More than 300 courses have been taught by foreign faculty in 100 higher education institutes across the country since November last year under the Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) initiative of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
Since the inception of GIAN in June 2014, 736 courses have been approved by the GIAN committee, out of which 336 were delivered by October this year. The approximate value of the courses delivered under GIAN since November last year and involving an outreach to over 17,000 students, is estimated at Rs 1.68 crore. Praising the initiative, a source in the MHRD close to the GIAN initiative said, “This is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country that has allowed some renowned professors across the world to come and educate Indian students on subjects that are relevant to researchers here. Every day, more courses are being approved and delivered at institutes.” The GIAN initiative was started by former HRD Minister Smriti Irani to tap the international talent pool of scientists and entrepreneurs. Irani had then explained that a system of “guest lectures” by internationally and nationally renowned experts would be evolved along with a comprehensive Faculty Development Programme not only for new IITs, IIMs, IISERs, but also other institutions in the country.
So far, the major beneficiaries of the GIAN initiative have been the IITs and the NITs, apart from the Central universities, but the ministry has assured that there would be a gradual increase in the outreach of GIAN to various other institutes. Apart from popular scientific research projects on robotics, energy, mechanical engineering and space technology, some contemporary subjects on which various faculty from across the world were invited by Indian institutes included urban development with special focus on smart cities, renewable energy use for industrial purposes, sustainable development, waste management and start-ups.
A ministry source said, “Most of these latter subjects are the ones where India lags behind the rest of the world. We need to adapt more technologies and efficient ones at that, to tackle waste management. This is one field where Indian researchers need to look at systems in developed nations and improvise them here. For courses on renewable energy, faculty from the US, Malaysia, Italy and United Kingdom were invited.
An interesting pattern in the 336 courses delivered by October this year was of indigenous subjects being taught by foreign educators to Indian students. A course on Hindi language was taught at Shivaji University by Dr Alessandra Consolaro, an Italian professor. Notably, Dr Consolaro has been researching on Hindi since 1980 and is an expert in South Asian language and literature and she can speak 10 languages. Another course on the influence of Srinivasa Ramanujan was taught by Prof Bruce C. Berndt, Department of Mathematics, University of Illinois, US, at Tezpur University, Assam. Prof Bruce C. Berndt is an award-winning researcher on the works of Ramanujan.Another star faculty to teach non-technical subjects under GIAN is Prof David Shulman, a renowned Indologist at Hebrew University, Jerusalem, who is credited for developing studies on Indian culture and language in Israel.
R. Subrahmanyam, Additional Secretary (Technical Education), Department of Higher Education, MHRD, explained, “To ensure that there is no wastage of resources and every professor who comes to teach under GIAN is worth it, a three-level screening process is followed. The rejection rate for over 1,000 proposals that were received by various institutes in the country was 40%.”