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India-Australia ties can be changed through Education

Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations

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Education can improve India-Australia ties. Image Source: intranet.tdmu.edu.ua
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  • Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations
  • New Delhi is acutely aware of the importance of quality education, without which the benefits of the demographic dividend might be squandered and reduced
  • With GDP growth rates set to cross eight per cent through sustained high economic performance, the demand for higher education will consistently grow

The platform for a transformational change in bilateral relations was laid when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Australia in November 2014. Deviating from the script, he spoke of India-Australia relations as “a natural partnership arising from our shared values and aspirations”. He was not talking about cricket, the Commonwealth or curry.

His visit marked a historic shift from the neglect that had held the bilateral relations hostage for nearly 30 years. When he said that he saw Australia as a major partner in every area of India’s national priority, he was, in fact, changing the vocabulary from the 3Cs to the 3E’s: economy, energy, and education. This disruptive transition necessarily requires a shift in mindset from a lukewarm, limited and uninformed engagement to one that is robust, dynamic and aspirational.

It needs to be recognized that when Chief Minister Modi became the Prime Minister of India two years ago, his government faced enormous developmental challenges — both economic and social. This was further aggravated by the wholly unrealistic expectations in terms of the speed and intensity with which his electoral promise of “aache din” (better times) would be translated. He was acutely aware of India’s structural and other limitations in being able to achieve this within an abbreviated time-frame.

PM Narendra Modi. Image Source: PTI
PM Narendra Modi. Image Source: PTI

Consequently, he reached out to the global community. In his view, as he said in the Australian parliament, partnerships require that countries stand together at a moment of enormous opportunity and great responsibility.

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Among the multiple opportunities that India offers, education has all the ingredients to emerge as a game-changer in bilateral relations.

India’s demographic trend will soon see it overtaking China as the most populous country. Currently, over 50 percent of India’s population, or around 600 million, are under 25 years of age. Within the next five years, India will have the largest tertiary age population in the world. Second, the middle class is expected to swell to around 500 million.

With GDP growth rates set to cross eight per cent through sustained high economic performance, the demand for higher education will consistently grow. Coupled with the series of reforms and new initiatives through programmes such as Make in India, Clean Ganga, Digital India, Smart Cities, Start-up India and the like, exceptional possibilities for tie-ups with international institutions that embed education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in their teaching pedagogy have opened up. In addition, the demand for vocational education and training is expected to see an exponential surge. This suggests that India will emerge as the biggest opportunity for top quality international education providers in the 21st century.

India's GDP growth. Image Source: www.moneycontrol.com
India’s GDP growth. Image Source: www.moneycontrol.com

New Delhi is acutely aware of the importance of quality education, without which the benefits of the demographic dividend might be squandered and reduced, in fact, to a demographic disaster. Large numbers of young would be jobless and could easily be lured into criminal and anti-social activity.

Indeed, one of the biggest challenges India faces is the horrific mismatch between the significant demand for education and its abysmally low supply. Archaic pedagogical techniques, coupled with dodgy fly-by-night education providers, have delinked education from employability. Consequently, it is no surprise that a large number of the unemployed are, in fact, educated.

In addition, as geography digitally shrinks and work environments increasingly become multi-cultural, the Indian workforce would need to embrace global standards and innovation. This can only be achieved through education that departs from the 19th-century mindsets to a more futuristic one.

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A systemic transformation of the education system is, therefore, inescapable. At the same time, New Delhi realizes the urgency of the massive challenge it faces in terms of qualified teachers and faculty, schools, universities, vocational training centres and infrastructure.

University of Sydney. Image Source: Reuters
The university of Sydney. Image Source: Reuters

It is estimated that by 2020, India would need 40 million university places, which is an increase of 14 million or two million starting now over the next seven years, and 500 million skilled workers. While online education might address part of the problem, it is not likely to be the solution, especially not in the vocational training sector. The footprint simply has to dramatically increase if the demographic dividend is to substantively contribute to economic growth and wellbeing in India.

The sheer magnitude of this exceptional opportunity makes it an attractive business proposition. Statistics suggest that even if India succeeds in achieving its target of 30 per cent gross enrolment rate by 2020 in the tertiary sector, 100 million eligible students would not be admitted to university because of the shortage of seats.

This lack of supply and the increasing ability of the middle class to pay for higher education in quality institutions allows for Australian and other world-class education providers to emerge as a viable alternative.

Innovative ways of collaborating with Indian educational institutions and vocational training centres would need to emerge as the new strategy. At one level, this entails tapping into the huge unfulfilled demand but for a sustainable model to be built, international collaboration must include joint research projects with partner Indian institutions and the corporate sector.

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that the scale of demand in the education sector would be unprecedented. In Modi’s vision, it is this historic challenge that represents the moment of enormous opportunity and the great responsibility for India-Australia relations. It would be the test of true partnership.

India-Australia relations has never witnessed such expectations and hope among so many that a new chapter in bilateral relations is about to be written. After 30 years of neglection, time has come for collaboration in education and training could provide the much-awaited tipping point. Losing this opportunity will turn out to be a major setback. 

-by Amit Dasgupta for IANS

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More Than 1000 Gene Variants Linked to Educational Attainment Identified

However, the total influence of the genetic variants is small, explaining about four per cent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, the scientists said

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The team analysed a combined 71 datasets comprising over 1.1 million participants with European ancestry from 15 different countries and who were least 30 years old. Pixabay

An international team of scientists has identified nearly 1,300 genetic variants associated with how much education someone may complete.

Educational attainment is primarily influenced by environmental and social factors, but it is also influenced by genes associated with, for example, cognitive function such as memory and personality traits such as conscientiousness.

“We found that many of the genes associated with educational attainment are influential in virtually all stages of brain development and in neural communication within the brain,” said Peter Visscher, Professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Genetic variants on the X chromosome explain virtually identical amounts of variation in men and women.

This finding, published in the journal Nature Genetics, lends support to the hypothesis that there are no genetically based sex differences in the amount of variation in educational attainment.

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Genetic variants on the X chromosome explain virtually identical amounts of variation in men and women. Pixabay

However, the total influence of the genetic variants is small, explaining about four per cent of the variation in educational attainment across individuals, the scientists said.

“Even variants with the largest effects predict, on average, only about three more weeks of schooling in those who have those variants compared to those who don’t,” said Daniel Benjamin, Associate Professor at University of Southern California (USC)- Dornsife.

“Yet, when we analyze the combined effects of many genetic variants, taken together they can predict the length of a person’s formal education as well as demographic factors,” he added.

Also Read: New Link Found Between Alcohol, Genes And Heart Failure

While the new number is far more than the 74 variants initially discovered in a smaller study two years ago, there are many other genetic variants associated with educational attainment that have not yet been identified, the researchers said.

For the study, the team analysed a combined 71 datasets comprising over 1.1 million participants with European ancestry from 15 different countries and who were least 30 years old. (IANS)