India has a demographic dividend and Canada a demographic deficit. About 8% to 9% of India’s 1.2 billion population is in the 18-24-year age group. Canada’s labour market participation rate is going to fall from 64% to somewhere around 44% in a decade because of demographic forces. Baby boomers are retiring — a huge component of the population. It’s obvious then that somewhere both countries are looking to fulfill needs that can translate in to stronger bilateral ties.
Why then do the US and UK remain the most popular destinations for Indian students? What has been happening after the June 2010 MoU that both countries signed for cooperation in higher education?
The recently concluded Canada-India Eduation Summit at Ottawa, Canada, threw up some answers. Carleton University made a beautiful backdrop for a meeting of minds and sharing of ideas as top Indian and Canadian academicians, vice-chancellors and presidents got together to thrash out ways in which to best work out a mutual give-and-take in student and faculty mobility between the two countries. In their remarks, John Baird, foreign affairs minister for Canada and Daggubati Purandeswari, minister of state for human resources development, India, spoke of the need to create more linkages in research. “Education is not a goal in itself, it is a powerful driver of economic social change and lays the foundations for demographic societies,” Purandeswari said. The government, she added, was seized of the fact that it alone could not provide institutes and quality education to its people. And unless quality education was offered, India would not be able to offer quality manpower to the world.
As stated earlier, India is a very young country with 8% to 9% of the population in the 18-24-year-age group. This huge group needs to be skilled and trained. “The huge numbers we have need be skilled and made productive if they have to be partners in India’s march to power,” the Indian minister added.
Exchange of students, faculty, credit transfers, recognition of institutes, regulations to assess institutes’ strengths were issues that needed attention, Purandeswari said.
Speaking to HT Horizons at the summit, Carleton University president and vice-chancellor Roseann O’Reilly Runte said student exchanges had to be intensified. They should be encouraged to travel freely between the two nations. There should be more joint research projects between the brightest minds. Efforts had to be made to bring together educational institutes and enterprises to create employment opportunities for students. Recognising quality institutes in India and forging ties with them after assessing their strengths was crucial, she said.
Prof Suranjan Das, vice chancellor, University of Calcutta, speaking to us later, said it was important that universities, on the basis of their own needs and requirements work out suitable programmes with institutions in Canada on a one-to-one basis.
A number of steps were proposed at the summit for further collaboration and to address the credit transfer issue between institutes of both countries. Some of these were: Gathering information (in Canada) on Indian institutes’ programmes already approved for credit transfer, considering not credits but content and hours of lecture as well as the students’ ability to succeed in the programme for which credit transfer is sought; and creating a committee to continue work on the issue.
The road ahead: From the Indo-Canadian summit
Some of the proposals that came out of the Canada-India Education Summit held at Ottawa, Ontario, Canada recently:
Collecting among Canadian universities information on programmes, faculties and universities, colleges or IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) already approved for credit transfer by each institution;
Considering content and hours of lecture as well as the students’ ability to succeed in the programme for which credit transfer is sought
Finding means to support the travel of students and faculty who cannot afford it
Requesting governments to provide additional grants specifically for joint research projects between researchers in both nations
Creating a website where researchers could locate partners and where universities could list the desired qualities of their desired exchange partners
Seeking exchanges which will specifically enhance the strengths of the two institutions involved