Newsletter, Novembro, November, 2013
BRAZIL-INDIA UNIVERSITY INTERCHANGE.
"The establishment of academic ties between the two countries is important for building knowledge that can cater for a common demand from both societies: balanced and consistent social, economic and political development. In such relationship, the exchange of experiences and the joint production of knowledge reinforce and broaden integrative South-South trends and afford elements for a self-sustained growth."
by Edgard Leite Ferreira Neto
Associate Professor, Rio de Janeiro State University. Full Member, Brazilian Academy of Philosophy
(Originally published em FRPC Journal, v. 2012, p. 57-66, 2012.)
Brazil and India face similar challenges in the higher education field. These countries share the strategic goal of building university institutions capable of producing knowledge and forming qualified managerial and technical personnel.
The creation of such institutions is fundamental, not only from the technical and scientific innovation perspective, but also for the formation of the necessary personnel for the modernization of the private sector, as well as for public policies. Both Brazil and India lack superior and efficient managerial models, which are appropriate for societies whose demands have increased and become increasingly complex.
Such relevance of universities in contemporary societies demands, as defined by André Béteille, an awareness of their role as involved in the “search for science and academic excellence, by means of disciplined teaching and research” (Béteille: 18). A university of this nature, however, must have a university policy, and that is not acquired overnight.
Other strategic goals, however, are associated with the university’s. Large investments must be made (and have indeed been made by both countries in the last decades) to bring about the necessary changes in the educational system as a whole, by reinforcing or nurturing a scientific culture that values the productive process of scientific knowledge.
Such investments cannot be made in a short period of time and demand long-term public policies for the educational and scientific areas, which are part of a national development project.
The building of a solid university structure, as proven by Western European and American experiences, is necessary for the societies that intend to be protagonists in the world or intend to reduce their level of dependence on powerful countries, i.e., on countries of superior economic, financial or military strength.
A number of national experiences in Asia, Africa and Latin America dating back from the Nineteenth Century were only possible because they did not neglect such perspective, i.e., that of building a solid context for academic production, which is seen as one of the priorities of State policies.
In India, the organization of an advanced university structure preceded the emergence of an independent country. The first decisions towards the building of a local university structure, according to European models, date back to the colonial period, from 1855-1857 (Gupta: 29) and during the British government an extensive legislation on the matter established several pioneering universities.
Despite the fact that such universities derived from the social upgrading of a specific sector, i.e., “the anglicized middle class”, the “babus”, as much as a “qualitatively microscopic”, “highly inadequate” and “dysfunctional” system (Sharma: 17), they established, at least, the basis for an academic tradition (Sharma: 18).
The actors in the process of independence through which India went did not neglect the need to establish a consistent university policy that allowed academic progress in the country. The foundation of the University Grants Commission, a process that began in 1953, which is still an essential factor in the organization and financing of India university structure, was the result of a series of innovating political-administrative actions.
Among other pioneering actions, it is worth mentioning the role played, for instance, by the University Education Commission (1948-1949), which was directed by the notable Indian philosopher and intellectual Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975). As he well put it, universities are like “sanctuaries of the inner life of the nation” (apud Sharma: 109).
The history of university structures in Brazil presents a somewhat different context. Our colonial experience was generally marked by Portugal’s insistence in thwarting university development in the colony, as well as restricting academic experiences in its own universities, particularly at Coimbra University.
The lack of a local university culture gave rise to a scenario of low professional qualification for administrative and managerial personnel, a condition that went on after the independence process in 1822. Between 1822 and 1889 there was no significant movement by the ruling sectors of the society towards providing the country with an authentic university.
A choice was made to establish only higher education professional schools, which, as pointed out by one of the great thinkers of our higher education system, Anísio Teixeira (1900-1971), caused the deterioration of not only the quality of the country’s work force but also the whole process of teachers’ education (Teixeira: 149).
The country’s first universities to deserve such a title, or, in other words, with a proper university legislation, were only to be founded in 1934, i.e., the University of Sao Paulo, in 1935, the Federal District University, founded by Anísio Teixeira and, in 1937, the University of Brasil.
It should be added, however, that authentic post-graduate courses that followed international theoretical and methodological standards only began to emerge in the country after the issuing of the “Sucupira Report” by the Federal Council for Education in 1965 (Leite, 2001) (Fávero, 2007).
There is, however, a distinction between Brazil and India, in terms of the history of their universities. This can be measured when we compare the data concerning scientific production in both countries at the onset of the 21st Century.
According to UNESCO report from 2010, the number of scientific researchers working full time in Brazil in 2007 amounted to 133,266, which meant a total of 694 per million inhabitants (UNESCO: 489). In India, this figure was 154,827 scientists, which made up only 137 per million inhabitants (UNESCO: 496).
However, notwithstanding such quantitative disparity favouring Brazil, there is an apparent reverse productive relationship, for, in 2008, Brazil produced 26,482 scientific publications (UNESCO: 498), whereas India produced 36,261 (UNESCO: 501). Besides, in terms of patents granted, an important indicator of the research-development relation is the fact that India had 679 patents granted in 2009, as compared to Brazil, which only had 103. India’s productive curve, as refers to this aspect, has an extraordinary progression, for it departed from a relatively modest 131 patents granted in 2000 (UNESCO: 113).
This seems to indicate that the quality of academic education in India, even though it is not significant in quantitative terms – if we take into account the size of its population – gives rise to higher objectivity and productivity in terms of innovation and development. It is probably due not only to the history of universities in India, but also to the wealth and solidity of the country’s intellectual tradition.
