Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Report of "The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education" - Foreword by Prof. Yash Pal

It is a pleasure to present the report of the “Committee to Advise on the Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education”. This has been a deep immersion for my colleagues and me. We hope that we have come out with something that would make a difference. To give you some background of our work, it would be best if I start by quoting from the letter I wrote to the then Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Arjun Singh, while forwarding our Draft Report on 1st of March, 2009:

“I am submitting the Draft Interim Report of the Committee you had set up through a Notification on 28th of February 2008. You had given us a year. The committee was originally supposed to review UGC/AICTE and various other Councils connected with higher education. The expressed, and the overall implied, hope was that we might be able to suggest ways of moving our higher education to a more active and creative form. I felt that engaging with listing the limitations and faults of these two organizations would not be very productive, besides being very limiting. We did not want to expend our energies in suggesting minor and major modifications in their structures; instead we decided to explore some basic aberrations in our system that are generally ignored. Therefore, a few months down the line I came to you to suggest that our task might be made broader; that we should be asked to advise on “Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education”. I was both pleased and overwhelmed that you conceded to my request. As you would notice, the salient points of our report also meet the essence of the earlier, more limited, task given to us.

We were struck by the fact that over the years we have followed policies of fragmenting our educational enterprise into cubicles. We have overlooked that new knowledge and new insights have often originated at the boundaries of disciplines. We have tended to imprison disciplinary studies in opaque walls. This has restricted flights of imagination and limited our creativity. This character of our education has restrained and restricted our young right from the school age and continues that way into college and university stages. Most instrumentalities of our education harm the potential of human mind for constructing and creating new knowledge. We have emphasized delivery of information and rewarded capability of storing information. This does not help in creating a knowledge society. This is particularly vile at the university level because one of the requirements of a good university should be to engage in knowledge creation – not just for the learner but also for society as a whole.

It became clear to us, therefore, that the overall regulating structure for all higher education should be just one. This would imply that the UGC and AICTE should be subsumed within a single Higher Education Commission. There is no need for separate Councils for various areas and the responsibilities of various existing Councils should be changed to define the floor-exit qualifications of personnel who exit from the respective institutions. Knowledge and curricular details would be determined by appropriate universities under guidelines of appropriate structures set up by various wings of Higher Education Commission. Some details about the structure of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), various bodies attached to it and other aspects are discussed in the report. (It might be noted that the justification and role of the suggested HEC are different from those proposed by the Knowledge Commission). We hope the Commission proposed by us would also act as a facilitator and catalyst for joint programs between different Universities and other institutions.

Let me point to some of the recommendations that have arisen from this way of thinking. Our report comes at a time when there is a refreshing seriousness about doing some thing ambitious and unprecedented in our higher education. A large number of Central universities are being set up.

Also several Institutes of Technology, Management and other areas. During a lot of discussion in this regard we have also talked of World-Class Universities. We would like to point out that there are no great universities in the world that do not simultaneously conduct world class programs in science, astronomy, management, languages, comparative literature, philosophy, psychology, information technology, law, political science, economics, agriculture and many other emerging disciplines. Indeed the emerging disciplines do their emerging because of infection or triggering by other fields in the same university. That is the reason that such universities are so great and our academics keep going to them. Our argument is that they would not be great if they could not accommodate people from many other disciplines. Put together, all the disciplines, breed value into each other. If forced to stay in isolation from each other they would not have the character demanded for greatness. It is our strong recommendation that the new Universities, including those we call Indian Institutes of Technology – or Management should have the character of such world-class universities.

Furthermore, the existing Institutes of Technology whose competence as excellent undergraduate institutions we do recognize (also their brand name) should be challenged to play a bigger role – for example similar to that of great universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or Caltech. In addition, like these great universities of the world they should engage with a much wider universe of knowledge, both at undergraduate and post graduate levels.

We are also convinced that Indian higher education as a whole cannot go far without our paying equal attention to the State universities. They are also Indian universities and a large fraction our students will continue to come from them. Many of them are as good as our Central institutions and should be given a chance to fly. We should think seriously about the manner in which the motivation and resources are enhanced all over the country.

I would like to mention our deep concern in respect of two matters.

Mushrooming engineering and management colleges, with some notable exceptions, have largely become, mere business entities dispensing very poor quality education. We have made some recommendations in this regard.

Deemed Universities have also mushroomed. Most of them do not belong to the same class as those recognized as such twenty years ago. This provision was reserved for a few truly outstanding education and research institutions, with a consideration that they would bring depth and variety into the education system. We are seriously concerned about the character and value of the recent explosive growth and have made specific recommendations in this regard.

Finally, we would share with you the prevalent feeling in the universities that there is too much inspection, interference and delay in their dealings with State and Central Governments. I am sure universities and colleges should themselves share some blame in this regard, but we need to move away from this blame game. We have to devise somewhat different, more efficient, funding management system. We have made some recommendations in this regard. We would recommend that universities should become self-regulating partners in managing the overall education system. Continuous monitoring and inspection cause delays and lead to corruption. Some suggestions in this regard have also been made.”

You would notice that we are placing supreme importance on the character of universities. They must create new knowledge. Besides making people capable of creating wealth they have a deep role in the overall thinking of society and the world as a whole. This job cannot be performed in secluded corners of information and knowledge. It would be silly to deny the practical role of experts in areas of science, technology, economics, finance and management. But narrow expertise alone does not make educated human beings for tomorrow. Indeed, speaking more seriously, one could almost say that most serious problems of the world today arise from the fact that we are dominated by striations of expertise with deep chasms in between.

A year and some months after we started I feel that I have been engaged in a movement in which there has been lot of thinking and an enormous amount of sharing. We did have several meetings in proper meeting rooms, but we also had open interaction with close to a thousand Vice-Chancellors, Principals of Colleges and teachers. In addition, in most places we visited there was interaction with large groups, school and college students. For me meetings with children are always energizing because they are not yet fully imprisoned in disciplines. After all this I have been left with a deep feeling of optimism. Hidden in small places, in obscure schools, colleges and universities, there are potential geniuses to be discovered. Many of them could be the great knowledge creators of tomorrow. We have to discover and implement ways that would not put useless hurdles in their path. That is our challenge. I do not propose to go over everything that has been said in our report. But a few essential might be worth repeating:

We have suggested that the present regulating bodies should all be subsumed within a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER).

To reduce most possibilities of interference this Commission should be established through a Constitutional amendment and have a Constitutional status.

A suggested provision to be inserted appropriately in the Constitution through an amendment is annexed with the Report.

NCHER has not been visualised as a Czar. The autonomy of universities is to be respected and we should not enforce dead uniformity. They do not have to be carbon copies of each other.

Quite a few suggestions have been made to improve the method of appointment of Vice-Chancellors and internal working of universities.

To highlight our suggestions for the management system within a University it has been suggested that our best run institutions, in ascending order might be some of the Central Universities, IITs and IIMs. They might show the way to others.

Stand-alone single discipline institutions should try to broaden themselves to provide a more wholesome education to their students and thus qualify for the title of a degree giving university.

We have addressed the question of public private partnership appropriately, welcoming a proper movement in this direction.

