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U.S. India Higher Education Summit: Welcome and Opening Remarks


Remarks
Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Georgetown University
Washington, DC
October 13, 2011

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President John J. DeGioia: Namaste. Welcome, and thank you all for being here this morning at Georgetown University. It’s an honor to be a part of this important gathering on 21st Century Education with so many leaders representing higher education in the American and Indian governments. This is a topic of vital importance and one that we’ve been engaging very deeply here at Georgetown.

We come together in the spirit of partnership advanced by the ongoing conversations between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh, and we wish to build up on that spirit in our gathering today. It is in this context that we’re grateful to be a part of today’s conference and we appreciate each of you being here with us. Whether you’re here in person or joining us from around the world on the events webcast, let me welcome you all to this first session of the 2011 United States-India Higher Education Summit. Co-hosted by the United States and India, today’s summit provides us with the opportunity to deepen our engagement and strengthen the collaboration between our two nations, which as President Obama said when visiting the Indian parliament in 2010 will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st Century.

We’re deeply honored to have with us today Minister Kapil Sibal, the Indian Minister of Human Resource Development and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to speak about their vision of this partnership. Their committed leadership on education has provided the firm foundation upon which this conference builds.

I’d also like to offer my gratitude to all of those who have contributed to this event, especially all of the panelists offering their insights today. I want to thank you.

It’s now my honor to introduce to you Ambassador Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Appointed Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs in May 2009, he oversees U.S. foreign policy with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives, Bhutan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. He previously served as Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives from 2006 to mid-2009; and Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission in New Delhi from 2003 to 2006. Since he entered the Foreign Service in 1985 he has served at the American embassies in Tunisia, Algeria, Nigeria, and Egypt. He’s also held a number of positions at the State Department here in Washington.

It’s my pleasure to invite to the podium Ambassador Robert Blake.

[Applause]

Ambassador Robert Blake: Thank you very much, President DeGioia. We really appreciate Georgetown’s very warm welcome here this morning.

I also want to extend a very warm welcome to all the Georgetown students who are here today who are the future for our collaboration today.

I also want to thank Georgetown University for making available this lovely, lovely hall and for all of your hospitality for today’s important Summit.

Ladies and gentlemen, higher education is an exciting and critical component of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership and our success here today is likely to have positive ripple effects across the entire broad spectrum of the U.S. and India engagement.

I have the high honor to introduce our two keynote speakers this morning : My boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; and Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal.

Secretary Clinton has long been a champion of education. She led a task force to reform Arkansas’ education system during her time as First Lady of Arkansas. As First Lady of the United States she was a strong advocate and voice for gender equity in education. That steadfast commitment has continued today in her role as Secretary of State as she champions education around the world.

During her first official trip to India as Secretary of State in 2009 Secretary Clinton joined film star Aamir Khan -- Yes, she has very good taste. [Laughter] -- to speak at St. Xavier College in Mumbai about the importance of education at the Teach India Forum. She has been an exceptional leader for all of us at the State Department and we feel it a great privilege every single day to come to work for her and with her.

Secretary Clinton will be followed by Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal. Minister Sibal has long championed closer ties between the United States and India. First as the dynamic co-chair of the Indo-U.S. Parliamentary Forum; then as Minister of Science and Technology; and now in his current role.

Minister Sibal was instrumental in the decision to make education free and compulsory in India for children under the age of 14. He remains a strong advocate for sweeping educational reforms including permitting foreign direct investment in the higher education sector.

We are honored to be joined by both Secretary Clinton and Minister Sibal today and look forward to their great insight and vision for how we take U.S.-India educational collaboration forward.

Without further ado, please extend a very warm welcome first to Secretary Clinton.

[Applause].

