Director and Head of Education for market entry specialist Sannam S4, commented that in efforts to internationalise higher education, the government needs to make clear its stance on allow domestic provider to partner with foreign institutions.
“As we face our capacity challenges in India, we also have a responsibility to offer a clear framework that will make operating in India reasonably easy,” she said.
Iyer highlighted the country’s potential to become an education hub for students from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran and Africa given the right government support.
“We have traditionally attracted students from these countries and Africa, we can attract more if we have international campuses that open up,” she said.
For years, foreign and domestic providers have been challenged by the government’s hard stance on keeping foreign providers out.
But, last month, in response to UK-based Indian billionaire G P Hinduja’s call on the government to open its doors to foreign providers, Minister of Human Resource Development Smriti Irani said she is prepared pick up a foreign provider bill that’s been in political stalemate since 2010.
Iyer added that if the government is keen to recruit more inbound students, it needs to work on transforming education hot spots into desirable places to live.
“One theme that I haven’t seen is infrastructure for education,” she said. “I think it is a key issue as we are talking of opening up education cities. To make these cities attractive, local infrastructure will also need to be developed to very high standards.”
Other discussion topics show shoots of opportunities for foreign providers particularly in secondary school tuition, digitalisation and exam assessments said Everitt.
“To make these cities attractive, local infrastructure will also need to be developed to very high standards”
“On schools the three areas where the UK may have most interest is in teachers training and quality improvement, schools quality and comprehensive education which includes, life skills, citizenship and sports,” he commented. “There is a big push on digital, as we might expect– further evidence that the UK should engage in this area not only through UK platforms, but in India.”
Both Iyer and Everitt lauded the democratic approach the government is taking to draft the new policy but agree that only time will tell how it translates into action.
“I wonder how much of a useful consultation this will be, rather than just part of a political stratagem to seen to be closer to the people,” said Everitt.
Meanwhile, Iyer charges that after being elected by a majority mandate last year, Prime Minister Modi has obligations to voters. “A lot of youth voted for Mr. Modi and he has promises to keep,” she said.
“One of those promises is that of fulfilling the aspirations of middle class Indian youth whose families attach tremendous value still to a quality education.”