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Educational News Today
Thursday, Jan 07, 2010
GATS will create dualism in education: Ekbal

Thiruvananthapuram: The provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) will create a new dualism — the foreign versus the Indian — in the nation’s education sector, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Kerala B. Ekbal said here on Wednesday.

This can lead to complications in a country where educational dualism, in terms of the rich and the poor and the private versus the public, is already a reality, Dr. Ekbal said while presenting a paper on ‘Science and technology challenges in the globalised environment’ at the University Meet organised as part of the ongoing 97the Indian Science Congress on the University of Kerala’s Karyavattom campus here.
Article XVII of the GATS agreement — the national treatment clause — that mandates equal treatment to foreign and domestic educational institutions puts at risk the concept of education as a ‘public good.’ Under this clause, if the government gives a subsidy to an Indian university, it would have to extend the same to a foreign university which can set up a centre here under the ‘commercial presence’ mode under GATS.

Not only could education get costlier under GATS, the national education priorities would be in danger of getting sidelined. A corporate takeover of the public sector as a whole cannot be ruled out as a provision in GATS says that once a service is privatised and put under this agreement, it can never be taken back to the public sphere. The result will be the decline of traditional universities, Dr. Ekbal warned.

Developing countries should demand restrictions on the ‘commercial presence’ mode of trade in education and should press for the removal of the ‘national treatment’ clause. They should also see to it that water, health and education are kept outside the purview of GATS.

On the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) front, patenting of research tools and speculative patenting will harm research in universities, he said. When research becomes big business priorities can get skewed and there is the possibility of institutions engaging in ‘contract research,’ Dr. Ekbal said.

Some provisions of the Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill-2008, including the clause that provides for compulsory IPR protection for all research outcomes having commercial potential, will be counter-productive to the academia, he said. IPR protection should be non-mandatory and a culture of operating through the public domain using Open Source and Open Innovation models should be promoted, he added.
Courtesy: The Hindu
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