India mulls cloning US community colleges with domestic modifications

ROMESH WADHWANI, Entrepreneur and Philanthropist

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Led by Madhya Pradesh School Education Minister Archana Chitnis, an Indian delegation comprised of the education ministers of Assam, Bihar, Jammu, Kashmir, and Punjab recently visited the US to study the operational mechanism of community colleges.

The delegation visited Washington, New York, Houston, Chicago and other cities in the US and studied community colleges in the context of India.

The 10 member committee is to submit its report within two months to give shape to the government’s ambitious plan to enhance the gross enrollment ratio in the country by 2020. The launching of 100 community colleges as a pilot project is planned, according to Indian officials attending an event organized at the Indian embassy in Washington, DC.

Earlier, the State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said, “We are working with the Indian side to flesh out the initiative that was agreed between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, through its education bureau.”

On the question of acceptance of Indian degrees in the US, Nuland said that the process is to look at them on a case-by-case basis, using criteria such as the school of graduation and the institution to which they are applying.

Ruling out “a blanket way of looking at that,” Nuland said, “Obviously, if there’s a sister university relationship, sometimes those accreditations can be recognized, but it just depends on what they want to do.”

In a related development, the Wadhwani Foundation Next Generation Employment College (WF-NGEC) launched a hybrid model combining the best of the American model of community colleges offering a 2 year associate degree program and the German model of apprenticeship to produce ready-for-employment, knowledgable workers to meet the needs of Indian Industry.

“Plenty of colleges offering graduate and post-graduate degrees are well entrenched in Indian society, though their graduates also seem to suffer from a mix of poor employable skills, combined with being over-qualification for many jobs,” the organization noted in a statement.

Addressing “this hitherto ignored space by targeting the 4.5 million students who do not pursue a degree after completing 12th grade,” the Wadhwani Foundation’s WF-NGEC initiative would work “with our partners, we plan to support institutions offering such courses by providing them the “soft infrastructure” around professional services of world class program design, including curriculum and course development, teacher training and capacity building, technology platform and collaboration with industry.”

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