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: Good morning. I am always happy to be here and to have a chance to be on this campus that has meant so much to my family and particularly to see the balconies filled with Hoya and to know that some of you got up quite early. [Laughter]. But I am hoping that not only are you here because of your interest in the work that is ongoing between the United States and India but because you’re also considering a career in the Foreign Service. I have to put that plug in because as you just heard when Assistant Secretary Bob Blake was introduced, it’s a very interesting professional endeavor. I know how wonderful it is for somebody like Assistant Secretary Blake to have spent a career forging better relations between our country and others and to come and have a chance to look up at the next generation because, after all, that is what motivates our work.

So it’s a pleasure to welcome you here. I want to thank President DeGioia, as I often do, for his generosity in sharing the hospitality of this great university. I want to thank Dean Carol Lancaster for her work as well. And I’m delighted that Minister Sibal and a distinguished delegation of Indian officials is here for this event. Of course it is always a pleasure to be anywhere with the new Indian Ambassador to the United States, Ambassador Rao. Thank you for all you’ve done on behalf of your country and the relationship between us.

I also want to recognize an old friend and someone who will be speaking to you later in the program, Ambassador Dick Celeste -- Ambassador, Governor, and President Emeritus of Colorado College. He’s very well positioned based on his diplomatic service in India and of course his deep knowledge of American higher education to stress the importance of greater cooperation. And I’m delighted as I look out at this audience to see faces I recognize. Presidents and Deans of some of our greatest American colleges and universities. And I thank our partners in both the private and the non-profit sectors for making this summit a priority.

This summit brings together more than 300 Presidents, Chancellors and other leaders from across the higher education spectrum in our nation -- from private institutions like Georgetown or Yale to community colleges to state and land grant universities. And it’s a great gift and such an enormous treasure of our country that we have a higher education system that is a source of such national strength and pride.

Educational collaboration is a driving force in our strategic dialogue with the government of India and this summit is a result of the discussions between President Obama and Prime Minister Singh. Because for those of you who are watching the great rise of India, I hope you share our excitement that this largest of all democracies, this wildly pluralistic nation, is on the path to providing greater benefits for their citizens within the context of freedom and opportunity. And they know as we know from our own experience, that a democracy depends upon education, an educated citizenry. We therefore at the highest levels of our two governments are committed to this. But whether or not this takes hold will depend upon those of you outside government -- professors and teachers, researchers, business leaders. You will ultimately determine the success of these efforts.

So today is an opportunity for us to take our high level partnership and begin making it real for the millions of Americans and Indians who care about our shared future and are frankly curious about one another.

Now our college experiences, even those of us who can dimly remember them, do shape who we become. When I started at Wellesley College many years ago I had only been out of our country once. I’d gone to the Canadian side of the Niagara Falls. I was President of the Young Republicans, so you see times do change. [Laughter]. And actually, Minister, when I was a senior at Wellesley my first hope was to get a Fulbright to India. For reasons having to do with geopolitics, the Fulbright program was put on pause at that time, so I ended up going to Yale Law School. Since then I have seen the results of my education in nearly everything that I do. Pushing me to become a global citizen. Rooted here in my own country whose values and traditions I cherish, but looking outward. And almost -- well, I don’t want to say how many years later -- but now I see higher education as an even greater passport to opportunity and understanding.

So as we strive to facilitate that between our young people, we have to do more. We don’t want to just stand by and let it happen on its own because we believe strongly that investing in learning between us is in very much both of our interests.

The United States and India have a strong history of exchange. Last year we welcomed over 100,000 students from India to pursue college or graduate level study here. But we think the opportunities for collaboration are even greater. And particularly, we want to see more American students enrolling for academic credit at Indian institutions.

The United States government is fully committed to enhancing this academic cooperation. The Obama-Singh Initiative provides $10 million for increased university partnership and junior faculty development. The Fulbright Nehru Program has nearly tripled in size in the past three years, and we are proud that the United States now conducts more faculty exchanges with India than with any other country through this program. And with our new Passport to India Program we are working with the private sector to help more American students experience India through internships and service projects. We’ve expanded our Education USA advising services for Indian students and their families to provide information about opportunities for study, and frankly, to help you sort out misleading offers that come over the internet and we know flood into homes across India giving young Indian students the idea that a certain approach will work for them when in fact it is a dead end. We don’t want to see that happen. We want to see real exchanges with credible institutions and we will do everything we can to support that.