It comes as no surprise the fact that universities in Brazil are part of the recent history since the country is itself extremely young. The intense development we experienced in academic life in the last decades, however, stands as evidence of our intellectual motivation to develop and consolidate a substantial academic life.
Both university systems, however, independently of their different qualities, are inserted into countries that face serious problems concerning social exclusion, which lead to a significant limitation of the scope of the social insertion or influence academic contexts can have. Higher education in both countries present problems concerning radical regional concentrations, imbalance in terms of men’s and women’s participation in academic life, as well as those related to specific issues of exclusion of social sectors.
Both in India and in Brazil, for instance, the setting up of affirmative policies, as well as the establishment of quota systems have been considered by politicians and university directors as one viable alternative towards the democratization of higher education. In India, this process was sped up from the seventies onwards (Béteille: 5). In Brazil, it has been a strong trend since the onset of the current century.
Undoubtedly, it would be interesting to carry out a comparative research of the development of both processes, as well as their effects on knowledge production and consolidation at university level. However, as noted by André Beteille, “the rate of inclusion cannot be the only measure” of the success experienced by a given university. That is because even though it must be socially inclusive, in terms of a “centre for teaching and research it must be academically discriminating” (Béteille: 16), that is, it must encourage researchers’ meritocratic promotion.
However, the importance of affirmative policies in the higher education system apparently lies more in enforcing inclusion policies in the basic levels of teaching for “in America and in Europe societies have become more socially inclusive as a result of basic teaching development”. (Béteille: 18). In other words, considering the disseminating role played by universities, their change towards scientific development demands that the educational system as a whole follows such transformative process. In this respect Brazil and India face the same challenges.
Such dilemmas occur in both countries, which turn university dialogical relationship into an interaction between countries that emerge from a context marked by persistent inequalities and that seek, also by means of empowering their universities, a new level of development. This goes far beyond a necessary academic dialogue.
In 2008, Brazil and India presented similar rates of scientific publications in international cooperation, respectively 6,637 and 6,541 (UNESCO: 510-513). It is evident that both countries should increment their joint knowledge production. Currently, the strengthening of international academic links has been seen as one of the most important developments of university experiences.
As Paul Snow puts it, “the clash between... two cultures – or two galaxies – brings about creative changes. Along the history of mental activity it is from here that changes occur” (apud Repko: 30). As conflicts are globalized, the responses to them cannot neglect international experiences.
The strengthening of ties between Brazil and India has been considered by both parties as a strategic priority. Since the “New Deli Declaration”, on 27th January 2004, a number of integration instruments have been created, initially in the commercial sphere, which point at the need for cooperation in research and innovation areas.
When the 2006 IBAS Meeting took place in Brasília, the two countries established cooperation agreements in the scientific and technological fields. In 2007, in the “Red Fort Declarations”, such strategic links were strengthened, notably in cooperation areas such as economy, space research, defense, culture and academic interchange.
The establishment of academic ties between the two countries is important for building knowledge that can cater for a common demand from both societies: balanced and consistent social, economic and political development.
In such relationship, the exchange of experiences and the joint production of knowledge reinforce and broaden integrative South-South trends and afford elements for a self-sustained growth.
According to Pamela Eddy, there are two basic types of international cooperation: one characterized by “internationalization at home” and the other that implies a “border crossing” (Eddy: 2010). Taking into consideration the dynamics involved in the relations between India and Brazil, we believe that the border-crossing model is superior from the academic perspective, as it can, from an institutional perspective, foster mutual benefits to universities in Brazil and India. Such benefits derive from an established understanding (Tubbeh and Williams, 2010). Without such condition, any cooperation program of this kind ceases to have significance (Tedrow and Maloleka, 2007).
Such relationship dimension can imply a number of goals, but they basically involve a “program for exchange of professors and students” or the “opportunities to study abroad, engage in joint research, the offering of international graduate courses and distance learning programs” (Tubbeh and Williams, 2010).
Considering the innumerable possibilities available in this field (Eggins, 2003) (Labi, 2009) (De Wit, 2003), as well as the particularities involved (mainly the lack of a common language, which restricts interactive possibilities), we trust in the feasibility of the following objectives:
Regular or special courses taught by professors of both institutions in the respective post-graduate or graduate programs (preferably in English, in India, or with simultaneous translation in Brazil).
Acceptance of graduate and post-graduate students on regular or special courses in the respective graduate and post-graduate programs.
Building of specific research projects that involve researchers from both countries.
Marilyn Amey points at three necessary steps for the establishment of a successful international partnership, which we believe are appropriate for academic relations between Brazil and India.
The parties must dedicate themselves to a joint discussion of the antecedents, as well as the motivation for the involvement and the context of the partnership.
The parties must discuss the partnership itself, as well as the precise nature of their objectives.
The parties must make a joint evaluation of the project’s sustainability both from an academic (in terms of the possible content vis-a-vis the professors and researchers availability) and a financial perspective (Amey, 2010) (see also Amey, Eddy and Ozaki, 2007 and Ozaki, Amey and Watson, 2007).
Such procedures demand a strong participation by teachers, institutions and funding agencies, so as to allow the establishment and deepening of university interaction between Brazil and India. Such process is still very incipient and must go on for the next years so we can experience development together in an ever-changing world.
At this point, it is worth quoting the Kothari Commission report, from 1966, which says that the goal of university is, among others, “to seek and cultivate new knowledge... to provide society with competent men and women trained in agriculture, arts, medicine, science and technology and various other professions, ... to promote equality and social justice ... through diffusion of education” (apud Sharma: 120).
Such goals bring us together, as well as our nations’ greater causes in the higher education field.
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