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Build Academic Bridges with Iran

12:00 AM May 17, 2024 IST | M.A.SHAH
build academic bridges with iran
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Erstwhile, Regional Engineering College (REC) Srinagar has many notable alumni across the globe including from Iran and other parts of the Middle East. The former Member of Parliament of Iran, Er Danesh-Davoud Jaffari, who graduated in Civil Engineering during early eighties along with his Iranian classmates have left an everlasting impression.

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Iranian students find Indian culture interesting and exciting. Presently, around 8000 Iranian students are studying in India and are beneficiaries of many schemes and scholarships. India is the second largest network of higher education and the third largest reserve of scientific and technical manpower across the globe. It has undergone a rapid expansion in recent years.

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According to Survey on Higher Education in 2020, there are 1043 Universities out of which 396 universities are privately managed and 420 universities are located in rural area, 17 universities are exclusively for women (J&K also needs one) and number of Institutes of National Importance, including IITs, NITs, IIMs and IISERs, all well-coordinated by Ministry of Education (MoE), an umbrella organization.

Iran has been ranked ninth out of 235 countries in terms of the number of medical and engineering schools. Medical education in Iran is a sturdy phenomenon and is flourishing with time, despite the eight-year war with Iraq and 30 years of sanctions including three economic sanctions. The entire health system is managed by a combined ministry of health and medical education.

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As a result of this, the universities in each province are responsible for looking after public health care in the province, both in terms of providing human resource training and in terms of managing the public health system. About 5000 doctors graduate every year and all graduates are required to do two years community service, largely in rural health centres.

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The state of art medical colleges have marvellous laboratories and well-designed libraries, though we too have a rich history of medicine, which is recorded in sacred literature. Scientists and scholars working on many challenging projects and problems are worth to be appreciated and need to be approached for joint collaborations.

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History has repeatedly acknowledged and admired the contributions of Iranian scientists to mankind and humanity. I have the privilege of meeting a number of scientists working in various fields of science including medical and engineering education. Competent, contended and courteous faculty in various universities were so welcoming, that can’t be expressed in simple words.

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In fact, I am short of words for Prof Hamid and Prof Hussein of Semnan University, where I was supposed to speak to students and faculty. On way to University, one mathematician told that he is a student of Prof K K Dewan, a prominent mathematician of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, my Alma Matter.

The same warm treatment was in other universities like, Sharief University where Dr. Khanjani and prominent faculty of Nanotechnology Centre have left an unforgettable impression. I am equally grateful to the faculty of  Medical Nanotechnology of TUMS and IUST for their hospitality and warm reception. Dr. Yonis Bhat who has dual citizenship, hails from Srinagar has been guiding and coordinating between institutions and parents meticulously, particularly during exigencies.

The relations between India and Iran go back to the ancient civilizations of Indus Valley and people are believed to have imported silver, copper, and lapis lazuli from Persia and Afghanistan. Iran supplied silver, gold, lead, zinc, and turquoise to ancient India. Iran has one of the largest deposits of crude oil and natural gas in the world, which we can tap for meeting energy needs, one of the top most issues in future.

The Iranian Revolution in 1979 introduced a new phase of engagement between India and Iran marked by exchange of high level visits of Indian Prime Minister Shri Narasimha Rao in September 1993, Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in April 1995 and Indian Vice President Shri K. R. Narayanan in October 1996. The trend was consolidated and enhanced at the turn of the millennium with visits by Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2001 and a return visit by President Mohammad Khatami in 2003, when he was also the Chief Guest at the Republic Day function. Full of virtues, the blessed country which shares several features in culture and traditions was also sharing border with our country till 1947.

The academic relations between the two countries need to be further strengthened and developed particularly in science and technology for the benefit of young generations of both the countries. Under National Education Policy (NEP-2020), the Indian government has taken various initiatives to enhance internationalization in the education sector, such as launching international collaborations, creating study abroad opportunities, and increasing foreign faculty recruitment.

These efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of foreign students coming to India for higher education. Moreover, the internationalization of education in India has had many positive impacts, including enhancing the quality of education, promoting cultural exchange, and improving research collaborations.

There is a scope that the academic institutions of the two countries can have functional Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for exchange of students, faculty and can even establish the branches of some prominent institutions. I have seen many students from Jammu and Kashmir receiving Medical Education in various Medical Colleges in Iran, the prominent ones are: Dr. Mubashir, Dr. Aneesa, Dr. Mediha and many others.

It needs to be expanded and further flourished, as awesome Medical infrastructure with clean breezes of air like that of Gulmarg-Kashmir have capacity to admit bright students from different parts of the world. Nonetheless there are little challenges that need to be addressed, such as language barriers and means of communications and connectivity. The Government of Jammu and Kashmir need to explore possibilities of having direct flights at least to Iran, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

In Dubai, we have many campuses including of BITS Pilani, and NIT Srinagar was also having an idea of establishing one; the proposal was shelved for unknown reasons. The Persian language remained the official language of Jammu and Kashmir for about 750 years and during the period it influenced culture, art and regional languages and due to which Kashmir is known as, Iran-e-Sageer – mini Iran.

The Iranian consulates in New Delhi and Indian Consulates in Tehran may play vital role and pave the way to strengthen the bonds between institutions and universities of repute. Heads of the universities and institutions should smoothen the way for making functional MoUs. Even School Education can avail number of benefits between mutual exchange of students and teachers. Many educated consultants can extend support in identifying schools from both countries for exchange programs and for experiential learning.

The author is former Head, PG Department of Physics; NIT Srinagar.

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