I want to congratulate the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce (ICCC) for creating and promoting bilateral business and trade opportunities between Canada and India for over 38 years and for recognizing eminent Indo-Canadians for their contributions. Each of the 1.2 million strong Indo-Canadians who call Canada home contributes to the vibrant fabric of Canadian society in his or her own unique way.
Connectivity and strategic partnerships are important for progress, peace, and prosperity at the global level. Canada and India have long standing relations in fostering educational and cultural cooperation. India’s 2nd prime minister, Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri coined the phrase Jai Jiwan; Jai Kissan (translates to – hail solider, hail farmer) highlighting the importance of food security and national security, which remains a priority today for our countries.
Others have added “Jai Vigyan! Jai Vidwan! (hail knowledge, and hail the learned)” indicating the importance of education as a tool for bringing about social change, community development, health, and economic prosperity. The future of higher education and opportunities for international cooperation depends on national leadership, organizational support and action, institutional partnerships, and person to person linkages.
Education is one of the key priorities of both governments, as evidenced by the Education Cooperation MOU each signed in 2010 and the highest level state visits by the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in 2013 and Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Narendra Modi in 2015. Translating the national level vision are the strategy documents such as Canada’s International Education Strategy released in 2014 and India’s 12th five-year plan (2012-2017).
In both countries, the priority of higher education is based on value and interest in creating a globally focused work force, with nuanced differences. While Canada’s priorities are framed around the Global Markets Action Plan and education as trade to drive innovation and prosperity, India’s priorities emerge from the need for expansion, equity, and excellence in higher education to meet the needs of a burgeoning population.
In 2012, international students contributed $8.4 billion to the Canadian economy. In India, 50% of the population of over 1 billion are under 25 and need to be educated, resulting in the proliferation of institutions, increases in the number of globally mobile students seeking education abroad superseding that of China, and countries/institutions around the world competing for students from India. Provincial governments have also taken active roles in promoting higher education, such as Saskatchewan’s International Education Strategy and Premier Wall’s visit to India in 2014.
Higher education has also seen growth in organizations supporting bi-national linkages and partnerships. Several players have emerged in this corridor such as the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, AUCC, CIC, CIBE, CIEC, MITACS, and IC-IMPACTS, to name a few. Additionally, traditional trade and business organizations such as the ICCC, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Canada-India Business Council, and others have included higher education as a priority area.
The availability of multiple players has enriched the landscape for unique partnership opportunities. For example, in 2013/14, the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and the ICCC conducted a series of roundtables on unlocking the potential of Canada and India relations in areas such as trade/investment, agriculture and others with a cross-cutting theme of education, research and innovation. By bringing together scholars, students, educational institutions, businesses, and other key players, these roundtables highlighted how the presence of multiple players warrants a more synergistic and coordinated approach to academic partnership. The bi-national bridge of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute and other organizations in the Canada-India education corridor and international efforts such as the Global Initiative of Academic Networks will foster deeper and enduring cooperation and partnerships.
Institution to institution partnerships have increased considerably. A recent Shastri Institute survey (2012) found more than 300 institutional cooperation MOUs in higher education in various stages of operation, and most Canadian academic institutions have internationalization strategies. While student recruitment remains a priority, there is an urgent need to infuse the tripartite academic mission of teaching, research and service. Strong relations between nations are ultimately built through the engagement of innumerable citizens, both mainstream and Indo-Canadian. The exchange of people, skills and ideas enriches both countries, and opportunities for two-way faculty exchange, knowledge mobilization, and student mobility are vital.
Canada and India are working together in numerous sectors but we can and must do more. Enhancement of partnership in various fields, including education appears to have gained momentum with the recent meetings of the two Prime Ministers and joint commitment to implement cooperation in higher education. Generating innovative ideas and recommendations can further this partnership. We, as individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments have a role in shaping society today and into the future. We can achieve this effectively and sustainably by listening, linking, and leading with our hearts and minds.
Author is Professor, University of Regina, and Former President, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute