India passed the RTE (Right to Education Act) which makes school education compulsory for children between 6 and 14 years. President Obama's Race to the Top program, urges Americans to study harder and surpass India and China in the race for the top jobs and educational opportunities. Keeping President Obama's forthcoming visit to Delhi in mind, are Indians and Americans competing against each other or collaborating with each other in the field of education?
Several such issues were raised in the Indo Us Youth Dialogue organized by Gateway House in HR College, Mumbai on Tuesday, October 26, 2010. A panel of youth interested in international politics was chosen for the discussion, which was headed by Dr. Craig Johnson. The primary aim was to formulate an agenda that contained issues which should be discussed by Dr. Manmohan Singh and Mr. Barak Obama during the latter's stay here from November 6-9, 2010.
The panelists consisted of 3 representatives from the US and 3 from India. A member of Gateway House told me that they had purposely chosen young people with interest in international affairs but no affiliation with any government or foreign relations offices. The reason behind this was, they didn't want any panelists with biases or vested interests. Although the panel discussion took place at a slightly immature level, it was nonetheless interesting for students and people like me who knew considerably less about Indo US relations. The discussion also saw attendance from other US students and during the open round, many biases and preconceived notions on both sides were apparent.
In response to a question about collaboration on education, Ms. Ali Rosen, a panelist from the US side pointed out that while there were a 100,000 Indian students studying in the US, the number of American students studying in India was barely 3000. The change needed to be in two directions. First, visa restrictions need to be lifted to make access easier. Second, on the Indian side, only the elites were able to afford education in the US. By means of grants and scholarships, this opportunity should be extended to students from poorer backgrounds as well. Also, in order to increase number of US students studying in India, American students need to be taught about India in their school curriculum. Ali recounted that during her school education, while she was taught about the middle east, Europe, China and Japan, there were no dedicated lessons about India. Thus, by introducing India as a specific topic, students would learn more about India and would gradually feel like coming here to study.
Another interesting point that came up was, in the near future, nearly half of US high school education will be conducted online. What will be the implications on US and India? One of the American panelists, Mr. Russell Mason said that US educational resources are good and aid in faster understanding. Hence, if it is available online, it will be crowd sourced and will benefit students from other countries as well. By 2016, he hoped India too would put up it's educational content online and allow US students to benefit.
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