India, Australia sign deal to expand education ties

India, Australia sign deal to expand education ties

Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibai (L) and Australia's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Julia Gillard (R) speak during a press conference after signing a Joint Ministerial Statement to build on the cooperative ties between the two nations in the education sector, in Melbourne on Thursday. AFP

The deal was signed as Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal met Australian Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard here, their second meeting in six months.
Under the deal, the two sides agreed to set up a joint education council and to extend exchanges in the field of education.

"The fact that I am here suggests we want to take the relationship forward, it does not mean that we are not concerned about what's happening here," Sibal told reporters.
An India-Australia Education Council comprising experts from both sides will be formed and a joint ministerial statement has been signed to expand the education exchange programme.

Over 100 cases of attacks on Indians were reported last year in Australia, including the murder of 21-year-old Nitin Garg, straining ties between the two countries.
They also led to the Indian government issuing a travel advisory asking students to exercise caution while in Australia, and were followed by a flurry of high-profile visits by Australian dignitaries, including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, to India.
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On the issue of the travel advisory, Sibal said: "The advisory obviously was given at a point in time when the incidents were at a height... students are still coming to Australia, we have not prevented them".

Sibal and Gillard were meeting after six months and the former said he believed the attacks on Indians had declined."I think the Australian government is taking strong steps in that direction to prevent those things happening," he said.The impact of the attacks was visible as the number of Indians seeking admissions to Australian institutes plummeted last year, from 6303 to 3761, a 40 per cent decline as compared to the previous year.

The federal education department also revealed recently that international student numbers were down nationally three per cent and 12 per cent in Victoria.
"For an Indian family that sends a young person to this country a long way from home, they want to know that their young person is going to be safe, get a good experience, a great education and they're going to be able to go back home and use those skills," Gillard said, assuring Sibal of action.

Gillard said the government would toughen up regulation of education colleges through a "re-registration process" following problems with international students not getting proper qualifications.Sibal said the Right to Education Act in India and the government's objective of increasing the number of university and vocational training students, open up "enormous opportunities" for Australian educational institutes.

"It's in that context we are reaching out to Australia, saying you have enormous opportunities in India to partner with us at the school, vocational education and training level, higher education and research level," Sibal said."It's very important for both of us at the two ends to develop the skills which allow our human resources to take advantage," he added.

Earlier in the morning, Sibal attended a breakfast meeting with community leaders here, and later in the afternoon he met officials of the Victorian government, including Brumby.
He is scheduled to attend a reception this evening, expected to be attended by several community leaders and other officials.

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