And a lot of other matters, such as the question of affiliated colleges, have been discussed at length. We have been conscious of the fact that our committee should not try to do the job of the proposed NCHER.

But I do reserve the right to add that in order to enrich our higher education we might invite from abroad a substantial number of potentially great academics and scientists to work with our students and teachers, instead of importing mediocre foreign universities to set up shop here.

I also want to express my deep appreciation of the fact that Shri Arjun Singh sensed the value of what we were trying to do, when I went to him with a request to change the name and charge of our Committee after two months of deep collective thinking.

I would also like to disclose that before I agreed to get involved with this work, I had a conversation with the Prime Minister and got the impression that some out of the box thinking might not be frowned upon. Indeed, it was expected. Perhaps we have done a bit of that.

A few words with Shri Kapil Sibal, after he agreed to steer the MHRD also assured me that some real resonance might be around the corner!

I think this is more than enough for a Foreword. I want to personally thank every one who has contributed to this unique effort and given so much of their time and talent. It has been a rare privilege to be given the chance of spending so much time with my distinguished colleagues. I assure you all that, whatever the fate of your Report, your work will have a meaning for our future.

Yash Pal

‘The Committee to Advise on Renovation and Rejuvenation of Higher Education’

Sunday, June 28, 2009

India's 100-day Action Plan for Education Sector

Legislative Initiatives
  1. An autonomous overarching authority for Higher Education and Research based on the recommendations of Yashpal Committee and National Knowledge Commission;
  2. A law to prevent, prohibit and punish educational malpractices;
  3. A law for mandatory assessment and accreditation in higher education through an independent regulatory authority;
  4. A law to regulate entry and operation of Foreign Educational Providers;
  5. A law to establish a Tribunal to fast-track adjudication of disputes concerning stakeholders (teachers, students, employees and management) in higher education;
  6. A law to further amend the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions Act, to strengthen the Commission;
  7. A law to amend the Copyright Act, 1957 to address the concerns relating to copyrights and related rights of the various stake holders

Policy Initiatives

  1. Formulation of a 'Brain-Gain' policy to attract talent fiom across the world to the existing and new institutions;
  2. Launching of a new Scheme of interest subsidy on educational loans taken for professional courses by the Economically Weaker Students;
  3. Strengthening and expansion of the Scheme for Remedial Coaching for students from SC/ST/minority communities, in higher education;
  4. 'Equal Opportunity Offices' to be created in all universities for effective implementation of schemes for disadvantaged sections of the society;
  5. A new policy on Distance Learning would be formulated;
  6. Regional Central Campus of Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak to be started in the state of Manipur;
  7. Model degree colleges would be established in 100 districts with significant population of weaker sections and the minorities;
  8. 100 women's hostels would be sanctioned in higher educational institutions located in districts with significant population of weaker sections and the minorities;

Administrative and Other Initiatives

  1. Review of the functioning of the existing Deemed Universities;
  2. Operationalizing newly established 12 Central Universities and 2 new IITs;
  3. Academic reforms (semester system, choice-based credit system, regular revision of syllabi, impetus to research, etc. which are already mandated under the Central Universities Act, 2009) to be introduced in other Central Educational Institutions;
  4. Modernization of Copyright Offices;
  5. 5000 colleges/university departments to be provided with broadband internet connectivity under the "National Mission on Education through ICT";
  6. Assistance would be provided to States to establish at least 100 new polytechnics (over and above assistance already provided for 50 polytechnics in the last financial year) in districts without any polytechnic at present. States would also be assisted for the construction of 100 women's hostels in the existing polytechnics and for upgrading 50 existing polytechnics;
  7. Approvals would be obtained for establishing 10 new NITS in the un-served States so that every State has one earmarked NIT;
  8. Operationalising 700 revamped Community Polytechnics for skill development of rural youth;
  9. Direct credit of scholarship into the bank accounts of 41,000 boys and 41,000 girls every year, under the new Merit Scholarship Scheme for students in the universities and colleges.

Source: Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India

Friday, June 26, 2009

Indian Education System Reforms: HRD Minister outlines intentions

With “expansion, inclusion and excellence” as the guiding factors to revamp Indian education, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal announced a slew of measures on June 25, 2009, including optional Class 10 board exams, accreditation agencies for schools, free education and private sector involvement in primary learning.

Sibal, who announced as many as 40 legal, policy and administative initiatives for the first 100 days of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, made a strong pitch to “de-traumatise education” and said there was no need for a Class 10 board examination. “Schools will evolve a system of assessment. Because of the marking system, there is a lot of pressure on children, parents, especially mother,” he said and added that he would have the marking system changed to grading formula in Classes 9 and 10 in the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) schools. He would make efforts to have a single board exam in standard 12 across the country. “Right now different boards take different exams with different marking systems. Why not have a single board where all compete in the same system?” he said.

In a significant measure aimed at freeing the education sector from the clutches of the bureaucratic red tape, he said the government would bring in a law to set up an “autonomous, independent” agency for assessment and accreditation in higher education. “This will have experts and scholars. The government will have nothing to do with it,” Sibal said. He said his ministry would explore the possibility for a similar agency for school education. He pointed out: “At present there is no accreditation policy for schools. If any child goes to a school, he has no information how the school is. There is no agency in India to accredit them or give the school a rating.” While he announced several measures for higher education, the new minister’s focus is more on the “89 percent of students who cannot reach the level of graduation”.

He said his mantra was “expansion, inclusion and excellence” and this was not possible “if you deny access to education to every single child in the country”. As a first step towards this, “in the coming budget session of parliament (from July 2), all steps will be taken to enact the Right to Children to Free and Compulsory Education bill”. In yet another initiative of significance, Sibal said he would formulate a policy for “public-private partnerships” in school education. “Various models would be evolved” on how best to get private investment in schools. “For instance, a municipal school building has two floors vacant. A private player can set up his classes and charge fees, while he imparts the same quality of education free to those studying in the municipal school,” he explained. There could be many such models, the minister said.

The Ministry is also planning to permit foreign educational providers into India. “We will bring a law to regulate foreign educational providers in India. It is not a license for them but a regulation. Why not the best educational institutions of the world come to India?” There is also a legal initiative to weed out corruption from the system in Sibal’s scheme of things. “We are going to bring a law to prevent, prohibit and punish educational malpractices in the country. It is meant to make the system more transparent,” he said. Anyone breaching the law should be punished, he added. “Many a times, students going to Australia are being told that they are going for vocational training but when they land there it turns out to be something else. These things should be transparent,” he said. “Similarly, here too, the prospectus says something and the reality is much different,” Sibal said.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Update from Indian Higher Education Sector - May 2009

Highlights of the Month
India advocates common course structure

India will press for a common course structure and higher education system among Commonwealth countries during the meeting of education ministers of the Commonwealth member states in June 2009 in Kuala Lumpur. India has been advocating having a mechanism under which the 53 member countries including Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa will treat as equivalent degrees awarded by different universities from these nations, a step aimed at facilitating movement of students. The framework will specify measures to have a common syllabus, course structure and certification system among these countries. India’s higher education system is almost in lines of Britain. Similarly many other countries have followed the British pattern. India’s stand assumes significance as a huge number of students from the country go to Britain, Australia and New Zealand for higher studies. At present, degree holders from Indian universities are unable to capitalize on their certificates in some of the Commonwealth countries. They have to appear in certain tests for equivalence of certificates. Students from technical education stream like engineering and medicine face these types of problems. At present India has mutual recognition agreement with few countries for mutual recognition of qualification.

