FDI in education: Tips for institutes to better position themselves


From Left – Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission of India, Professor Dipak C. Jain, Dean, INSEAD, Dr. John A. Quelch Cbe, Distinguished professor of International Management, Vice President and Dean, CEIBS, Gregory W. Cappelli, Co-CEO, Apollo Group Inc. and Chairman, Apollo global

Long before talk of the possible implementation of FDI in retail, much thought had gone in to letting FDI take a hold over the education sector.  Education, power and infrastructure have been the key areas of our global India that need some desperate attention, and the mere 2% allocation of government resources to educate and tap the population and man-power, is just not enough.

The recent entry of FDI in education has proposed to open new doors for vocational courses in the country by foreign institutes, touching upon the less popular areas of education in the society. While it seems a smart move to introduce new trends, on the flipside, it raises a lot of questions over the workability of low profile courses, with the Indian middle class mindset being so rigid and the need for specially trained staff. A rigorous discussion, on the subject, occurred at the recent Hindustan Times Leadership Summit (HTLS) 2011. The dignitaries present had their own take over the viability of this issue.

  • On being asked about the ‘modus operandi’ of foreign institutes to promote their courses on vocational training and skill development, Dr. John A. Quelch Cbe, a distinguished professor of International Management, Vice President and Dean, CEIBS, inferred that “we understand that there is a need for a diversity in education for a country as vast as India. Not everyone can be forced to compromise with their interests to pursue engineering or medicine”. Prof. Dipak C Jain, Dean INSEAD, was of the same thought, that “We might need more ITIs than IITs and hence the stress is to tap those students who have probably lost interest in education due to its highly structured approach and mob mentality”.
  • Over the viability of such courses in the diverse Indian set-up and the target strategy to tap the population which sees engineering and medicine as higher education synonyms, Dipak argued that “We will target the dropouts and present them a low cost quality education that adds essential skills to them”.  Adding that ” we need as many electricians as electrical engineers”

On being repeatedly questioned about the actual models through which they will tap the Indian education market, the pannel did not seem to have-in-place a solid sketched out plan or maybe they were just being reluctant to reveal their actual plans. However, the question still remains- will a strong headed Indian middle class graduate, who works as a plumber, ever be placed on equal footing with his engineering counterparts? Will foreign be able to cut through these strongly held perceptions? For dignity of labour, is still an alien concept within our nation.

At the end of the day, our mindset demands cheap labour. You might have a plumbing degree from MIT, but in India, its still – always a Rs.50 job.

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