The young man beamed across the table illuminated by scores of luminaries that included an ex-foreign secretary as the chairman of the interview committee and scores of policymakers from MHRD, CSIR and DST. It was a process to appoint Scientific Attache by the DST across three countries. His presentation on the topical issue of “Science and Diplomacy” was well received and he was now flooded with run of the mill pointers regarding research and education. Finally, the soft voice of the chairman crackled amidst the barge of questions “Well Dr Parthasarathi, what is your assessment of the scientific collaborations we have with other nations?”
Taken aback a bit, I was determined to give a piece of my mind to the apex bureaucrats garlanding the committee. “Sir, what I think is we should start from a clean slate. No scientific collaborations will be beneficial to us if it doesn’t profit out researchers. I propose that we should emphasize on meaningful alliances at the University level itself. This includes exchange of ideas and opinions with collaborative research on topics of mutual interest that shall put value at both ends of the table”.
This response raised several eyebrows with a slew of barbs from the section of interviewers. Although rejected by the committee, I had firm faith in the idea that any collaboration that entails transfer of cutting edge technology for our projects ultimately is half done exercise to salvage our short term interests. In the long run, it defeats the basic purpose of innovation and quality research while making us dependent on imports of technology and equipment for our national progress. This credence has been amply vindicated with the advent of the National Education Policy 2020(NEP 2020) which envisages huge emphasis on globalization of our higher educational system and research.
This is proposed to be actuated vide instituting research and teaching collaborations by exchange of faculties and students with high-quality foreign institutions across the globe. For the first time, it has put Indian Universities at the centre of such global alliances backed by necessary policy framework. The incorporation of such seminal ideas into our education policy should be welcomed by all the stakeholders of the University system which is slated to reap rich dividends from the aforesaid policy.
Such exchanges will impart a much needed impetus on collaborative research on topical subjects thus facilitating mutually beneficial processes to embark upon cutting edge research and innovation. It includes setting up campuses in other countries by top Indian Universities and stimulating Universities of eminence with demonstrative excellence across the world to operate in India. Such universities shall be allotted special dispensation regarding regulatory, governance, and content norms on par with other autonomous institutions of India. Furthermore, NEP 2020 proposes to lay down legislative steps to expedite research collaboration and student exchanges between Indian institutions and their global counterparts. This is envisioned in recognition of the credits acquired by the student in foreign universities which shall be counted for the award of a degree by any Indian HEI’s
If implemented with diligence and adequate government and industrial funding, these initiatives have the power to transform technical education in India which is critical to its overall growth and development. Such interactions and exchanges shall galvanize policy makers to draw effective steps that allow the nation to become leaders in rapidly evolving cutting-edge areas that are fast gaining prominence. These efforts will allow us to take the lead in preparing professionals in disciplines such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3-D machining, Virtual Reality, big data analysis, and machine learning. They will prove to be drivers of innovation and growth with the ability to impact every facet of the scientific and economic ecosystem in India.
The gap in demand for well qualified manpower in these sunrise sectors can be bridged with such synergistic partnerships which shall encourage closer collaborations between industry and HEI’s to drive innovation and research in these fields. The expanse of technical education can be widened to positively impact teaching programmes offered by multidisciplinary education with renewed focus on opportunities to engage profoundly with other disciplines.
Further, this will allow Indian students to have a greater flexibility in choosing their individual curricula and acquaint them with adaptive learning technologies, subjects’ skills and capacities to achieve innovative, adaptive and productive abilities to galvanize nation’s progress in areas of cutting edge technologies. Such collaborations shall encourage interaction and cooperation among students, teachers and researchers leading to germination of seminal ideas and creation of new knowledge thus making our educational system truly global in nature. It also provides students the chance of cross-cultural interaction by teaming with people from different cultures and working together in groups, making them equipped with enhanced communicative skills and global awareness.
The success of radical initiatives requires a clear action plan with enshrined targets and timelines to become meaningful and realizable goals of the Indian educational system. Combined with an ambitious aim to achieve a Gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 50% by 2025, such partnerships at the global scale will go a long way to realize the full potential of India’s demographic dividend.