Indian B-Schools attract foreign missions
In an attempt to find a solution to the global meltdown, foreign High Commissions and Embassies are increasingly seeking academic tie-ups with Indian business schools. The meltdown has resulted in a decline in the value of foreign economies while the Indian economy looks comparatively better thereby attracting such agencies to look for collaboration. India has caught the attention of foreign missions for collaborations and tie-ups. The agencies have been looking for opportunities in terms of short-term courses, student exchanges as well as international immersion programs. For instance the French embassy tied up with the S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research for student exchange program in collaboration with the AIESEC in France. Similar requests for collaborations from foreign missions have been received by Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad. Other reasons for such increased involvement of High Commissions and Embassies is that India is now becoming an important market and these agencies want their students to be exposed to emerging economies such as India.

Policy Updates
New UGC rules for Ph.D. students
A new set of directives from the University Grants Commission (UGC) will lead to some important changes in rules governing Ph.D. students and those opting for postgraduate courses in India. Students who register for Ph.D. will now have to go through a test. This change has been viewed as positive as it will immensely benefit meritorious students. Earlier influential students got a Ph.D. guide of their choice despite not having the academic credentials. Meritorious students were often left without a guide because a Ph.D. guide is allowed only 5 students at a time. With Ph.D. aspirants having to take the test under the new rules, this anomaly will be removed. UGC has also directed universities across the country to include an oral test in the admission process for postgraduate courses since many postgraduate students make only last minute preparations for admission and remain focused on the subject at hand. The oral test will ensure students have knowledge about varied subjects and only students with all-rounder knowledge gain admission.

Education reforms may be fast tracked
The second term of the Congress-led central government has raised hopes for a host of educational reforms including the passing of the Foreign Education Bill, recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission and the high profile committee led by eminent educationist Prof. Yash Pal, setting up of ‘Centers of Excellence’ and public-private partnership in higher education. The Ministry of Human Resource Development and prominent academicians are expecting the Foreign Education Bill to be passed soon. The Indian government has already allowed foreign direct investment up to 100 per cent through the automatic route in the education sector in March 2008 but the bill has been pending since. Several international institutions are waiting to seek an approval to set up a campus in India.
The industry is also looking forward to acceptance of the recommendations of the National Knowledge Commission and the Yash Pal Committee wherein it was recommended to the centre that both the All India Council for Technical Education and the University Grants Commission should be replaced with an independent regulatory authority on higher education. The new government is also expected to speed up the process of setting up centers of excellence and setting up new educational institutes which it had decided under the 11th Five Year Plan. The new educational institutes decided to be set up under the Plan include 30 central universities, 7 Indian Institutes of Management, 8 Indian Institutes of Technology, 20 Indian Institutes of Information Technology, 5 Indian Institutes of Science, Education and Research, 1600 Industrial Technical Institutes, 10,000 vocational schools and 50,000 ICT based Skill Development Centers. There will also be activities in the public-private partnership model to be emulated in the education sector. The government will need to come up with some fiscal incentives to the private sector to be a part of the education sector. The private sector on its part has been stressing on the need for being allowed into the education sector for some time now.

New Skill Development Ministry
For India to impart employable skills to the masses in order to capitalize on its demographic dividend of a large working population, the newly elected central government is working out the contours of a proposed brand new ministry that will be focused exclusively on skill development. The new ministry will be carved out of the existing ministries of Human Resource Development, Labor and Employment as well as 15 others with skill development departments and cells focused on their respective sectors. The budget for the proposed Skill Development Ministry is learnt to be allocated from a part of the budget allocated for general education. A big-ticket expenditure is already underway on skill development through the public-private partnership route and significant increases in outlays are on the anvil. At the same time the government is expected to move ahead with its plan of relaxing norms for the entry of foreign universities and education providers.
It is believed that some 92 million jobs need to be created during the 11th Five Year Plan to achieve employment for all. The government already has several initiatives on this front: a Skill Development Initiative that aims to train a million persons annually; a National Skill Development and Vocational Education Mission; and a National Skill Development Policy. Apart from upgrading the country’s 1896 Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), the National Skill Development Mission envisages setting up 1500 new ITI and 50,000 skill development centers through public-private partnership to train around 10 million people a year. Of the 12.8 million new entrants to labor force every year, the capacity of skills and vocational training institutions is currently 2.5 million only.

MBA institutes recommend changes in course design
Administrators of top business management schools including the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the Xavier Institutes and the Indian School of Business have acknowledged that MBA curriculum is not changing at the speed with which in business is changing in India. Changing the curriculum design at most institutes was resisted by faculty as they were hesitant to let go of their course structure and engaging in recreating and revaluating new courses for students. The spotlight has been put on business schools and questions whether their programs focus equally on ethics and life skills as they do on analytical and functional skills. It is believed that MBA programs put too much emphasis on theory and not enough on leadership in global environment. The administrators of Indian B-schools believe that faculty at most schools while teaching students on topics of management have never been on the other side of business and witnessed how it is run. A lot of cases that faculty teach are borrowed from western pedagogy without putting it in Indian context.
According to a report by Harvard Business School the need for MBAs has been described as an outcome of emergence of the global economy. According to the report, business schools around the world turn out about 500,000 MBAs a year with upwards of 150,000 of those in the United States. Currently in the country there are more than 2000 MBA institutes of which 80 per cent are private who cumulatively put out 100,000 graduates annually. The main issue concerning the curriculum was whether it delivers to students what the business community desires and what B-schools can do to bridge the gap between what they are and what they should be offering.

Institutional Updates
IGNOU to launch new program
Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) will launch a new postgraduate program for Certificate in Project Management. The University is going to collaborate with the Indian chapter of the London-based International Project Management Association (IPMA) – Project Management Associates – and Centre for Excellence in Project Management to develop the content for the course, engage resource persons and create placement opportunities. The IPMA is present in 44 countries. Project management is encouraged by IGNOU in the national interest since application of project management concepts can improve our ability to keep pace with international happenings. Education and training in the area of project management is an effective means of transforming society into a project oriented society. The certificate program is likely to be useful for working professionals, academia, aspiring managers and technical manpower.

Delhi University offers post-graduate program in nuclear science
The Delhi University (DU) is partnering with France’s Paris–SUD 11 University for imparting the three-year M. Tech. program in nuclear science. DU’s M. Tech. students studying nuclear science will undergo training in nuclear power and radiological applications in both DU and Paris–SUD 11 University. Students will spend two of the six semesters in France which is close to seven months studying theory and five months of practical training in nuclear laboratories. Students are also required to submit a dissertation at the end of their semester in France.
DU is the first university in the country to offer such a program and the only other options are U.S.-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Wisconsin and Texas University. The Department of Atomic Energy sanctioned a Rs. 30 million grant for the year 2008-09 for purchase of equipment for setting up an experimental laboratory for the program. The course was created to fulfill the shortage of trained manpower in the area of nuclear science. Besides signing of the nuclear deal between India and the U.S. the demand for professionals in this area is likely to increase in the years to come. Various private companies such as Larsen & Tubro, Reliance Power etc have also entered this area and will demand skilled manpower in the near future. Those graduating from the program can also pursue research in the area of physics.

