Home Academic Diplomacy Articulating Benefits and Challenges: India-Canada Academic Diplomacy

Articulating Benefits and Challenges: India-Canada Academic Diplomacy

Introduction

Education is an important and integral part of the global development and social agenda of all countries in the world, its place as a diplomatic goal is rapidly becoming prominent. Akin to other successful diplomatic initiatives like health, sports etc. education is growing as a pertinent approach for public and private stakeholders in common dialogues and collaborations to excel and promote policy orientation directed towards the global youth. Education as an important component of diplomacy may be used to influence foreign policy and hence work to develop International Relations. This educational diplomatic agenda eventually fosters mutual trust and goodwill among nations. Moreover, education as diplomacy is exercised on both macro (international) and micro (regional)levels in foreign policy. The world today is rapidly turning into an interdependent global village and education provides a platform to the future generation to know and explore the world in a much better way. Sharing and communicating ideas across the world enriches all domains of education and hence, plays an important role in changing the future of humanity.  Educational diplomacy helps to grow a more stable, vivid and healthy environment for young populations across the world, in various cultures and societies. The collaborated effort between education and diplomacy perceives the approach and offers a productive and dynamic tool for shaping the young and curious minds. 

India’s significance in the world economy and world politics is soaring rapidly, the country is developing as a major nerve centre of young population, entrepreneurship and innovation. India’s increasing importance at the global front and its liberal working environment offers an appropriate environment to invest and flourish. This is, therefore, the perfect time for India and Canada to revise and advance their educational ties. Indian Prime Minister’s welcome initiative for foreign investments under the ambitious project of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” (Self-reliant India) is an important move towards educational collaborations. Since the Indo-Canadian relations are based on long time commitments, political ideologies and people to people contact, these synergies will effectively translate progressively in the domain of education. 

Since the late 19th century, Indians have formed a large part of Canadian population, 1.9 million people of Indian origin actually constitutes 5.6% Canadian population. An important reason for this also lies in the fact that Canada being an OECD country, has liberal policies for migration and has attracted a sizable population from India to its shores.  India has a very large population of young people with a large number of them under the age of 25; with steady economic growth, Indian families have become more self-reliant and support their children in higher education pursuits. Moreover, a pragmatic observation reveals that India’s higher education sector demands more expansion looking into the growing demand. Therefore, a greater number of Indian students are looking for affordable educational venues. In the recent years Canada surely has made some progress and had success in engaging Indian students but still a lot can be done as there is ample room for substantial growth. 

Bottlenecks on Indian Side

Indian universities do have high quality but lack of infrastructure and limitation to hold foreign students, fulfilling their needs like quality residential options and reliable digital logistics raise certain pertinent questions. Moreover, limitations in the research and development facility in the field of higher education sometimes become stumbling blocks for students. The limitation to pay sufficiently to students opting for internships as well as the cultural and language barriers also becomes bottlenecks for Canadian students in India. Another concern is the difficulty in securing the applicable visa, particularly for those students seeking to stay for a longer academic term.

Perception of India and apprehensions created by media about India overemphasize its poverty, health and sanitation issues, crime against women etc. All these create a lack of interest in young minds. After earning degrees in higher education, students generally look for potential work experience in terms of money and quality learning, particularly people from high-tech fields and often they fail to recognize India as a potential ground to provide them with substantial offers.

These bottlenecks could be minimized if not removed entirely, by various measures. In order to attract more Canadian students for academic courses and internships, elaborating the nature and kind of work and organization should be emphasized. To convince them that it is the quality, work and mission of the organization that will ultimately play a larger role. The next challenge would be delivering what has been promised, quality plays a significant role here as when students will spend a substantial time on the ground, it will provide them valuable experience. Uncertainties in the minds of students and their guardians is another set of gaps that needs to be managed, the dissemination of information regarding the workplace, university and the living conditions should be provided through institutional connections.  Authentic source of information and assurances play a significant role in development of academic relations. International experience programs conducted by various universities and other academic institutes like AIESEC (Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales.) Canada could benefit stakeholders by providing them ground knowledge and information of the destined countries. Alumni network could also help new students to learn about the experience of working and studying in India. As India is perceived as a challenging environment, hence the stakeholders those who select India for studying destination or internships are either those who have already reached professional and personal maturity, or they have prior experience of the country. In this type of situation these stakeholders should be given priority and offered complete support. 