We’re also encouraging state and local officials in our country to engage with their counterparts in India to support educational cooperation and connection at every level.

So we’re going to continue to facilitate dialogues like this, but we’re asking you to develop direct connections -- faculty to faculty, student to student, business to business. And there are so many wonderful stories. I’m sure many of you could tell your own. But I want to end with this one because it really hits close to home in an area that I care deeply about.

A few years ago a small group of American and Indian classmates at Stanford University decided to work together to build a better baby incubator. 450 premature and low-weight babies die every hour, and traditional baby incubators can cost as much as $20,000. So the students developed the Embrace Baby Warmer, a portable incubator for use in poor and rural areas that doesn’t require electricity and only costs around $100. After graduating from Stanford this Indian and American team moved to Bangalore to continue working on their idea and launch their project and it’s now in use in hospitals in India and saving babies’ lives. Their goal is to save 100,000 babies by 2013.

This is a simple idea, born out of conversations between students from both of our countries, talking about shared hopes for a better world that led to action. And it took these American and Indian students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives working together to make it happen.

So I’d like to challenge all of us to jump-start these kinds of relationships and opportunities for cooperation today ,and there is no better way to do it than to brainstorm in the sessions this afternoon. To consider no idea off-limits, no outcome impossible, asking yourselves how can our universities deepen our collaboration and particularly our student and faculty exchanges, and how can we work more on research, and how can we set goals for ourselves that we then work toward meeting? How can the private sector and government help our educational institutions, help catalyze the workforce that will be needed in the 21st Century in both of our countries? What institutional barriers can we and should we break down? And how do we build forward?

We want our relationship between these two great democracies to be as interconnected as possible at every level. Yes, government to government, but that is just the beginning and is clearly not the most important of the lasting collaborations that we seek.

With that let me now invite to the podium my co-host for the summit, a very strong supporter for enhanced strategic and educational cooperation between our countries, Minister Sibal.

[Applause].

Minister Kapil Sibal: Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Robert Blake, President DeGioia, Ambassador Nirupama Rao, Presidents, Deans, Professors and distinguished delegates, and of course, students all gathered here.

This is my second visit to Georgetown. I was here a couple of years ago. Thank you very much for allowing us to be here this morning.

At the outset I wish to thank Secretary Clinton for facilitating this first-ever Higher Education Summit between the two largest democracies in the world. I recall that it was 11 months ago that Secretary Clinton and I recognized that education is one of the primary pillars of the India-U.S. Strategic Partnership. This Higher Education Summit is a culmination of that recognition.

It’s only through education that we hope to empower populations across the globe, to confront the challenges of the 21st Century. Without doubt, the U.S. defined the milestones of the 20th Century while India, as you Secretary Clinton described recently, is a defining story line of early 21st Century.

I also wish to welcome industry and academia to this summit. Without them the defining moments of tomorrow will be beyond our reach. The platforms that you create with our young will etch the contours of those defining moments.

The USA epitomizes excellence in education, innovation and research. Through fundamental research and visionary entrepreneurship you have fostered the emergence of new ecosystems for public good. We, on the other hand, are a nascent democracy, our young population almost the size of Europe is energetic, on the move, and full of hope.

The young are our future and we have a responsibility to create an appropriate environment to help them plan their future. We must help them face the challenges of tomorrow, to reshape the world in a global interconnected mutually dependent world. The way forward is through building partnerships. This historic summit will forge a new collaborative association in which our young can draw inspiration from your benchmarks of excellence in education and innovation, and channelize their energies for public good.

Today we dedicate our partnership for a better tomorrow.

The challenges of the 21st Century are qualitatively different from those in the past. They do not recognize national boundaries. They are truly global. No nation on its own can hope to confront them. Nations are defined by boundaries, but in the 21st Century nations will have to transcend them in thought, in action, for sustainable and affordable solutions.