IIMs agree to online Common Admission Test
The seven Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have agreed to the decision to conduct the Common Admission Test (CAT) online from November 2009. The decision is prompted by the administrative strain caused by the surge in the number of aspirants and the necessity to rule out any possibility of a question paper leak. The test will be conducted with high-tech security features like bio-metric identification of students through finger printing and constant video monitoring of the candidates to ensure that the computer based testing remains a secure format. While about 95,000 students took the CAT in 2003, the number rose to about 250,000 in 2008 indicating a rise of 163 per cent resulting in a severe strain over the administrative system when the exam is conducted in paper format.
The contract for conducting the online examination has been given to U.S.-based ETS Prometric which also conducts the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for entrance in U.S. colleges. The exam will consist of several versions of the test of consistent difficulty levels with the IIMs planning to extend coverage to remote areas in regional centers with internet availability. The format for the online entrance test will be the same as the paper based test.

AIIMS scraps 50 per cent cut-off marks in MBBS entrance
Following its inability to fill all reserved category seats last year, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has decided to do away with the 50 per cent cut-off marks criteria in its MBBS entrance test from this academic session. The decision is likely to spark controversy as faculty members and junior doctors feel that this is in violation of a Supreme Court order which states there ought to be cut-off marks in all medical examinations. This decision would mean that a reserved category student may be eligible for admission in AIIMS even if he scores poorly or even a zero in the entrance exam. It would also mean that a general category student with 50 per cent marks will be rejected if there are seats only available under the reserved category. In other words, a more deserving candidate under the general category may face rejection if there are no seats available but a student scoring poorly much below the mandated 50 per cent marks may be offered admission if he/she belongs to the reserved category. Senior faculty members of the institute feel this will bring down the standard of India’s premier medical institute.

ICWAI joins hands with American Management Institute
The Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India (ICWAI) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), U.S. to facilitate mutual recognition and cooperation and develop the profession of management accountancy for the benefit of their members and students. The MoU will enable recognition of professional qualifications of the respective institutions. A member of ICWAI can now get enrolled as a member of IMA, U.S. and vice versa. However, an IMA member enrolling as a member of ICWAI will not be able to hold a certificate of practice to undertake any statutory work in India. The MoU is expected to bring mutual recognition and global cooperation between members of both ICWAI and IMA. Both institutions have agreed to assist and cooperate in conducting joint research, development of management accounting guidelines and standards as well as hold joint seminars, conferences and activities beneficial to institutions, their members and students.

ISB plans initiatives to help SMEs stay afloat
Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad is undertaking a host of initiatives to drive the Small & Medium Enterprise (SME) sector and equip such companies to stay competitive in the present global business environment. SMEs are facing a lot of challenges in terms of policies, the downturn and marketing strategies among other things. ISB is helping to create a body of knowledge and bring it to the attention of the policy makers. ISB started looking at the policy framework and is conducting a joint research with Rand Corporation in the U.S. This research aims at studying policies relating to entrepreneurship. The business school has worked as a non-paid consultant to five SMEs across sectors like manufacturing, chemical processing; IT and supply chain management to look at underlying issues and help them do well globally.

Madurai Kamraj University strengthens its international presence
The Madurai Kamraj University (MKU) is scaling up its international presence by expanding its distance education operation. The university plans to open centers in Abu Dhabi, Jeddah and Sudan. At present 12 overseas centers of MKU are functioning in countries such as U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Sharjah, Sri Lanka and Nepal. MKU is seeing good demand in BBA and MBA programs besides computer science courses. As a first step, The MKU Free Zone campus was opened in the Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate under U.A.E. bordering Oman. The launch of the free zone campus is a first of its kind initiative of the university. With the opening of the proposed three centers, the number of MKU overseas centres would go up to 15. Currently around 4,000 students are on the university rolls outside India.

Country Updates
British Columbia to strengthen India links
The University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, known for its global reputation in advanced research and learning in sustainability, brain research, economics, finance, bio-fuels, nano technology, fields related to infectious disease control, public health etc is exploring opportunities for partnership with Indian institutions of higher education. The university currently, apart from its 200 strong Indian student population, shares links with India through exchange programs with IIM Ahmedabad, IIT Delhi and IIT Kharagpur. It is also a part of an international network which includes the Delhi University. UBC is exploring possibilities for joint funding of collaborative partnerships with Indian institutions. The university is in the middle of a strategic planning exercise which has three priorities – a greater commitment to Asia, Asian research and Asian engagement, and greater commitment to interdisciplinary and refreshing its commitment to under-graduate education.

French varsity allies with St. Xavier’s College
Paris based Sciences Po, a noted university for social sciences, has signed a memorandum of understanding for student exchange with St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai. St. Xavier’s College is the eighth partner institution for Sciences Po in India after Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia, St. Stephen’s College, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, University of Madras, University of Pune and the Institute of Development Studies, Kolkata. Sciences Po will send 31 students to spend a full academic year at the eight institutions in 2009-10. The French university will in turn host about 15 students as part of the exchange. The university will soon launch an integrated Ph.D. program (M. Phil. and Ph.D.) in economics, history, sociology and political science, taught in English. With more than 300 partnerships worldwide, 41 per cent foreign students (8400 students approximately) and around 100 visiting professors every year, Sciences Po is reputed as France’s most internationalized university. It also offers young executives an international Master of Public Affairs jointly organized with the Columbia University, London School of Economics & Political Science, and the National University of Singapore.

Russia eager to attract Indian students
The Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) together with the Russian Centre of International Education (RCIE) organized an education exhibition in New Delhi featuring five Russian universities namely, Tver State Medical Academy (TSMA), Moscow Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automation (MIREA), Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU), Moscow Aviation Institute and Moscow Power Engineering Institute. Russia is believed to have over 90,000 international students studying on its campuses at present of which 36 per cent are Asians including 40,000 Indian students. Russian language and humanitarian studies attract the largest number of international students. Although courses in Russia may be taught in English, learning Russian is necessary. Undergraduate education in Russia is of 4-years’duration and hence international students require 4-years’ Bachelors degree to apply for postgraduate studies.

Middlesex University announces PG scholarships for India
Middlesex University recently celebrated its 10th Anniversary in India. It was one of the first U.K. universities to set up offices overseas and now has 15 regional offices across the globe, including five in India. To mark this achievement, the university announced 10 postgraduate scholarships for Indian students to study at the University’s London campus. When the university set up its first office in India 10 years ago, 40 students were enrolled and the numbers rose to 1,000 in 2008. The 10 scholarships for Indian students have been announced to underline the Middlesex University’s commitment to, and relationship with, India. These scholarships for the academic year 2009-10, are being offered in subjects across the university’s teaching curriculum including financial management, science, education and leadership, sustainable development and technology and product design. The university is offering 10 scholarships worth £ 3,000 each across nine ‘industry-relevant’ programs. These scholarships can be clubbed with other £ 1000 and £ 500 bursaries the university offers. In effect, a student can be awarded a scholarship worth £ 4500 which is half of the tuition fee for the program.

