Friday February 23, 2018
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If Modi transforms education, he’ll be remembered as a visionary

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modi1The front page news that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has personally directed that the feasibility of foreign universities entering the education space in India be urgently examined has come as good news for the higher education sector, which is currently reeling under burgeoning demand, limited supply and the mushrooming of poor quality educational institutions.

There is hope that the BJP, which had opposed the bill on the subject when UPA-II moved it, would support it now if the prime minister endorses it.

This might well turn out to be the game changer that would transform the education landscape in India. It is an accepted fact that many graduates, including those with engineering degrees, are unable to find employment because they do not possess the knowledge or skills that make them market-worthy. This is a consequence when sloppy education vendors flood the market simply to take advantage of demand. Quality education suffers as a consequence.

The passage of the long-pending Foreign Educational Institutions Bill is, consequently, viewed by many as the solution. It would make high quality education widely available in India, apart from improving the quality of existing education providers through direct competition. Many unreliable vendors would be rendered redundant by market forces. This would further contribute to improving the education delivery system.

Apart from savings in foreign exchange by providing Indian students an opportunity to study in India rather than going abroad, the entry of foreign education providers is expected to see increased investment in and encouragement of R&D, which has been a long-neglected sector. Additionally, a significant boost is expected to be given to the online platform, which is likely to emerge as a lucrative product in a rapidly growing demand-driven market, such as India.

Speculation that with the opening up of the education space, India could be positioned as an Asian education hub will also have positive implications on infrastructure, streamlining administrative procedures with regard to mutual recognition and accreditation, and the dismantling of abrasive visa regulations, particularly for those wishing to come to India for research projects. Collaboration with foreign universities would, most certainly, see the exchange of faculty and students, including credit transfer, and consequently impact positively not only on joint research but also on tourism.

In other words, this has the potential of emerging as a powerful public diplomacy tool in foreign affairs by opening its doors to international students and international faculty. When learning is experiential, it has the ability of becoming second nature and thus, influencing perceptions and behaviour. In short, the studying-in-India experience would enable students to make Indian friends, travel within India, and receive an experiential exposure to India’s diverse cultural heritage. Consequently, when they return to their countries, they would have a more informed, first-hand and long-lasting perception of India. This lies at the core of any public diplomacy intervention because it helps create life-time friends.

Equally important is the fact that the liberalization of India’s education sector would send a strong signal to the global community of India’s openness to engage with international partners. This would be in keeping with the prime minister’s message that his government’s priority would lie in ensuring the ease of doing business and in the dismantling of protectionist barriers. However, this requires firm advocacy by none other than the prime minister himself, who needs to not only make his intent clear but insist on time-bound implementation. It is expected that vested interests and strong lobbies, many of whom enjoy considerable political patronage, would oppose the passage of the bill, as it would, most certainly, threaten their existence and impact their bank balances.

How strongly the prime minister asserts his position would be watched. The prevalent perception is that promises are made but not kept. Indeed, the bureaucracy, especially in the visa-on-arrival issue, has unambiguously “overruled” a public prime ministerial public announcement, at huge cost and harassment to foreign visitors. This can create serious perception and credibility issues that the Prime Minister’s Office needs to be cognizant of. It is hoped that lessons have been learnt and that the bureaucracy appreciates the damage it causes when it undermines the prime minister’s perceived directives.

A positive signal was conveyed by Modi when he directed that the foreign education bill needs to be revisited. If he is able to transform the education landscape in India, he would be remembered as a man of vision. After all, it is only nations that recognize the primacy of education are able to achieve sustainable economic growth and social justice.

 

-(IANS)

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Modi to lay foundation stone for Abu Dhabi’s first Indian temple

The temple compound will include a visitors' centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities

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will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community. Wikimedia Commons
  • This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015
  • Modi was scheduled to arrive here in the evening
  • The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Sunday laid the foundation stone for the first Hindu temple in the United Arab Emirates’ capital, which is home to a huge Indian diaspora.

This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE after August 2015. He was scheduled to arrive here in the evening.

“The first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi will come up on 55,000 square metres of land and the groundbreaking ceremony on Sunday will be a historic event,” said Indian Ambassador to the UAE Navdeep Singh Suri.

The Indian leader will be laying the foundation stone for the temple from the Dubai Opera House via video conferencing. He will also hold a meeting there with the Indian community.

“The occasion is going to be historic… because it will also see the commencement of the first Hindu Temple in Abu Dhabi. We are very pleased that we have received 55,000 square metres of land near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway,” said Suri.

The temple’s construction will be completed by 2020, and open to people of all religious backgrounds.

It will be the first traditional Hindu stone temple in the Middle East, said a spokesperson from the BAPS Swaminarayanan Sanstha that is entrusted with the design, construction and management of the temple.

Also Read: Kerala Tourism to organise promotion event in Abu Dhabi to attract cash-rich Arab travellers

The temple will be hand-carved by Indian temple artisans and assembled in the UAE, said the BAPS spokesperson.

The UAE has two Hindu temples which are located in Dubai. Devotees from Abu Dhabi and other emirates have to drive to Dubai for prayers and offerings.

The temple compound will include a visitors’ centre, prayer halls, exhibition centre, learning areas, sports area for children and youths, thematic gardens, water features, a food court, books and gift shop and other facilities.

Sadhu Brahmaviharidas, the chief spokesperson of BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, said the generous gift of land for a Hindu temple by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, “was a strong and sound message to the world that cultural and spiritual inclusiveness is the way forward for global harmony”.

It will replicate the BAPS temple in New Delhi and the one under construction in New Jersey, a trust member told the Khaleej Times.

BAPS manages 1,200 temples in India, UK, the US, Australia, Canada and Africa.

Also Read: Abu Dhabi keeps the Smart City dream alive

Meanwhile, the UAE’s iconic buildings like the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame, Adnoc building and the Emirates Palace were lit up in colours of India’s flag ahead of Modi’s visit to the country.

Modi’s high-level engagements here include bilateral meetings with top UAE leaders and a keynote address at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, in which India is the guest country.

Earlier in the day, Modi was in Ramallah where he received a rousing welcome on the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine. (IANS)