Working session of the Indian Leaders at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports
The Leaders Programme continued with a visit to the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, where the Leaders were welcomed by Federico Morán, Secretary General for Universities and Guillermo Cisneros, the Foundation’s Director General for International Development of Spanish Universities, Universidad.es. The meeting was also attended by Alonso Dezcallar, who gave some opening remarks to present the work of the Spain India Council Foundation.
Federico Morán, who as well as Secretary General for Universities, is also a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which provides him with some insight into the sector, gave an overview of higher education in Spain. “The Spanish education system is characterised by large public universities which are, with few exceptions, much stronger than private ones,” he emphasised. According to Morán, there have been reforms in the past few years to streamline the system, but those have not entailed structural changes, as has been the case in other European countries. The ultimate goal of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, he said, “focuses on a strategy to improve the internationalisation of our universities, which is currently taking place at a rate of 2%, with a plan to be released in the summer.”
Afterwards, Guillermo Cisneros focused his speech on the positioning of Spanish higher education internationally. Among its strengths, Cisneros pointed out that Spanish universities head up official rankings, with 30 universities among the top 200, 19 among the top 100 and 6 among the top 50 (QS. Shanghai & Taiwan). Additionally, he highlighted the fact that Spain ranks 9th by scientific publications and emphasised the importance of Spanish as the world’s second most widely spoken language. According to the Foundation’s Director General for International Development of Spanish Universities, Universidad.es, it is crucial to work on improving Spanish universities’ internationalisation rate, which stood at 2.5% in 2011, far from the EU average of 14%. “However, we have noticed some growth from the 1.23% registered in 2000,” he concluded.
The Indian Leaders showed an interest in the Government’s strategy and the changes proposed to streamline areas such as internationalisation. One of the issues that attracted the most attention during the exchange was related to the number of programmes taught in English, which is key, according to the Leaders, to attracting Indians to a country. Anustup Nayak, Vice President of XSEED Education, inquired about educational training in Spain. Morán admitted that the results of the PISA report could be put down to many causes, the quality of teachers being one of the top ones. “In Spain, high grades are not needed to access education degrees, which leads to top students going for Medicine, for example, but not wanting to become educators, and that has a knock-on effect on the entire system.”
The representatives of the Programme also wished to volunteer their views and experience on some topics. They suggested looking for ways to promote short-term exchange programmes to overcome the barriers Indians often encounter to study a full programme in Spain. Their experience in the Indian education sector would suggest that Indian students would be more likely to study abroad for six months than for a full year. Vidya Yeravdekar, Principal Director of Symbiosis Society, also emphasised the importance Spanish, which is currently one of the most popular languages in the country, is gaining for Indian students. Yeravdekar also confirmed the scarcity of native Spanish teachers in Indian schools and said that, in her opinion, the Spanish Government should work on this to drive penetration in India.