News / Asia

    India Woos Foreign Colleges as Population Clock Ticks

    FILE - Indian students study inside the Delhi University campus in New Delhi.
    FILE - Indian students study inside the Delhi University campus in New Delhi.
    Reuters
    When 19-year old Pavitra Singh, one of the 20 million students currently studying at India's many colleges and universities, gets her degree in two years' time, she fears it will not be enough to secure a job.
     
    Indian employers tend to agree. Many say graduates from local universities are often unemployable because job seekers do not have the skills they want. This feeling is one of the reasons New Delhi is trying to fast-track legislation to allow foreign colleges, which have so far been largely shut out of India, to open their own campuses in the country.
     
    On the cusp of a boom in its working-age population, India is racing against time to raise the quality of its education to prevent a demographic dividend from turning into a demographic curse.
     
    “It is absolutely urgent,” said Tobias Linden, the World Bank's lead education specialist in India. “The people who will make up the youth bulge have already been born. This is not a hypothetical situation. They might just be one, or two, or three years old now, but taking action to help them when they become 18 - those moves have to start now.”
     
    Over the next two decades, Asia's third-largest economy will add up to 300 million people to its workforce, an increase equivalent to almost the entire population of the United States.
     
    That prospect offers hope that India, currently struggling with its weakest economic growth in a decade, can finally follow in the footsteps of the likes of China and the Asian Tigers.
     
    A generation ago, these countries made good use of their growing workforces by training young people and putting them to work in export-orientated manufacturing, generating economic growth that was the envy of the world.
     
    Best Chance
     
    India's working-age population will not peak until 2035, in contrast to China, where the working-age population topped out this year, brokerage Espirito Santo Securities says. Labor forces in South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore will peak in the next five years.
     
    Such demographic factors offer India “the most compelling conditions for economic growth the country will, we argue, ever have”, the brokerage said in a report. “Yet demographics are not destiny.”
     
    Attracting foreign colleges to open campuses in India is one solution for a university system that India's planning commission says is “plagued by a shortage of well trained faculty, poor infrastructure and outdated and irrelevant curricula.”
     
    Despite a surplus of workers, employers across sectors say local universities do a poor job of preparing graduates for working life. None of India's universities feature in the world's top 200, the 2013/14 rankings by the London-based education group Quacquarelli Symonds show, versus seven from China.
     
    Furthermore, many Indian universities rely on rote-learning and fail to teach the “soft skills” that are increasingly important in India, where the services sector has driven the economic growth of the last two decades, recruiters and students say.
     
    “We don't learn here - we are just taught to mug up, so it's hard for us when we go out to find jobs,” said Singh, an undergraduate at one of the country's largest private colleges, Amity University, referring to the teaching style employed across India.
     
    “I'm worried that when I get to my first internship, I won't know how to do anything,” Singh continued.
     
    Foreign universities have been largely shut out of India; they are only allowed to open research centers, teach non-academic courses or offer degree courses with a local partner.
     
    Now, the government wants to offer them the more lucrative option of opening their own campuses.
     
    Catch-Up        
     
    India's Ministry of Human Resources and Development is trying to issue what is in effect an executive order, which would leapfrog a bill that has been stuck in parliament since 2010, just one of the casualties of a legislative logjam that has paralyzed Indian policymaking over the last two years.
     
    Despite skepticism from many institutions that India will be able to change its game with elections looming by next May, some foreign universities are keen to push ahead with campuses.
     
    “A campus in India has always been our vision and that is our plan,” said Guru Ghosh, the vice president for outreach and international affairs at Virginia Tech.
     
    Virginia Tech plans to launch a research center near the southern Indian city of Chennai in spring 2014, and hopes to set up a campus within 3-5 years if the rules do in fact change, according to Ghosh.
     
    Under the proposed rules, non-profit foreign universities that area among the top 400 worldwide would be able to open campuses. The rules need a final sign-off from the law ministry, which could take up to three months, according to R.P. Sisodia, joint secretary for higher education at the Ministry of Human Resources and Development.
     
    While India has dithered, other Asian countries have moved ahead, with foreign universities in Malaysia and Singapore already attracting Indian students.
     
    Spokespeople for Stanford University, the University of Chicago, Duke University and the U.K.'s University of Northampton told Reuters they had no plans for a campus in India, even though they all have or plan to have research centers or offer courses on a local campus.
     
    “The environment has not been a welcoming one thus far and people have looked elsewhere,” said Vincenzo Raimo, the director of the international office at Britain's University of Nottingham, which has campuses in China and Malaysia. “Anyone who's going to open there [India] needs to be brave.”
     
    Foreign colleges could enroll only a tiny portion of India's students, but their presence would put pressure on domestic counterparts to improve, higher education experts say.
     
    India's planning commission has set a target of creating 10 million more university places in the next few years and boosting funds for the top domestic universities to try to elevate them to the ranks of the world's top 200 by 2017.
     
    If India fails to harness its population boom over the next two decades, its demographics could be “a disaster - not a dividend”, Espirito Santo said.
     
    “A major shortage of jobs in the economy, or a skills mismatch, would create a young, angry and frustrated population,” its report said.

    You May Like

    Wife of IS Leader Charged in Death of US Hostage

    Suspect allegedly admitted to being responsible for American aid worker Kayla Mueller, who officials say was sexually abused and ‘owned’ by one IS member

    Year of the Monkey Could Prove Economic Balancing Act for China

    China is up against a tricky situation on the financial front, facing the need to fight capital flight while also stopping a further slide of foreign currency reserves

    Runners Attempt 26-mile South Pole Marathon in Sub-Zero Temperatures

    How alluring is running 26.2 miles at 10,000 feet when it’s minus 31 Celsius out?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.