Internationalisation of education is not a new concept, in India. However, I do ponder upon the relevance of internationalisation in higher education. I think of the times when thousands of years ago, India had some wonderful universities such as Takshashila, Nalanda and Vikramshila that attracted foreign scholars from all across the world. Why did foreign students want to come to India? What did India have to offer that foreign students wanted to study? Even today, why does a foreign student want to come to India to study? Is it because of the quality of education that India offers? Is it because Indian education is affordable that students want to come here or is it something more? I would say that it is much more than just these two aspects. It is the rich cultural diversity of India that beckons foreign students to India.
In our classrooms we teach about several problems that students need to find solutions to. When we talk about research it is also about solving societal problems with innovation. When we talk about diversity and inclusion in our classrooms we look at theoretical solutions. But India as a country is almost like a laboratory for several societal problems that students can find solutions to. It is a laboratory of diversity and inclusivity which are an intrinsic part of the Indian culture.
India’s diversity is astounding, with variations in language, food, cultural practices, and more as you move from one state to another. For foreign students, this diversity is a captivating experience. Even a short journey from one Indian state to another can reveal significant differences in language, food, and culture. Yet, despite this diversity, India remains united. Foreign students notice this inclusivity, which is deeply ingrained in Indian culture.
Inclusivity is a fundamental aspect of Indian culture. The impulse to share and help those in need is inherent in Indians. It is amazing for international students to see this aspect of our culture where we are inclusive.
As Indian students we should also reap the benefits of what we have. We need to feel proud of our culture, our diversity, our inherent inclusiveness, our respect for women and gender. Many stories have been narrated in our age-old mythologies about these aspects. Instead of Indian students trying to emulate the West, they should be proud of their own culture.
Foreign students who came to ancient Indian universities sought to experience this diversity and inclusivity to shape their personalities and leadership skills. They wanted to learn from different people, families, and communities, which enriched their understanding of the world. They wanted to imbibe the best practices so that when they go back to their countries and become leaders they are in a better position to understand the community that they live in. Thousands of foreign alumni of Symbiosis, living all across the world who feel very proud that they have studied in India and they have carried their experience of diversity and inclusion that they learnt in India, and has helped them become better individuals and better leaders.
I hope that youth of our country realize the benefits of our rich cultural diversity and imbibe the values of inclusivity in diversity, and emerge as global leaders with broad perspectives and minds.