First major breakthrough in educational exchange across borders was achieved with SAARC nations agreeing to set up a South Asian University (SAU) in India, while discussions were held on sharing of experiences in school and girl education programmes.
The agreement signed proposes a unique model of higher education for South Asia with undergraduate education in the native country and post-graduate education in SAU. The agreement also gives India a year’s time to frame-up the basic concept of the university and the courses to be offered in consultation with SAARC secretariat in Kathmandu. India will have to bear the initial costs of setting up of the university.
HRD ministry officials say no decision has been taken on where the university will be set up. While the HRD ministry is proposing Dwarka in Delhi as an appropriate place for setting up the university, the Ministry of External Affairs has suggested Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan in West Bengal. “The city for the university would be decided after discussions with MEA,” said a HRD ministry official.
The agreement signed unanimously advocates teaching of conventional as well as courses unique to the South Asian region. According to officials, a committee of heads of regulatory bodies of higher education in South Asia will prepare a broad outline of the courses to be offered. This committee will also act as a regulatory body for the university.
Government officials said that the students in SAARC region would get much more than the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s announcement of easing visa restrictions for them. Discussions are on for prioritising admission of students in colleges and universities of South Asia without any restriction on a model similar to the one adopted by European Union.
Sharing of ideas on exchange of ideas in the area of school education and learning from the success stories in the region were also discussed. India and Pakistan has already decided to exchange the schools textbooks and the syllabus taught in the two countries. There is also a talk of uniformity in school and college education system in the region to foster better exchange of faculty and teachers. “We can learn a lot from school education system in Sri Lanka where participation of the girl child is very high, a HRD ministry official said.