Bottlenecks on the Canadian Side

Canadian university education has had comparatively limited engagement with Indian academia when compared to the UK or the USA. A general perception exists that suggests that Canada’s marketing endeavours are only limited to the North of India i.e. primarily Delhi, Punjab, and Haryana and they do not explore India’s East and South regions which have a potential academic market. India’s East and South blocks generally targets the universities of USA, UK and even Europe for higher education. Hence developing a strong and robust brand strategy for promoting Canadian universities program is an important step towards a more emboldened academic relation between India and Canada. This may combine central promotional organs that promote Canada as an essential educational hub rather than just a place suitable for immigrants. Dedicated research work to understand India’s education system and its demands particularly expanding its market in the South and East of India will bring in potential stakeholders. Major focus of Indian students generally tends towards STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), Business Studies etc. A less explored area is Astronomy and Astrophysics. Some of the colleges and universities based in Ontario are offering programs which exactly suite the requirements of Indian students, for example technical programs in films and advertising a niche for Canada and its educational programs. Universities promoting their programs in India can build sister city/provinces for branding, promoting and recruitments enabling governments to develop and support their educational partnerships. Developing Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with Indian potential partners will strengthen and resolve many complex issues, hence could prove to be a corner stone in academic relations. Cultivating relations in academic institutes will also require specific faculties having relevant field knowledge and awareness about India and its education system, it could be of immense help and support if alumni and faculty are from Indian Diaspora. This will bridge gaps and resolve differences and doubts in a more effective manner. A continuous effort and persistency in building relations would nurture better academic relations. Indians seeks educational degrees that offer suitable jobs after their programme is finished, therefore better internship opportunities and work projects could be an important pull factor for them. To ensure partnership is stable, funding for concerted projects should be equally divided and both parties should invest and the role of government on both sides should also be taken into consideration. A post failure analysis of the stagnant MoUs signed between India and Canada can reveal many important points which could either be removed or worked upon to ensure better results in the future. To encourage Canada-India academic-partnership particularly in research and development a greater number of Canadian graduate students should be motivated to present their work in academic workshops and conferences. 

Benefits

Organizations like Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE), Universities Canada are already working on various student-oriented projects, wherein the students can be acclimatized to other countries and their work culture and education systems in order to raise healthy awareness and benefits for the students. On the same front similar organizations as the Asia Pacific Foundation (APF) Canada, is also working to involve more Canadian students to enhance their India-centric competences. India has the potential to become one of the most dynamic regions of the world in economic terms as well as a scientific and cultural educational hub. 

A set of new developments like joint projects on Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), webinars, online workshops and other digital learning content is already being developed and conducted with the cooperation and support of both countries. This is also a convenient way and a much economical option for institutes, particularly Indian institutes. The most striking fact is that these curriculums could be merged with t regular courses and hence become a very cost-effective way to receive foreign education. This kind of mixed academic pedagogy is currently the need of the hour. Several semester exchanges, summer schools projects, bursaries and various types of scholarships like Shastri-Indo-Canadian Scholarships, Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship, Ontario Graduate Scholarship Program and Banting Post-Doctoral Fellowships are some of the measures already in existence. This type of global exposure broadens horizons and supports Indian students in spreading their network academically and raises the bar of learning. In similar fashion, India provides a vivid range of educational programs for Canadian students which offer various courses from different streams. Many Indian universities and colleges utilise their freedom of designing courses to meet international standards which also creates a whole new spectrum of new innovative courses to choose from., 

Conclusion

The primary objective before India and Canada to develop their academic partnership is to unlock the full potential of their education diplomacy program. In order to achieve benefits, it is important to understand the genesis, objectives and other multifaceted requirements of the young populations of both countries, to ensure that Canada and India educational collaborations can draw up productive results by unlocking their full potential. Education is the principle key area for India-Canada partnership as it is also the most fundamental component for a vibrant economy, responsible societies and for the development of a skilled workforce. With the world going global, there is an increased demand for better education particularly in the higher income groups of India, the students seeking best available opportunities for themselves as education is going global. With the introduction of the new education policy in India, Indian students are decidedly looking forward for a more promising and productive future.

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