Queens University offers scholarships
Queens University, U.K. during a recent visit to India announced the expansion of the ‘Queens India Welcome Scheme’ (QIWS), a scholarship for select institutions in the Delhi capital region including Amity University and Jawaharlal Nehru University among others. Following the scheme’s expansion, 30 scholarships are now on offer for Indian students to study at Queen’s University, Belfast.

Cambridge University rolls out course for aspiring entrepreneurs
The Center for Entrepreneurial Learning, University of Cambridge, U.K. has unveiled an Advanced Diploma in Entrepreneurship in association with The Indus Entrepreneurship (TiE). This is a 15 month-long part-time course, very different from the regular MBA. Students have to study online and will need to attend 2-3 workshops and a six-day intensive residential training at the Cambridge University campus. The course includes modules such as entrepreneurial awareness, opportunity recognition and idea evaluation, preparing a business case and advanced entrepreneurial skills.

Source: Leading Indian dailies, regional newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites.

Monday, June 22, 2009

From University World News - GLOBAL: Invest in R&D to profit from crisis

The world economic crisis has already begun to affect innovation and research in the better-off countries but this may not be all bad news says the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the association of the world's 30 leading economies. One way of looking at the downturn is to see it as a "creative destruction" that could witness the birth of new hi-tech giants and offer greatly increased potential for today's technological leaders, says the OECD. The key is R&D spending. In a new document, Policy Responses to the Economic Crisis: Investing in innovation for long-term growth, the OECD notes that business R&D expenditure and patent filings historically move in parallel with GDP, slowing markedly during the economic downturns of the early 1990s and of the early 2000s.

Read Alan Osborn's article by clicking http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090618194546998.

From University World News - EUROPE: New ways of financing higher education

University funding in many European countries has changed markedly in recent years, largely moving from a line item budget system where public funds are allocated on the basis of certain functions - such as human resources, facilities and specific projects - to schemes where governments provide lump sums a university can use as it chooses. But where to next? A recent study by the European University Association shows that while higher education institutions are still largely state funded, and this should be increased according to the EUA, the institutions themselves with improved autonomy should broaden their income base through other streams.

Read the interesting article by Alan Osborn by clicking http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090618195805839.

From University World News - GERMANY: Record funding for higher education

Despite its most severe economic crisis since World War II, Germany's federal and state governments have sealed a funding agreement for higher education and research worth a total of EUR18 billion. The money is to be spent over a 10-year period and represents the largest support measure the country has seen. The federal government will provide EUR11.8 billion with the state governments footing the balance. Money will be spent on more study places, boosting academic excellence and additional support for research institutions. The new Higher Education and Research Pact was announced at last year's education summit when heads of the federal and state governments met to thrash out solutions to Germany's most pressing problems in higher education and research.

Read the article by Michael Gardner by clicking http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090618200051988.

From University World News - INDIA: Scandal results in university review

India's newly re-elected Congress Party-led government has been rocked by a higher education scandal that has forced the new Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to take action. After a meeting with University Grants Commission officials, Sibal ordered the so-called 'deemed university status' awarded to 125 tertiary education institutions be reviewed, with all pending requests to be shelved. Universities in India have traditionally only been established by legislation but the newer 'deemed university status' can be awarded by the central government to institutions that meet prescribed standards. Critics claim that subjective criteria could be warped to grant this status to private institutions as payback for political favours.

Read the complete article by Raghavendra Verma by clicking http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090618200456244.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

From University World News - US: I'll never teach online again

I trained for it, I tried it, and I'll never do it again. While online teaching may be the wave of the future (although I desperately hope not), it is not for me. Perhaps I'm the old dog that resists new tricks. Maybe I am a technophobe. It might be that I'm plain old-fashioned. This much I can say with certainty: I have years of experience successfully teaching in collegiate classrooms and online teaching doesn't compare. So I'll just chalk up my first and only venture to experience and make my way back to the traditional academy. Among the reasons why are these.

Read this interesting article by Elayne Clift at the University World News site - http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090611222057666. This is an extract from an article published in the Chronicle of Higher Education last month. Elayne Clift has been a lecturer at various colleges and universities since 1987 and is author of ACHAN: A Year of Teaching in Thailand (Bangkok Books, 2007).

From University World News - EGYPT: First female vice-chancellor appointed

More than a century after the first public university opened its doors to both sexes in this conservative Muslim country, Egypt last week named its first woman university president. Hend Hanafi was appointed by President Hosni Mubarak as head of Alexandria University in Egypt's second biggest city. The previous post held by Hanafi, a 57-year-old paediatrician, was vice-president of the same university for postgraduate studies and research." I will pay particular attention to the promotion of medical education, scientific research and cooperation with European universities," an elated Hanafi said on her appointment. She also pledged to develop education in different colleges of the state-run Alexandria University.

Read full report by Ashraf Khaled at the University World News site - http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090612091625225.

From University World News - EUROPE: Joint PhDs becoming popular

A major two-year project undertaken by the European University Association with the support of the European Commission and involving 33 universities in 20 European countries has found that collaborative doctoral programmes are growing in importance in Europe and offering real value to universities and industry. The study, Collaborative Doctoral Education: University-Industry Partnerships for Enhancing Knowledge Exchange, concluded that "doctoral education is the bridge linking the European Higher Education Area and the European Research Area, and that, as the first stage of a research career, excellent conditions for doctoral level work will be crucial in determining the attractiveness of the choice of staying in and coming to Europe".

Read the full report on University World News site by accessing the weblink http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090611224013850.

From University World News - AUSTRALIA: Plan to protect foreign students

As violence against international students continues and Australia faces increasingly strident criticism from India, Universities Australia - the vice-chancellors' organisation - has released a "10-point action plan" for student safety. Among the recommendations, the plan calls for strong law enforcement and "necessary complementary actions". It urges increased levels of security with greater visibility of police and security officers in locations where international students study, work, travel and live. Suitable complaints bodies should be established to respond to concerns over inaction, the UA says.

Read the ful article by Geoff Maslen by clicking the weblink http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=2009061122384667.

From University World News - INDIA: Outcry over "racist" attacks

The spate of attacks on Indian students in Australia has attracted unprecedented media and public attention in India. The issue has been discussed in parliament, on television and has hit the headlines of most English language newspapers since the first attack last month. Speaking with journalists in Patiala, a district town in Punjab, which has a large number of students in Australia, Preneet Kaur, India's Minister of State for External Affairs, and an MP representing Patiala, said the government would frame a policy to end racial discrimination of Indians abroad. Kaur also expressed concern for the safety of 5,000 students from Patiala in Australia.

See article by Shreesh Chaudhary by clicking the weblink http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20090611223726315.

