Community Colleges in India

From day one of my fellowship I had been hearing rumors there would be a conference on community colleges in India. Little did I know I would end up on the planning committee and ultimately serve as the conference’s emcee; but during my fellowship in India I have come to expect the unexpected and continue to stay as open as possible to what tomorrow may bring.

Feb 6 and 7 in Dehli at the Ashok Hotel the Ministry for Human Resource Development (MHRD) hosted the International Conference on Community Colleges in India.  This conference was the culmination of an announcement made in Sept, 2012 that India, under the leadership of the MHRD would open 200 community colleges. The vision for these colleges is not that they be brand new buildings with new course offerings but that they usher in a new era of educational access in India. The concept of these pilot colleges is that education pathway will be added into existing educational institutions to enable those traditionally outside the system of higher education to gain access. The conference was a chance to bring together over 500 people from 7 countries (USA, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia and India). It was an opportunity for dialogue about how community colleges are operationalize in other countries and what from these systems might work for implementation in India.

The idea of community colleges in India is one that I fervently believe in. Educational systems should be about equal opportunity and second chances, I am personally the product of a community college in the US and were it not for the option to attend that community college my educational opportunities would have been limited. The passion I have for the concept of community colleges has only grown during my tenure of work in India – But the gray has begun to creep in. The idea that equal access to education is a sample black and white concept proves not to be the case. How do you create such a system in a society which has historically unequal practices and attitudes? How do you overcome the idea that in many rural regions women are not permitted to be in school, not expected or encourage to gain and education or to go to work. How do you address the fact that the legacy of the caste system calls into question who has a right to be in the classroom, who has a right to learn. Policy is not something which exists in isolation from culture – and the culture of education is India is far that which is embodied in the concept of a community college. Can it work here? Absolutely. Will it work here? Maybe. Will 200 pilot colleges be launched by July? Likely not. But I hope the dialogue started at this conference proves to be the beginning of a movement and of a new era of education in India.

I am so proud I was able to stand with those from around India who are dedicated to bringing educational opportunity and access across this county. Attending and being a part of this conference was a true honor and without doubt the highlight of my fellowship to date.

Read more about the movement for Community Colleges in India:
Articles on the Conference:
“Mismatch between education and industry’s needs”
“Government to Open 200 Community Colleges”

General Resources on Community Colleges in India:
The Indian Centre for Research and Development of Community Education
OP Jindal Community Colleges

Enjoying Tea with Rev. Dr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J, the Father of Community Colleges in India and Director of ICRDCE

Gayatri Eassey is committed to making an impact and a difference in her community both in the United States and in India, both personally and professionally. She is passionate about education, democracy and women's empowerment. She enjoys traveling, taking pictures and spending time with friends and family. She is a dedicated advocate for educational equity and has worked for The College Success Foundation and as Associate Director for External Affairs for Seattle University's Career Services Office. She is the former Interim Executive Director for Career Services at Seattle University. Prior to working at Seattle University she served as Executive Director of City Year Seattle, and as special assistant for boards and commissions in the Office of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. She spent three years on the Seattle Community College Board of Trustees. She was the co-founder of the YWCA's Gen-Rising Committee, committed to engaging more young people in the critical work of the YWCA. Her additional experience includes work as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Amman, Jordan, preparing women to run for elective office. She has also served as political director for the Washington State Democrats. She recently completed a fellowship with the National Urban Fellows, America's Leaders of Change. She is a former board member for the Center for Women and Democracy, the Institute for a Democratic Future, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Network. She was the Statewide President of the Young Democrats of Washington and a Fellow with the World Affairs Council of Seattle. She earned her MBA in 2012 and hopes to align her government and nonprofit background with her business education to support public private partnerships which provide mutual benefit and strengthen communities.

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