The Indo-American Society (IAS) will be holding a summit in Mumbai between July 30 and August 1 on higher education as part of its golden jubilee celebrations. V. Rangaraj, president, IAS, talks to The Hindu Education Plus about some of the contributions IAS has made over the years.

What is the scope and contribution of a society like IAS at a time when the governments themselves recognise the importance of the relationship and work at it from the top?

Indo-American Society (IAS) is an institution with a 50-year track record. We are focused on building bridges in the field of education and culture between India and United States. While government-to- government relationships (India-U.S.) focuses on policy level matters, institutions like IAS focus on down-to-earth activities such as training of students, helping teachers and professors and arranging exchange programmes. Thus the scope and contribution of IAS is tremendous and is a catalyst in the relationship.

How much of two-way movement of professionals in education is there between India and the U.S.?

There is substantial movement in the two-way process where IAS has facilitated many things. For example, a few months ago, we brought 20 Heads of High Schools from the U.S. to India and made them interact with their counterparts in India. This will develop further into relationship between schools resulting in teacher exchange programmes, student exchange programmes and several other activities aimed at capacity-building in Indian educational institutions.

What do you see as the impact of reforms in higher education brought in by Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal?

Mr Sibal is in the process of introducing dynamic reforms in the area of higher education which will bring a paradigm shift in our system.

Thus institutions of higher education will be compelled to be more innovative catering to the needs of the changing times in the environment. It will help us to ramp up the higher education system.

How much exposure of Indian higher education beyond engineering and science is there in the U.S.?

India's education sector has received limited exposure in the U.S. when it comes to engineering and science curriculum. As everyone knows IIT is a small portion of the large diaspora in education which is yet to be tapped. This is where change is going to come. Hence, to create access for other students beyond the ambit of IIT and IIMs, there are institutions in the U.S. who can tie up with similar institutions in India. This is where the Indo-U.S. Summit on Higher Education will play a role. We foresee a paradigm shift for arts and science graduates once the teaching methods and teacher exchanges take place in the pure science areas. Medical education will also undergo changes once partners are identified from global sources.

Please elaborate on the role IAS has played over the years and the way it sees itself as changing with the current times.

For the first time in India, an institution like IAS is organising an event of this magnitude. This speaks volumes about the role of IAS over the years. IAS has acted as an instrument of change by making a difference in the students' life through training programmes relating to soft skills and other educational programmes pertaining to entrance examinations. Thus the pattern of change has been identified by IAS well ahead of time and we will be introducing several new courses in the next few months. We realise that the only thing which is constant is changes.

What is your vision for the summit?

Facilitating the GOI to implement a comprehensive reform in higher educational policies.

Mandate quality and build capacity.

Deploy technology for teaching and collaborative research.

Establish an active industry-academia interface.

Our vision highlights the case for change where India stands today with regard to global education system and what the vision for higher education is, in partnership with U.S. universities.

We would liketo impact the current education paradigm by increasing access and enhancing the quality of Indo-U.S. Higher Education in the Global economy. We will jointly work on action-oriented agenda and share global best practices in the higher education spheres.

The overall objective then is, together for India and the U.S. to become a global hub of knowledge creation, talent development and enhancement of joint research and technology.