From University World News - PAKISTAN: Higher Ed Commission publishes university ranking

A report by Pakistan's Higher Education Commission has ranked universities on the basis of publications in peer-reviewed journals indexed by the Thomson-Reuters ISI Web of Knowledge during 2007 and 2008, Ali Usman writes for the Daily Times. Quaid-e-Azam University topped the list with 544 publications in 2008 and 409 publications in 2007.University of Karachi came in second with 419 publications in 2008 and 276 publications in 2007. Aga Khan University was the only private university in the top five universities on the basis of research publications, coming third with 311 publications in 2008 and 186 publications in 2007.The databases used for this analysis were Science Citation Index, Social Science Citation Index, and Art and Humanities Citation Index.

See full report on the Daily Times site - http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=200969story_9-6-2009_pg13_9.

From University World News - INDIA: Ministry may allow private universities

The Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) may allow private players to set up universities instead of going the 'deemed to be university' route, writes Urmi A Goswami for The Economic Times. The ministry will also push for firm regulations which would demand transparency and accountability of players in the education sector."There is no reason why private players should not be allowed to set up universities. But there has to be some check at the threshold to allow only serious players to set up these universities. There has to be a regulatory procedure independent of the government," sources close to the HRD minister said.Amendment of the University Grants Commission (UGC) Act of 1956 is being considered. At present, universities can only be established under a central or a state Act. The third option is the 'deemed to be university' route, under the UGC Act, which enables existing institutions to offer degrees. Given the notoriety that 'the deemed to be university' route has attracted, a provision is being considered that would allow private players to set up universities instead of upgrading institutions. Recently, HRD minister Kapil Sibal ordered a freeze on granting 'deemed to be university' status and called for a review of existing deemed universities.

See full report on The Economic Times site - http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/Sibal-spells-doom-for-deemed-universities-bats-for-private-ones/articleshow/4629354.cms.

From University World News - INDIA: Focus on undoing higher education wrongs

There is vast scope to undo wrongs done to higher education in India and to innovate in terms of improving studies and inclusion, said Narendra Jadhav, a newly-appointed member of the Planning Commission and outgoing Vice-chancellor of the University of Pune (UoP), writes Vishwas Kothari for The Times of India.

In an interview with the newspaper, Jadhav provided an overview of priority areas in the education portfolio, which he is to handle at the Planning Commission. "We are half-way through the implementation of the 11th Five Year Plan," he said. "While the pace of implementation leaves much scope for improvement, we have a golden chance of effecting mid-course corrections by way of the mid-term appraisal of the plan due in December."

Jadhav was positive about the commission working in tandem with the new dispensation at the Human Resource Development Ministry, which is now headed by Kapil Sibal, and the National Knowledge Commission, which has recommended a slew of reforms and initiatives for the overall improvement of higher education. A key recommendation was to split the University Grants Commission's role as a grant-giving and monitoring body.

See full report on The Times of India site - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Pune/Focus-on-undoing-the-wrong-done-in-higher-education/articleshow/4637578.cms.

From University World News - US: Not-so-secret agents

American colleges seem increasingly willing to at least try out the use of agents in recruiting international students, and a series of events at the recent NAFSA: Association of International Educators conference only reinforced that reality, writes Elizabeth Redden for Inside Higher Ed. However, a serious debate still simmers about whether the use of agents best serves the interests of students, and a schism exists between those in international education who promote the practice and those in admissions who continue to reject the notion of incentive- or commission-based overseas recruiting on ethical grounds.

The reliance on in-country agents to recruit international students is commonplace in Australia and the United Kingdom, and companies are certainly seeing the potential of an emerging US market for agents - with two of the bigger companies in international education, IDP Education and Hobsons, using the NAFSA conference as a launching pad for their own forays into it. Other recruiters who trekked to the conference in Los Angeles were taking more of a "wait and watch" approach, as one put it.

See full report on the Inside Higher Ed site - http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/06/10/agents.

World's best-performing stock markets of 2009

On January 8, 2008, history was made as the Bombay Stock Exchange's Sensitive Index (Sensex) hit the magic 21,000-mark! Just about 18 years ago on July 25, 1990, the Sensex touched the magical four-digit figure for the first time and closed at 1,001 in the wake of a good monsoon and excellent corporate results. But within two weeks of touching 21,000 the fairy tale ended, and on January 21, 2008 the Sensex registered the first-ever four digit loss when it plunged 1,408 points to close the day at 17,605. Since then the slide was steeper till it almost plunged below 7,000.

At its peak in October 2007, global equity, or the market capitalisation of all companies in world stock markets, stood at $62.5 trillion, close to that year's world GDP figure of $65 trillion. Then the American sub-prime crisis hit the shores, banks collapsed and financial institutions went belly-up. A jaw-dropping $37 trillion of wealth in the form of market cap was wiped out in 18 months up to the multi-year lows that were reached on March 9, 2009. That was 59 per cent of public company values, or $25.5 trillion. Since then, however, equity values have risen 37 per cent - a wealth-growth of $9.5 trillion - to just over $37 trillion.
Almost all markets fell in 2008. According to a report by EconomyWatch, 62 markets out of the 83 studied are now up.

Peru (2009 Growth: 72.92% - Decline from 52-week high: -31.94% )
The Bolsa de Valores de Lima, the stock exchange of Peru has several indices. The IGBVL (Indice General Bolsa de Valores) is a value-weighted index that tracks the performance of the largest and most actively traded stocks on the Lima exchange.
Peru's economy has shown strong growth over the past seven years, averaging 6.8 per cent a year, helped by market-oriented economic reforms and privatisations in the 1990s. Its GDP grew 9.8 per cent in 2008 to $127.8 billion.

Russia (2009 Growth: 53.33% - Decline from 52-week high: -61.22% )
The Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange or MICEX is one of the largest universal stock exchanges in the Russian Federation and East Europe. MICEX opened in 1992 and is the leading Russian stock exchange, consisting of shares and corporate bonds of about 600 Russian companies. After a massive sell-off last year pushed the valuations of Russian companies to record lows, rising energy prices in recent months have drawn investors back into the market. In May 2009, the Micex index of major Russian company shares, was up about 105 per cent after bottoming out on October 27. Russia's economy shrank by 7 percent year on year in the first quarter of 2009. Unemployment was up, at 8.5 per cent in February, the highest level since January 2005.

India (2009 Growth: 48.25% - Decline from 52-week high: -18.26% )
Bombay Stock Exchange, Asia's oldest bourse, is 133 years old and had a market capitalisation of $1.79 trillion (December 31, 2007). BSE is the world's number 1 exchange in terms of the number of listed companies and the world's 5th in transaction numbers. Braving the global recessionary trends, India managed 6.7 per cent economic growth in 2008-09 despite the manufacturing sector recording a dismal performance. A 5.8 per cent growth rate during the last quarter of the fiscal, at a time when most developed economies have shrunk, puts India among the top-most growing nations. Inflation slipped to 0.13 per cent, the lowest ever in over three decades even as prices of essential food items turned dearer.

