India and the U.S. are natural allies, especially in the field of education. There is a lot of potential to strengthen collaborations between India and US educational institutions, specifically in an interlinking industry, academia, and policymakers. Educational partnerships can play an increasingly vital role in that relationship. The new administration can strengthen U.S.-India higher education cooperation by funding research in areas of mutual interest, encouraging reciprocity in student and researcher mobility, and invigorating entrepreneurship.
Humanity has dominated the universe by the spread of knowledge through education. Higher education has become fundamental to the social, economic, and cultural health of the nation. It is not just the intellectual development of students and resulting employability that is at stake but also the entire process through which knowledge and understanding within the nation can be fostered and respect for evidence and the search for truth can be promoted. Every nation requires a robust and creative higher education to provide human resources for the growth of the economy and management of the state. The higher education system in India has grown in the post-independence period to become one of the largest systems of its kind in the world with a national literacy rate of 77.7%; 1,019 Universities, Higher Education Enrollments of 38 million, and public spending on education of 4.43% (of India’s GDP).
As we are aware, the main goal of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is to transform the educational system by bridging the chasm between current learning outcomes and more desirable goals for the future of work and employability. In a recent lecture in Hyderabad on “The Role of Higher Education Institutions in the Modern Context,” Principal Secretary of the Industries & Commerce and Information Technology Departments of Telangana, stated that universities should lead in establishing Centers of Excellence and emphasizing education that developing students as thinkers rather than merely passive receptors of information. Furthermore, Principal Secretary emphasized the need to accelerate the development of entrepreneurial skills instead of only relying on the state or private sector for future employment opportunities.
There were over 200,000 Indians in American universities in 2019-20. Covid-19 and America’s tightening immigration policy reversed some of these gains, but student interest is still high. But student mobility is only one area to build upon. Others include joint research in areas of strategic importance and entrepreneurship education for job creation. The National Education Policy, 2020 will drive much of the conversation from India’s side, but the issues of educational partnerships go far beyond just what is outlined there. There are three reasons why the U.S.-India relationship will become even stronger under President Biden: personal interests, strategic importance, and economic potential.
Personal interests do not always get attention when talking about foreign policy. The personal connection between President Trump and Prime Minister Modi did get some attention. Who can forget the September 2019 “Howdy Modi” rally in Texas or February 2020 “Namaste Trump” rally in Gujarat? But that was more show than substance. Now, in Vice President Kamala Harris, we have a true, if complicated, daughter of India. Her mother emigrated to the United States from Tamil Nadu to pursue higher education and then work in research. Modi has called her victory “pathbreaking, and a matter of immense pride, not just for your chittis,” using the Tamil term for aunties. When Harris makes her first trip to India, it will be celebrated as a homecoming. Leveraging that personal goodwill – and Harris’ stories of her mother benefiting from U.S. education – should further the potential for strengthened ties in education.
The strategic issue that gets the most attention is India’s role in hedging the rise of China. And while that is a crucial dynamic in a dangerous neighborhood, especially given China’s increasing military activities on the border with India. There should also be more collaborative planning involving the Indian government’s Strategic Forces Command and the U.S. Strategic Command in Nebraska which could involve university partners.
Economic development is one of the key impacts of education. Not only is education a driver of higher human resource capacity, but there are often entrepreneurial initiatives that create jobs. The community college model, prevalent in the United States in which quick skills development is done for industries where the workforce is needed and jobs await, can be more widely adopted in the Indian context. Covid-19 has forced many institutions to rethink online education. That could be a boon to educating India’s huge population but will require better infrastructure and more attention to technology access disparities between rural poor and urban rich, which is also a barrier faced in U.S. education.
Reinvigorating Science, Education, Innovation, and People-to-People Ties
- The United States is proud to have issued a record 62,000 visas to Indian students so far in 2021. The nearly 200,000 Indian students in the United States contribute US$7.7 billion annually to the U.S. economy.
- Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Fulbright Program worldwide, the program has been bringing Americans and Indians closer together for 71 years since its launch in India. In 2008, India’s decision to jointly fund these fellowships with the United Statesand renamed the program the Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship Program. Over 20,000 fellowships and grants have been awarded under this exchange program, and the United States looks forward to building on these successes.
- The Partnership 2020 program continues to foster higher education cooperation to promote economic growth and technological advances. In collaboration with the University of Nebraska at Omaha, this program funds 15 research partnerships between U.S. and Indian universities in the fields of advanced engineering, artificial intelligence, public health, and energy, among others.
- The upcoming launch of the U.S.-India Alliance for Women’s Economic Empowerment—a public-private partnership between the Department of State, USAID, the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum, and George Washington University—will help catalyze collaboration to advance women’s economic resilience and empowerment in India.
- The U.S.-funded Nexus startup and innovation hub showcases the best of American and Indian entrepreneurial innovation and technology commercialization. Nexus serves as a central hub for entrepreneurs, innovators, faculty, industry players, and funding organizations interested in promoting Indian startups and the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since 2016, Nexus’s 138 graduates have raised over US$19 million in outside funding and closed over 70 deals with many prominent Indian and U.S. companies.
- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collaborates closely with Indian counterparts in areas such as ocean and fisheries science, meteorology, and earth observation, which helps us better understand climate change and save lives through improved weather modeling and information sharing.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture looks forward to cooperating with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research on climate-change issues related to agriculture through strategic research on crops, livestock, and fisheries.
- USAID looks forward to working with the Indian government on establishing the U.S.-India Gandhi-King Development Foundation to promote initiatives and exchanges that honor both visionary leaders.
U.S.-India Educational Partnership Possibilities
There are at least three key policies the US administration should focus on to further educational partnerships:
- Funding for joint research on areas of mutual interest. While there are obvious topics on that list, such as satellite technology, artificial intelligence, and financial technology. The ones that might have even more impact include water management, solar and alternative energy innovation, and high-yield agriculture.
- Encouragement of student and researcher mobility between the two countries. This has traditionally been directed toward Indians coming to the United States and sometimes staying as academics, professionals, and entrepreneurs. However, there is an increase in “brain-gain” migration of Indians and others going from the United States to India. Brain gain migration should be enhanced through visa policies, including ease of receiving Indian visas for U.S. citizens, expanding the H-1B program for tech jobs that are traditionally filled by Indians, and funding support from both sides to increase the Fulbright-Nehru exchange program.
- Entrepreneurship for job creation is a final push that the Biden administration should prioritize. Good jobs are important to combat violent extremism. Specific educational programs that motivate and fund entrepreneurs – both in India and the United States, plus linking those efforts – will benefit the people of both countries.
Many India observers in the United States are enthusiastic about the potential for the Biden-Harris administration to build upon the successes of the past, right some of the wrongs in perception and policy, and forge a common path ahead for the people of the two largest democracies.There is also renewed enthusiasm in the U.S. education sector with the appointment of experienced and lifelong educators to key leadership positions in the U.S. Department of Education – leaders who embrace the key elements of the NEP and who will champion the value of international education and exchange.
Cooperation in the education sector has been made an integral part of the strategic partnershipbetween the two countries. The Fulbright program was renewed in 2008, with an enhancedmandateand joint funding, to provide more student and scholar exchange grants. About 130,000 Indianstudents are pursuing advanced degrees in the U.S. The Higher Education Dialogue, which hashad four meetings since 2011 (last in November 2014 in New Delhi), laid out the road map forpromoting strategic institutional partnerships, deepening collaboration in research anddevelopment, fostering partnerships in vocational education, and focusing on junior facultydevelopment.
India is learning from the U.S. experience in community colleges to meet ourdemandsfor skilldevelopment. It has been agreed to collaborate with U.S. institutions in thearea ofTechnology Enabled Learning and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to extend the reachof education in India. Under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) launched byIndia, upto 1000 American academics will be invited and hosted each year to teach in Indianuniversities at their convenience. The two sides are also collaborating to establish a new IndianInstitute of Technology in Ahmedabad.
