Applauding the educational reforms being undertaken in India right now, the US has described HRD Minister Kapil Sibal as “a dynamic and creative thinker.”

“Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh appointed a dynamic and creative thinker to head the Ministry of Human Resource Development, basically their education ministry, Kapil Sibal,” Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake, said.

Mr. Sibal has promised that the government will introduce in Parliament a new bill that will allow greater foreign participation in education in India, particularly in higher education, Mr. Blake noted during a speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“Minister Sibal has talked about how there are 220 million Indians who are now in secondary schools, but only 10 million of them have the opportunity to go to college. Many of those, more than 100,000 in fact, more than any other country, attend college here in the United States,” he said.

“I think this new law should open up tremendous possibilities for American universities of all kinds. Not just traditional research and liberal arts universities, but community colleges, vocational training and distance learning programmes, and many other educational opportunities,” Mr. Blake said.

Education, Mr. Blake said, is a central element of Indo-US relationship. “We expect significant new opportunities to expand our cooperation in this vital field and better harness the limitless potential of young people in both countries.”

“India prides itself on being a knowledge-based society and they also know that they will have a huge wave of young people coming into the work force over the next 20 or 30 years.

“That’s a significant opportunity when most of the rest of the world is facing declining birth rates, but it’s only a good opportunity if all those people can receive a meaningful and practical education, and can be competitive in the increasingly globalised economy of India,” Mr. Blake said.

During Prime Minister Singh’s visit in November, the two governments announced a joint expansion of the Fulbright-Nehru Scholarship Programme for the exchange of students and scholars, and launched a new effort, the Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative, to support university partnerships and junior faculty development, he noted.

“Even without the revised legislation, universities have already started partnering with each other. I heard this morning about the University of Chicago’s initiative to conduct joint research with a counterpart in Delhi,” Mr. Blake said yesterday.

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