Leaders of the new Azim Premji University (APU) looked around the world for partners that could help them create a high-quality graduate school of education in India.
They chose one institution in the United States based on its expertise and commitment to social purpose: the College of Education at Michigan State University.
Since then, MSU education professors have conducted faculty workshops and reviewed curriculum for two master’s degree programs (in education and teacher education) expected to be offered at the campus in Bangalore, India. Classes began during Summer 2011.
“We see this as really a long-term collaboration,” APU Vice Chancellor Anurag Behar said during a recent visit to East Lansing. “MSU has the expertise available, and we were also interested in collaborating with an institution that has deep roots thinking about their work within the world of reality.”
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The new university is funded by one of India’s richest billionaires, Azim Premji, and operated by his foundation, which has a strong record of educational reform and development projects across the nation. Despite the scope of its population and education system, Behar said India only produces approximately 100 advanced-level graduates in the field of education each year.
APU aims to enroll up to 3,000 students within the next five years.
“Their goal is to make this new university a world-class school of education in terms of its capability to do educational research and prepare educational leaders,” said John (Jack) Schwille, assistant dean for international studies in the MSU College of Education.
MSU’s land-grant tradition matches strongly with the values the Azim Premji Foundation holds regarding the creation of a just and equitable society.
“In the judgment of the foundation, no existing school of education in India has had the sort of capability needed to address pressing educational needs of the country, and especially among the huge, disadvantaged parts of the population,” Schwille said.
Punya Mishra, a professor of educational psychology and educational technology at MSU, led efforts to establish the relationship with APU and serves as principal investigator on the project.
He said traditional Indian education is talk-driven and focuses on theoretical lectures, note taking and testing. Azim Premji University hopes to break the mold and implement active learning through research and actual practice.
The sharing of knowledge among faculty from APU and MSU could ultimately extend to include student exchange trips and joint research efforts.
“This project is proving that a country like India and organizations like APF and MSU can work together as partners toward a common goal of improving teacher education and fostering the professional development of teachers around the globe,” Mishra said.
APU also is consulting with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
Visit azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in for more information.