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Education high on India-France agenda

delhi Updated: Dec 03, 2010 23:18 IST
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Charu Sudan Kasturi
Hindustan Times
Charu Sudan Kasturi

French higher education and research minister Valerie Pecresse will meet HRD minister Kapil Sibal on Monday to take forward educational ties between the two countries at a time when they are bound together by near-identical higher education reform challenges and priorities.

Pecresse, who is accompanying French President Nicolas Sarkozy during his three day visit starting Saturday, sought the meeting with Sibal, Indian and French government sources confirmed to HT .

No government-to-government deals are on the agenda, but the meeting is crucial because of a rare synergy in higher education reform priorities of the two governments, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sarkozy, the sources pointed out.

"France is the one developed country that faces similar challenges in governance of higher education institutions to India. We believe France and India can learn from each other's strategies and experiences as we both push through similar reforms," a French official said.

Consider the parallels in challenges and priorities for the two governments.

Like in India, French higher educational institutions lack autonomy and are almost totally controlled by the state.

They too are almost completely government funded and need sanction before changing fees, introducing or changing courses, or hiking salaries of teachers.

Like Singh, Sarkozy too has made higher education reforms a key component of his political agenda.

Sibal and Pecresse have both been spearheading the higher education reforms in their countries that they argue will help universities escape from a common fear - mediocrity.

Both have in recent times also faced a slowdown in success in pushing through reforms, with growing opposition from select sections.