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June 24, 2011

Canada-India Education Summit, Ottawa June 17th and 18th

Ottawa –

A Shastri Delegation of Indian University Vice-Chancellors representing twenty two Universities and the Chair of University Grants Commission, India and a contingent of twenty plus Canadian University Presidents/designates participated in the two-day Canada-India Education Summit held on June 17-18 at Carleton University. Initiated and supported by the Indian High Commission in Canada, the Shastri Vice-Chancellors Delegation initiative was piloted by Shastri President Prof. Sunaina Singh. The Summit was co-organized by Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute in partnership with Carleton University, and co-sponsored by AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges Canada) and DFAIT (Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada).

The summit began on a high note with an inaugural speech by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the Honorable John Baird. “The relationship between Canada and India has come so far over the past five years,” said Baird commending the efforts of both countries in strengthening and developing India-Canada relations based on the leadership of the prime ministers of these two great nations. “We look forward to accelerating deliverables as part of the Canada-India Memorandum of Understanding in higher education cooperation.”

Leading the Shastri delegation of Indian Vice Chancellors was Minister of State for Human Resource Development (Higher Education) Smt. Daggubati Purandeswari, who delivered the key note address at the inauguration of the Education Summit and Shastri Engaging India Conference taking place simultaneously on Carleton grounds. “Education can no longer be considered a goal in itself, but rather should be considered a powerful driver of socio-economic change.” said Minister Purandeswari, as she emphasized the importance of the current reforms being implemented to improve India’s education. Minister Purandeswari also honoured the Shastri Institute and reaffirmed her support by attending the Shastri Canadian Member Council Meeting on June 19th also at Carleton University.

Among the speakers at the Summit inauguration were Indian High Commissioner to Canada Shashishekhar Gavai, who noted that India’s high growth rate makes it attractive to foreign investors, but added that “Without an adequate, educated, and trained workforce, it is very difficult to maintain high economic growth … I strongly believe that foreign universities can add enormous value to what we would be doing in India.”

Shastri President, Prof. Sunaina Singh, celebrated in her welcoming address the Education Summit as a milestone in Canada-India education collaboration and cooperation, and emphasized the need to keep the momentum going for furthering the joint educational agenda. Dr. Braj Sinha, the Shastri Vice President/President Elect, emphasized that administrative leadership and academic leadership need to work closely in developing a bi-national education blueprint for enhanced student experience, heightened research and scholarly collaborations. He also acknowledged the hard work and leadership of Carleton President, Dr. Roseanne Runte in organizing the Education Summit.

This historical platform for debate on bi-lateral cooperation builds on the agreement signed by the prime ministers of India and Canada, and the visit of a number of Canadian university presidents to India in November 2010, as a way of maintaining the momentum and building on relationships that already exist. The Summit, which was attended by over 40 Vice Chancellors and Executive Heads from Indian and Canadian universities, is the first of its kind to bring together such a large number of educational experts from both countries into a setting which allowed for roundtable discussion and deliberation. These facilitated discussions looked at possible solutions and opportunities for further collaboration on the higher education front and addressed such issues as co-tutelle and joint programs, credit transfer and degree recognition, twinning arrangements, technology in international teaching and distance learning, and faculty and student exchange programs.

Among the noted speakers at the Summit was also Prof. Ved Prakash, Chair of the Universities Grants Commission, who described the commission’s five-year planning cycle and the role and goals of Institutions of Higher Education in India. The plenary sessions of the Education Summit were conducted in conjunction with and attended by the Shastri Engaging India Conference delegates who included institutional member representatives from the Shastri Canadian Member Council and eminent academics from Canada and India. Among the plenary session speakers was the Hon. Kevin Lynch, Vice-Chair of BMO Financial Group and former Clerk of the Privy Council, described the challenges faced by Canada and India and offered some exciting solutions. Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, the author of India’s Green Revolution, also delivered an uplifting speech exhorting the participants to think of Education as means of social change and empowering the downtrodden in pursuit of a fulfilling life and individual dignity. He emphasized how through innovative thinking and personal dedication individuals can truly make difference in their lifetime, thus adding an inspirational note to the Summit.

The Education Summit deliberations resulted in the identification of obstacles, and the participants in the summit made some concrete suggestions regarding ways and means of enhancing Educational collaboration between Canada and India. These included suggestions for use of mobile technology including the cell phone applications available to students in both countries; creating a common platform for approved transfer credits reducing the need for case by case evaluations and acceptance; developing a student experience as well as content and contact hour based approach to mutual credit recognition; need for a web portal for use by individual researchers and the Universities looking for appropriate partners and linkages; support for student and faculty mobility to enhance educational experience and research collaborations; and strengthening institutional ties by identifying specific institutions with areas of excellence. A suggestion was made to create a Committee for the purposes of working on the credit recognition and credit transfer issue.

The Education Summit has undoubtedly paved the way and inspired the initiation of future collaborations and initiatives to further facilitate joint ventures and exchanges. In the concluding panel discussion of the Summit many participants lauded the work of the Shastri Institute in promoting student and faculty mobility, as well as research and scholarly collaborations. It was suggested that Shastri needs to be supported by all parties concerned as the nodal agency to support and promote these areas of the Canada-India educational relationship in a more expanded and concerted fashion.

Please see Carleton Centre Report on Education Summit

Posted by Mariam Elghahuagi | Filed under: | Permalink

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