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Introducing India to Community College

November 11, 2010

On the heels of President Obama’s visit to India, in which he and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh committed to a comprehensive education partnership between their countries, a Maryland community college is planning to work with three Indian institutions to improve their career and technical education offerings.

Today, the Fulbright Commission of United States-India Educational Foundation will announce that it has awarded Montgomery College, a two-year institution located in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., a $195,000 grant to “build international cooperation, diplomacy and education in India.”

With the grant, the college will develop a faculty and student exchange program with three Indian institutions — the OP Jindal Institute of Technology and Skills, Guru Gobind Government Polytechnic, and the Industrial Training Institute. It will also help these institutions “build and strengthen” their curriculums in the emergent fields of automotive technology, construction management, and building trades. Finally, the college will coordinate a two-day national symposium on community colleges in March, set to take place in New Delhi.

“Montgomery College’s mission of changing lives and enriching our community does not stop at the borders of our campuses, the county line or our own country,” said DeRionne Pollard, new president of Montgomery College in a statement. “Through the USIEF grant, Montgomery College has a unique opportunity to share the community college model and to support the expansion of education offerings for the people of India.”

In a memo sent to faculty, staff and students Wednesday, Pollard said that the benefits to her institution from this partnership are “numerous and significant.” For example, she said, the academic dialogue generated among faculty will boost the college’s “current efforts to internationalize the curriculum” and will “introduce our faculty and students to another cultural perspective.” She also noted that the partnership will make her college “more competitive for further grants” and “more attractive to international students,” who pay full tuition and are therefore a financial boon to the institution.

Sanjay Rai, the grant’s program administrator and vice president and provost of Montgomery College’s Germantown Campus, noted that previous education exchanges and partnerships between the United States and India have primarily been limited to four-year institutions. For example, in the late 1990s the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management partnered to help establish the Indian School of Business.

In recognition of the need for further educational opportunities in India, the U.S. State Department and USIEF selected Montgomery College to pilot one of the first major exchanges at the community college level, Rai explained.

“India’s need is not just for elite higher education,” Rai said. “This is being recognized by President Obama’s administration.… About half of India’s population is under 30. That’s about 500 million people or so. Educating such a large number of people will need a mass higher education system that is affordable and gives them skills for the labor market.… We’ll be giving them information on what community colleges are, how they provide mass affordable education, how they’ve played a serious economic development role in the U.S. and how that same model can be implemented in India.”

Rai noted that two years ago Montgomery College was asked by Haryana, an Indian state, to help establish a two-year institution — much like Houston Community College is currently doing in Qatar. Given the restrictions of Indian law, Montgomery was unable to do so. Though Rai said his institution is currently concentrating on the education exchange program with the three Indian institutions funded by this recent USIEF grant, he did say he would be interested in helping locals establish a community college in India again if the law limiting the operations of foreign institutions changes.

“If an opportunity presents itself, we would most certainly be interested,” Rai said.

 

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