By Kam Rathee
“Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela.
TORONTO: Education is a common denominator desire of all human beings. It transgresses nations, boundaries, religion, customs, caste, creed and economic disparities. More and more, it is being viewed as a part and parcel of trade between nations, a business that comes wrapped in a social good.
Two sister countries, Canada and India, have realized the value of education and the role trade and investment in education can play in improving the lives of its citizenry.
Armed with this knowledge, both have embarked on building a bridge that will bring rich dividends to both their economies, for years to come. A shining example of this was reported in the Globe and Mail, as follows: “In the rocky field dotted with mango trees, five minutes from southern India’s gleaming new Hyderabad airport, Dezso Horvath sees a solution for Canadian universities struggling with limited public dollars. The York University business dean has struck a deal with a developer to build an outpost for the Schulich School of Business, making it one of the first foreign campuses in the world’s fastest growing market for higher education.”
In that education has a component that falls, in part, in the public domain, the governments of Canada and India have not been left behind and have agreed to give a boost to this noble calling by agreeing to and signing a “Memorandum of Understanding” or MoU for cooperation in higher education.
This document, in its crucial part, reads as follows: “The Government of Canada and the Government of the Republic of India will encourage the continued development of contacts and cooperation between the higher education institutions of the two countries, based on their respective academic, scientific and education needs through this MoU and arrangements between educational institutions on both sides.”
As the adage goes, well begun is half done. But where do we go from here?
In my opinion, in implementing the letter and spirit of the above cited document, the following steps need to be considered and followed:
Firstly, there is a strong need to improve “Brand Canada “in India and “Brand India” in Canada, more so the former.
Secondly, the Government of India must pass its stalled education bill at the earliest, otherwise the type of Schulich deals will remain in the single digit.
Thirdly, the Canadian provinces, in whose domain education falls, must assist Canadian universities and colleges to promote their institutions in India. As of now, only three or four of Canadian provinces are active in education.
Fourthly, Canada faces an uphill taske in student recruitment compared competitor countries such as the UK, Australia and the US. The fees paid by foreign students need to be rationalized and the opportunity to apply for a landed status post completion of studies needs to be vigorously publicised.
Fifthly, through contacts in the huge Indian diaspora and specialist country specific educational organizations, with financial assistance to them, must be pressed into service to accelerate cooperation between the two countries.
There is a plethora of MOUs already signed between Canadian and Indian educational institutions. While some are more active than others, the bulk of them are lying dormant, some suffering from ennui that has set in.
In essence, to achieve the lofty goals the two countries have set for themselves, the mind must be willing and the body must be able. It seems, in a large number of cases, we are lacking in one or the other.
(Kam Rathee is vice-chairman of the Canada-India Education Council, and a Special Adviser at Blakes, working with the firm’s India Practice Group)