Food security, global warming and the environment, demands on energy, water, security and physical and virtual spaces, health care, are all matters that we need to address together. Business as usual is a sure recipe for global disaster. The global economy will not be defined by financial flows in trade, but by global collaborative knowledge networks where ideas move seamlessly. The future of knowledge creation will emerge through partnerships for the common good. Social networks and resource sharing in cyberspace are precursors to the development of knowledge networks that will aim to address the problems of tomorrow. Technology has led to the death of distance. Partnerships would lead to the germination of knowledge.

Research and innovation will require collaboration of multiple knowledge partners. Those who have the capacity to create, share and apply new knowledge in cultures of mutual learning and continuous innovation. Creativity can flourish only in an environment where inquiry is encouraged and the status quo challenged. In this India and the U.S. with the democratic traditions, openness of thought, spirit of tolerance, rule of law, respect for institutions, and understanding of diversity are natural partners in our quest for lasting solutions.

Let me now outline very briefly the challenges that confront us in India. More than 100 million Indian youth; the combined labor forces of Britain, France, Italy and Spain are projected to join the workforce by 2020. This will be a great potential resource only if they are empowered with education and skills to leverage available global opportunities. If we fail to do this, our demographic advantage will be lost and our youth alienated. For us it is a fundamental imperative that our young have access to affordable quality education.

We must embrace these three principles. First, to provide for all our young access to educational opportunities. Second, reduce financial barriers to ensure access. Third, ensure quality with accountability.

The gross enrollment ratio in higher education in India is presently around 15 percent, about 10 percent below the world average. We shall endeavor to increase our GER to 30 percent by 2020. This would require us to provide for opportunities in higher education for an additional 30 million youth by 2020. To do that we will need to build an additional thousand universities and 50,000 colleges.

To serve these institutions we will require quality faculty of over a million assisted by quality support structures. The new demand for higher education in India is emerging from three groups that traditionally did not have easy access to higher education. The disadvantaged, the marginalized, women, and a rising lower middle class.

But this is only part of the picture. We in India to sustain our economic growth require the skilled workforce of 500 million people by 2022. As the center of gravity of global economic activity shifts towards Asia, this workforce can provide the basis for sustained economic growth. Besides with declining demographics around the world, the global community will require a suitably skilled workforce to serve its needs. Our demographic advantage could therefore become an integral part of the global workforce.

For imparting skills to our young we need to build a robust vocational education system that links education to the world of work. This requires the award qualifications of international standards accepted by industry globally. This will enable mobility of students across vocational and higher education. Students endowed with skill sets sought by industry globally, will serve then the needs of industry. We can draw from the experiences of community colleges in the U.S. as we proceed to develop the vocational education system in India.

Ladies and gentlemen, I also believe that the nature of delivery of educational services is changing rapidly. Technology has facilitated collaborative learning through the democratizing influence of the web. It may be too early to write the epitaph for the classroom, but the classrooms of the 21st Century will be different from those that served us in the past. The content of pedagogy too would be radically altered. The siloes that fragmented knowledge have already started collapsing. Customized learning across cultures will be the dominant theme of higher education.

We agree to open up the university as a learning space, embrace collaborative knowledge production, and break down the walls between institutions. I foresee a day where an engineering student from the Indian Institute of Technology can register for a liberal arts course offered by Yale, the President is sitting here, while simultaneously enrolling for an economics course at Stanford. The university as a physical entity may no longer remain the unit of learning space.

We together need to lay the foundation for this change. Our enduring partnership will define the future of education. Our relationship is unique. We must strengthen and deepen it. For this academia, industry and policy-makers must work together. Knowledge has no limits. Let our partnership dismantle the boundaries that limit us. That is our destiny. Let us embrace it. Thank you.

[Applause].

Ambassador Blake: That concludes our opening session. I’d like to ask all of you to give a warm round of applause for our two speakers.

[Applause].

If all of you could please stay seated, we’ll start the next panel momentarily. Thank you so much.



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