China (2009 Growth: 47.01% - Decline from 52-week high: -26.30% )
The Shanghai Composite Index, the benchmark for the Chinese domestic market, rose six-fold in just over two years, starting in mid-2005, before a yearlong drop starting in late 2007 that left it about 70 per cent lower. It is up 52 per cent in 2009. China's 2009 real GDP is seen to grow by just 6.5 per cent. Growth will recover in 2010, but only to 7.3 per cent. The economy will be supported by a rapid expansion of government infrastructure spending and policies to revive housing investment. The outlook for exports is poor, but falling commodity prices will also depress imports.

Taiwan (2009 Growth: 44.96% - Decline from 52-week high: -28.51% )
Established in 1962, the Taiwan Stock Exchange Corporation is located in Taipei 101. It began operating as a stock exchange on February 9 1962. In 2009, Taiwan is likely to witness a negative GDP growth of -6.5 per cent, and this will be followed by only a very modest recovery in 2010, as both domestic and external demand are set to remain weak next year. Consumer price inflation averaged 3.5 per cent in 2008 as high global oil and non-oil commodity prices continued to push up producer prices.

Ukraine (2009 Growth: 44.30% - Decline from 52-week high: -55.38% )
The PFTS Stock Exchange is the larger of Ukraine's two main stock exchanges (the other being the Ukrainian Stock Exchange). Approximately 220 companies are listed on the PFTS, which began operation since 1996. The global downturn is hammering the export-oriented Soviet-era steel and chemical industries that account for 30 per cent of Ukraine's gross domestic product. Its financial system is in chaos and, is facing imminent default. The bank accounts of millions of Ukrainians have been frozen, unemployment is spiralling, the hryvna (Ukrainian currency) has lost half its value since last summer, and the price the country has to pay for its main energy source, Russian gas, has just doubled. The World Bank recently warned that Ukraine's economy will shrink nine percent in 2009 amid the global economic crisis.

Argentina (2009 Growth: 43.24% - Decline from 52-week high: -31.47% )
The Buenos Aires Stock Exchange founded in 1854, is the successor of the Banco Mercantil. Argentina's economy has sustained a robust recovery following the severe 2001/2002 economic crisis. Its GDP stood at $261 billion in 2007. President Cristina Fernandez recently said Argentina's economy will grow again in 2009, refuting private forecasts for a contraction.

Indonesia (2009 Growth: 39.15% - Decline from 52-week high: -25.05% )
Bursa Efek Indonesia was previously known as Jakarta Stock Exchange. Its name changed in 2007 after it merged with Surabaya Stock Exchange. As of December 31, 2007, the Indonesia Stock Exchange had 383 listed companies with a combined market capitalisation of about $212 billion. Indonesia, a vast polyglot nation, struggles with persistent poverty and unemployment, inadequate infrastructure, pervasive corruption, a fragile banking sector, a poor investment climate, and unequal resource distribution among regions. In 2007, its GDP (purchasing power parity) stood at $845.6 billion.
Israel (2009 Growth: 39.04% - Decline from 52-week high: -24.96 )
The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, colloquially known as the Boursa is Israel's only stock exchange.
The TASE is the only public market for trading securities in Israel. The precursor to the TASE was the Exchange Bureau for Securities, founded by the Anglo-Palestine Bank (which became Bank Leumi) in 1935.
The economy of Israel is a diversified market economy with substantial state ownership and a rapidly developing high-tech sector. The country's GDP (p) in 2006 reached $195 billion according to the International Monetary Fund.

Brazil (2009 Growth: 37.32% - Decline from 52-week high: -30.18% )
Bolsa de Valores, Mercadorias & Futuros de Sao Paulo the Sao Paulo-based stock exchange is the fourth largest bourse in The Americas in terms of market capitalisation, behind NYSE, Nasdaq, and the Toronto Stock Exchange. It is also the thirteenth largest in the world in terms of market capitalisation. On May 8, 2008, the Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (Bovespa) and the Brazilian Mercantile and Futures Exchange merged, creating the new BM&F Bovespa. Four-fifty companies traded at Bovespa as of April 30, 2008. Brazil's economy outweighs that of all other South American countries and is expanding its presence in world markets. In 2007, its GDP (purchasing power parity) stood at $1.838 trillion. However, in 2009 it has slipped into recession as its economy contracted by 0.8 per cent in the first three months.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Full Text of President Barack Obama's Speech to the Muslim World

Remarks of Barack Obama in the Grand Hall of Cairo University on June 4, 2009

I am honored to be in the timeless city of Cairo, and to be hosted by two remarkable institutions. For over a thousand years, Al-Azhar has stood as a beacon of Islamic learning, and for over a century, Cairo University has been a source of Egypt's advancement. Together, you represent the harmony between tradition and progress. I am grateful for your hospitality, and the hospitality of the people of Egypt. I am also proud to carry with me the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace from Muslim communities in my country: Assalaamu Alaykum.

We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world — tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate. The relationship between Islam and the West includes centuries of co-existence and cooperation, but also conflict and religious wars. More recently, tension has been fed by colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims, and a Cold War in which Muslim-majority countries were too often treated as proxies without regard to their own aspirations. Moreover, the sweeping change brought by modernity and globalization led many Muslims to view the West as hostile to the traditions of Islam.

Violent extremists have exploited these tensions in a small but potent minority of Muslims. The attacks of September 11th, 2001 and the continued efforts of these extremists to engage in violence against civilians has led some in my country to view Islam as inevitably hostile not only to America and Western countries, but also to human rights. This has bred more fear and mistrust.

So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, and who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. This cycle of suspicion and discord must end.

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.

I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truth." That is what I will try to do — to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar University — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

I know, too, that Islam has always been a part of America's story. The first nation to recognize my country was Morocco. In signing the Treaty of Tripoli in 1796, our second President John Adams wrote, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." And since our founding, American Muslims have enriched the United States. They have fought in our wars, served in government, stood for civil rights, started businesses, taught at our Universities, excelled in our sports arenas, won Nobel Prizes, built our tallest building, and lit the Olympic Torch. And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers — Thomas Jefferson — kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

But that same principle must apply to Muslim perceptions of America. Just as Muslims do not fit a crude stereotype, America is not the crude stereotype of a self-interested empire. The United States has been one of the greatest sources of progress that the world has ever known. We were born out of revolution against an empire. We were founded upon the ideal that all are created equal, and we have shed blood and struggled for centuries to give meaning to those words — within our borders, and around the world. We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum: "Out of many, one."

Much has been made of the fact that an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama could be elected President. But my personal story is not so unique. The dream of opportunity for all people has not come true for everyone in America, but its promise exists for all who come to our shores — that includes nearly seven million American Muslims in our country today who enjoy incomes and education that are higher than average.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

So let there be no doubt: Islam is a part of America. And I believe that America holds within her the truth that regardless of race, religion, or station in life, all of us share common aspirations — to live in peace and security; to get an education and to work with dignity; to love our families, our communities, and our God. These things we share. This is the hope of all humanity.

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead; and if we understand that the challenges we face are shared, and our failure to meet them will hurt us all.

