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Opening Statement of Minister for Human Resource Development Mr. Kapil Sibal at the U.S.-India Higher Education Dialogue

June 12, 2012

1) I am delighted to be here today. I thank Secretary Clinton for facilitating the annual Higher Education Dialogue. As we move into the second year of the India-US Higher Education Dialogue, we move away from the spacious highway of collaboration to he dedicated corridors of connectivity. Knowledge knows no barriers. The prejudiced human mind creates them. You and I, Secretary Clinton, have together embarked on a journey to eliminate barriers of prejudice by creating opportunities for our children to share knowledge. This will help them realize that they have common interests and aspirations and that collaborative learning is both enriching and empowering. You rightly termed our relationship as a partnership of democracies, of two vibrant democracies destined to lead the 21st century. Nothing will be more invigorating for this partnership than bringing together our knowledge institutions.

2) Towards that end, months ago, together we planted a sapling to usher an era of partnership in higher education. This well nurtured sapling has grown a few green shoots. The collaborations under the Singh-Obama Knowledge Initiative are ready to commence. We have prepared a plan to place our young faculty in universities in your best institutions to enhance their capabilities. We have activated a mechanism for formal collaboration in offering educational programmes between our institutions through the University Grants Commission. A group of State Education Ministers has interacted with community colleges in the U.S to draw lessons for establishing a similar network of colleges in India. This group has submitted their recommendation which has been accepted by the forum of all State Education Ministers. I hope to establish 100 such colleges by 2013. I invite Presidents and representatives of community colleges to visit us for a conference that we plan to host in India later this year. I am convinced that more positive outcomes will unfold over the next few months.

3) The revolution in ICT has been reshaping the world. Advances in science and technology has held the hope of offering new solutions for humanity. Lately, the communications revolution has also led to redefining the nature of State and society. Key stakeholders are changing the nature of social intercourse and institutions of State. Social interactions have exploded aided by the connecting power of the internet. The ability of thoughts to disperse and converge have multiplied exponentially. Crowd-sourcing and cloud computing leverage on this ability of seeking to tap the wisdom of the global community. However, our academic institutions have been slow to leverage the potential of technology for education. Knowledge networks that link research in the grand challenges of the world have also been slow to develop.

4) The digital world is challenging the lecture-driven teaching traditions of the university. With open content and open-access, we are seeing the early emergence of a meta-university, a concept pioneered by Charles West, as an accessible, empowering, communally constructed framework of open materials and platforms ushering the collaborative future of higher education. The Internet and the Web will provide the communication infrastructure, while the open-access movement and its derivatives will provide much of the knowledge and information infrastructure.

5) The meta university will reinterpret the concept of a University as not just a traditional, physical space of learning, but as a repository of knowledge and information that can be delivered in multiple ways, and can be accessed from anywhere, at anytime. It will seek to enhance the learning experience through new and innovative delivery models of education that allow students and institutions to collaborate in unprecedented ways. Thus the 21st century meta-university would be a network and an ecosystem rather than a single brick and mortar space - a Facebook of Institutions. We have taken small steps in constructing a meta-university with the University of Delhi and Jamia Millia Islamia taking the lead. I welcome the partnership of universities from this part of the world in this enterprise of and for the future.

6) Last year, I had emphasized the need for building a robust vocational education system that links education to the world of work. This requires the award of qualifications of international standards accepted by industry globally. I am pleased to inform that we have moved ahead to build the National Vocational Education Qualifications Framework (NVEQF). A pilot of the NVEQF in classes IX-XII has been launched this year. The University Grants Commission will recognize award of formal qualification in vocational education post class XII in tune with NVEQF. The experience of community colleges in developing the workforce for the U.S in the 20th century will stand us in good stead and inspire us by example. The workforce of the future will be global, their skill sets requiring international acceptance. Community colleges can partner us in developing the curriculum and pedagogy for the global workforce of the 21st century.
7) As distances collapse and the world comes together, education systems have to build opportunities for global learning. Student mobility and faculty mobility has dominated the discourse of the past. The future would lie in mobility in learning as students would cherish an education system that allows them to learn across cultures. We need to foster an education system that prepares the child in learning how to learn. The student of the 21st century would be like the famous travelers of yore who scoured the vast corners of the world to understand local cultures. The world is diverse in many ways. Its diversity must be absorbed across borders. While the world is coming together through technology, we must learn to appreciate, manage and preserve our diversity through education and learning by experience. No country on this planet is more diverse than India. I am sure that global students would understand and learn about management of diversity in India far better than elsewhere in the world. Towards this end, I propose to launch a “Connect to India” initiative that will make available opportunities for students in the U.S to spend some time in our quality institutions for learning about our life, society, culture, economy, polity and business.

8) We are living in a period of great tumult. Established concepts in polity and governance are being questioned. The clamour for attention of those at the margin increasingly occupies our mind-space. Value systems are being redefined. We must turn to our knowledge systems to understand the changes we are witnessing. Our universities have to grow beyond the realms of science and technology and the nurturing of professions, to once again understand society and its institutions. This understanding can be built only by learning across borders. As I said last year – Knowledge knows no boundaries. Let us rededicate our efforts to cement this partnership.

Thank you.

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