Educationist, humanitarian and India’s leading international ‘edu-preneur’, Amreesh Chandra has promoted India as a premier educational destination. He is currently the Indian ambassador and head of international strategy of a United Nations’ support NGO, ‘Think Equal’, which promotes gender equality and understanding of human rights among schoolgoing children. In a conversation, he discusses various aspects related to India's education scene in the international arena. Excerpts…
How can India become the next international education hub?
Any education system has a few set of requirements that guarantee its quality and purpose. It requires the right regulatory environment, the right amount of composition of population, an ongoing demand and financial support. These are the key factors that contribute to the sustainability of an education hub. India, today, is in a position where all of these requirements have already been met. India’s efforts at becoming an important destination for education are admirable. The FDI easing in the sector, the foreign education Bill and the State funding for the education sector point out that efforts for financial and regulatory support are being made. Income tax exemption on school trusts provided by the government have also benefited the nation into pushing through the conventional societal structure. All these factors have enhanced the education sphere of India in recent times.
Turning India into an education attraction on the international market will systematically help India tackle the age-old problem of brain-drain. As major foreign education destinations like the U.S. and the UK are slowly losing their charm due to their tight immigration laws, lack of job opportunities and reduction in working hours for students, they will have to take some important steps to preserve their demand. A sharp drop in Indian students moving to the West is already something the Western universities have experienced. They will need to move their offices abroad and establish hubs around the world. Such hubs have already been established in several places like Singapore, Thailand, Qatar and Dubai.
Why couldn’t it achieve this status earlier?
As mentioned earlier, the main requirements for education systems to flourish include demand, regulation, funding and quality of life and learning — these are factors that India has recently worked on. It is now in a better position than ever to establish itself as the go-to-education destination. The rising employability of the country, the current ‘invent’ mindset of the start-up culture and the increasingly international appeal as an investment destination have positively affected its position in the education sector.
How can the Indian education industry be improved?
There are two main factors that define the education industry — the physical infrastructure factors (the campuses, buildings, and so on) and the soft infrastructure (the manpower behind the institution). The overall infrastructure requires high standards of quality, and, of course, this is not restricted to the quality of education. In fact, quality of education is one of the many factors that needs as much attention as the others. The quality of social life is as important as the quality of academic life. There are multiple instances where the balance between the two is hard to establish, this is one main area where the Indian education industry requires a bit of a push. Some institutes are academically brilliant, have an incomparable faculty but lack a bit of a balance for the student in terms of social needs and other extra-curricular activities.
Most importantly, India needs to have a definite minimum standard of requirement for infrastructure and faculty. Quality of infrastructure and academicians will be immensely improved once measures to standardise the system are put in place.
Why do you believe that Make in India should also be a global Educate in India campaign?
Make in India is one of the best campaigns that have emerged from India in the age of information. It has established brand India as a contending player in the international sphere.
I thought, why not have a campaign that is dedicated to education? Thus, I have made it my personal goal to start a new Educate in India campaign on a global scale. It will be dedicated to optimising opportunities in the education industry for investors and educators alike, a worldwide awareness of the fact that Make in India has all its roots in its education aspects and that India would be the next international education magnate — where bright futures await prospective students. This will also solve the problem of brain-drain.
Do we need to re-evaluate our strategies for recruiting, inducting, assessing and retaining the brightest talent?
The academicians in India or elsewhere are the major driving force of progress, be it business, technology or politics. We must understand that no education system can be better than the quality of its teachers. We need an open system where schools and institutions have the freedom to collaborate and sustain best practices.
The quality aspects of the teaching can only be achieved through a standardisation approach to the problem. This area requires a bit more work as the quality aspects have to be regularly improved by making thorough checks and upholding the established standard of quality. Obviously, all academics are qualified individuals who have made great contributions. However, there may still be some other factors that can be improved upon. For instance, a teacher may not have the right soft skills required to make the students’ learning experience worthwhile.
This area can be strengthened by establishing national programmes that are dedicated to soft skills improvement. These programmes can greatly improve the overall value of education imparted to students, enriching their experience. We must curate the brightest talent so that they can share their key skills with other individuals who are looking to improve. There should be opportunity for everyone to improve, and this can be achieved by having the academicians learn from each other.