For we have learned from recent experience that when a financial system weakens in one country, prosperity is hurt everywhere. When a new flu infects one human being, all are at risk. When one nation pursues a nuclear weapon, the risk of nuclear attack rises for all nations. When violent extremists operate in one stretch of mountains, people are endangered across an ocean. And when innocents in Bosnia and Darfur are slaughtered, that is a stain on our collective conscience. That is what it means to share this world in the 21st century. That is the responsibility we have to one another as human beings.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

That does not mean we should ignore sources of tension. Indeed, it suggests the opposite: we must face these tensions squarely. And so in that spirit, let me speak as clearly and plainly as I can about some specific issues that I believe we must finally confront together.

The first issue that we have to confront is violent extremism in all of its forms.

In Ankara, I made clear that America is not — and never will be — at war with Islam. We will, however, relentlessly confront violent extremists who pose a grave threat to our security. Because we reject the same thing that people of all faiths reject: the killing of innocent men, women, and children. And it is my first duty as President to protect the American people.

The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates America's goals, and our need to work together. Over seven years ago, the United States pursued al Qaeda and the Taliban with broad international support. We did not go by choice, we went because of necessity. I am aware that some question or justify the events of 9/11. But let us be clear: al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 people on that day. The victims were innocent men, women and children from America and many other nations who had done nothing to harm anybody. And yet Al Qaeda chose to ruthlessly murder these people, claimed credit for the attack, and even now states their determination to kill on a massive scale. They have affiliates in many countries and are trying to expand their reach. These are not opinions to be debated; these are facts to be dealt with.

Make no mistake: we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

That's why we're partnering with a coalition of forty-six countries. And despite the costs involved, America's commitment will not weaken. Indeed, none of us should tolerate these extremists. They have killed in many countries. They have killed people of different faiths — more than any other, they have killed Muslims. Their actions are irreconcilable with the rights of human beings, the progress of nations, and with Islam. The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism — it is an important part of promoting peace.

We also know that military power alone is not going to solve the problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is why we plan to invest $1.5 billion each year over the next five years to partner with Pakistanis to build schools and hospitals, roads and businesses, and hundreds of millions to help those who have been displaced. And that is why we are providing more than $2.8 billion to help Afghans develop their economy and deliver services that people depend upon.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: "I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be."

Today, America has a dual responsibility: to help Iraq forge a better future — and to leave Iraq to Iraqis. I have made it clear to the Iraqi people that we pursue no bases, and no claim on their territory or resources. Iraq's sovereignty is its own. That is why I ordered the removal of our combat brigades by next August. That is why we will honor our agreement with Iraq's democratically-elected government to remove combat troops from Iraqi cities by July, and to remove all our troops from Iraq by 2012. We will help Iraq train its Security Forces and develop its economy. But we will support a secure and united Iraq as a partner, and never as a patron.

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

So America will defend itself respectful of the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. And we will do so in partnership with Muslim communities which are also threatened. The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer.

The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.

America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed — more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today.

Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction — or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews — is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations — large and small — that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them — and all of us — to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.

The third source of tension is our shared interest in the rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons.

This issue has been a source of tension between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against U.S. troops and civilians. This history is well known. Rather than remain trapped in the past, I have made it clear to Iran's leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward. The question, now, is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

It will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect. But it is clear to all concerned that when it comes to nuclear weapons, we have reached a decisive point. This is not simply about America's interests. It is about preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that could lead this region and the world down a hugely dangerous path.

I understand those who protest that some countries have weapons that others do not. No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear weapons. That is why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation — including Iran — should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power if it complies with its responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. That commitment is at the core of the Treaty, and it must be kept for all who fully abide by it. And I am hopeful that all countries in the region can share in this goal.

The fourth issue that I will address is democracy.

I know there has been controversy about the promotion of democracy in recent years, and much of this controversy is connected to the war in Iraq. So let me be clear: no system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other.

That does not lessen my commitment, however, to governments that reflect the will of the people. Each nation gives life to this principle in its own way, grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. But I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.

There is no straight line to realize this promise. But this much is clear: governments that protect these rights are ultimately more stable, successful and secure. Suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.

This last point is important because there are some who advocate for democracy only when they are out of power; once in power, they are ruthless in suppressing the rights of others. No matter where it takes hold, government of the people and by the people sets a single standard for all who hold power: you must maintain your power through consent, not coercion; you must respect the rights of minorities, and participate with a spirit of tolerance and compromise; you must place the interests of your people and the legitimate workings of the political process above your party. Without these ingredients, elections alone do not make true democracy.

The fifth issue that we must address together is religious freedom.

Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country. That is the spirit we need today. People in every country should be free to choose and live their faith based upon the persuasion of the mind, heart, and soul. This tolerance is essential for religion to thrive, but it is being challenged in many different ways.

Among some Muslims, there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's. The richness of religious diversity must be upheld — whether it is for Maronites in Lebanon or the Copts in Egypt. And fault lines must be closed among Muslims as well, as the divisions between Sunni and Shia have led to tragic violence, particularly in Iraq.

Freedom of religion is central to the ability of peoples to live together. We must always examine the ways in which we protect it. For instance, in the United States, rules on charitable giving have made it harder for Muslims to fulfill their religious obligation. That is why I am committed to working with American Muslims to ensure that they can fulfill zakat.

Likewise, it is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practicing religion as they see fit — for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.

Indeed, faith should bring us together. That is why we are forging service projects in America that bring together Christians, Muslims, and Jews. That is why we welcome efforts like Saudi Arabian King Abdullah's Interfaith dialogue and Turkey's leadership in the Alliance of Civilizations. Around the world, we can turn dialogue into Interfaith service, so bridges between peoples lead to action — whether it is combating malaria in Africa, or providing relief after a natural disaster.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity — men and women — to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity.

I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and changing communities. In all nations — including my own — this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we will lose of control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities — those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith.

But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradiction between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.

This is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century, and in too many Muslim communities there remains underinvestment in these areas. I am emphasizing such investments within my country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas in this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement.

On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America, while encouraging more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in on-line learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a teenager in Kansas can communicate instantly with a teenager in Cairo.

On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world.

On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create jobs. We will open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new Science Envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, and grow new crops. And today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health.

All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life.

The issues that I have described will not be easy to address. But we have a responsibility to join together on behalf of the world we seek — a world where extremists no longer threaten our people, and American troops have come home; a world where Israelis and Palestinians are each secure in a state of their own, and nuclear energy is used for peaceful purposes; a world where governments serve their citizens, and the rights of all God's children are respected. Those are mutual interests. That is the world we seek. But we can only achieve it together.

I know there are many — Muslim and non-Muslim — who question whether we can forge this new beginning. Some are eager to stoke the flames of division, and to stand in the way of progress. Some suggest that it isn't worth the effort — that we are fated to disagree, and civilizations are doomed to clash. Many more are simply skeptical that real change can occur. There is so much fear, so much mistrust. But if we choose to be bound by the past, we will never move forward. And I want to particularly say this to young people of every faith, in every country — you, more than anyone, have the ability to remake this world.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort — a sustained effort — to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples — a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."
The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you.

Source: TIME

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