Science & Technology (S&T)
The India-U.S. S&T cooperation has been steadily growing under the framework of U.S.-India
Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement signed in October 2005. There is an Indo-U.S.Science & Technology Joint Commission, co-chaired by the Science Advisor to U.S. Presidentand Indian Minister of S&T. The U.S. attended as the partner country at the Technology Summit2014 at New Delhi.
In 2000, both the governments endowed the India-U.S. Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF) to facilitate mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation in science, engineering, and health. Overthe past decade, the IUSSTF has facilitated more than 12,000 interactions between Indian andU.S. scientists, supported over 250 bilateral workshops, and established over 30 joint researchcenters. The U.S.-India Science & Technology Endowment Fund, established in 2009, under theScience and Technology Endowment Board promotesthe commercialization of jointly developedinnovative technologies with the potential for positive societal impact.
Collaboration between the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has been strengthened under the 2008 MOU on EarthObservationsand Earth Sciences. A “monsoon desk” has been established at the U.S. National Centers forEnvironmental Prediction. India’s contribution of US$250 million towards the Thirty-Meter TelescopeProject in Hawaii and Indian Initiative in Gravitational Observations (IndiGO) with U.S. LIGOLaboratory are examples of collaboration to create world-class research facilities.
The 3.5million-plus strong Indian American community is an important ethnic group in theU.S., accounting for about 1% of the total population in the country. Indian Americancommunity includes a large number of professionals, business entrepreneurs, and educationalistswith increasing influence in society. With two Indian Americans occupying high-level postsof Governor and several representatives of the people, the Indian Diaspora has assimilated intotheir adopted country and is acting as a catalyst to forge closer and stronger ties between Indiaand the U.S. The two countries have been working together to facilitate the travel of their respectivecitizens, and to this end, an MOU has been signed in June 2016 to facilitate India’s joining of theGlobal Entry Programme for expedited immigration for eligible Indian citizens at U.S. airports.
Secured Governance in Education
Education HUB planned to use Secured Governance growth model will not only benefit students, attract foreign investment, retain local students, build a regional reputation by providing access to high-quality education and training for both international and domestic students, and create a knowledge-based economy. An education hub can include different combinations of domestic/international institutions, branch campuses, and foreign partnerships, within the hub. When education thrives, higher productivity and faster economic growth become a norm. Investment in education under Secured Governance methodology will give a big boost to the Indian economy.
Secured governance for Education has major characteristics like participation, rule of law, transparency, and responsiveness, at each stage of its operations and in developing a robust education system in the country. With improved resource allocation, enhanced governance, Interdependency among sectors, and transparency in the system going hand in hand with development and effective use of Information Technology and Innovation can deliver a safer, cleaner, and more accountable delivery of self-sustaining Education infrastructure and services.
Through secured governance establish a vibrant institutional framework in the educational system. India could capture a greater global opportunity in technology and other knowledge-intensive fields.
India’s National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has opened the mobility of students and teachers across the globe and it encourages research partnerships and mutually beneficial educational collaborations.New guidelines have been issued for India’s higher education institutes to move ahead in research at the international level. Regulations for embedding internships in general education have been set into motion. The government proposes to set up a national research foundation to further improve the research ecosystem in the country.
All these provide huge opportunities for US institutions. We could now look at two-way student and research mobility: US students can do short-term courses or some semesters in Indian institutions. We could certainly have more student and academic exchanges as well as joint research programmes. Education institutions in both countries can also explore joint projects in third countries including in Africa, Latin America, and Indo-Pacific.
Dr. P. Sekhar, Chairman,
Unleashing India Global Smart Cities Panel& MTGF
Dr. Ronald Kovach,
American International Accreditation Association of Schools & Colleges