New Delhi: Spain may have been recently in the news for supplying C-295 tactical transport aircraft to the Indian Air Force, but cooperation between the two nations extends beyond strategic sectors.
As Jose Maria Ridao, Ambassador of Spain to India, informed IANS during an interview, his government is in talks with state governments in India to introduce Spanish as a language option in government schools.
The Ambassador said that the government of West Bengal has shown serious interest in the possibility in government schools in Kolkata. Delhi already has 10 teachers funded by the Spanish government to teach the language in government schools. And the Embassy of Spain has initiated a conversation in this regard with the Government of Punjab.
Excerpts from the interview:
IANS: What are some of the initiatives that Spain is taking to attract Indian students to educational institutions in your country?
A: We had a meeting with Spanish nationals in India and our new education attache said to them that we have a programme to assist Indian students. This is very important, although it is not a new programme, but we are launching a new strategy to offer opportunities to students to go to Spain.
IANS: You must have heard about India's New Education Policy. What do you think about it?
A: Yes, of course, we are aware of the New Education Policy. We respect it and we are ready to participate in it in any way we can.
IANS: Do you think it will help further educational ties between India and Spain?
A: We are trying to offer Spanish as a language to be taught in government schools across India, if possible. We are ready to roll it out in the states that accept this idea.
We had a delegation consisting of officials from our Ministry of Education and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Instituto Cervantes come here to study a little bit more about the possibilities of offering the Spanish language in government schools in India. I am happy to report that the Government of West Bengal has shown an interest in the idea of introducing Spanish as a language option in government schools in Kolkata.
IANS: Apart from West Bengal, have you contacted other states and have they shown any interest
A: Yes, we are in advanced stages of talks with the Government of Delhi. In fact, in Delhi, we have 10 teachers supported by our government who teach Spanish in government schools. We have established contacts with the Government of Punjab.
IANS: Why should Indian students learn Spanish?
A: Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world. Apart from numbers, Spanish also has a vast geographical reach at its command. If you know Spanish, you will be at home not only in Spain, but also in much of Latin America. That is a good reason to study Spanish because you don't have to think only about the possibility of becoming a teacher of Spanish. Students must also look at the increasing number of companies doing business with Spain and Latin America companies coming to India. These companies offer a lot of opportunities for Spanish-speaking young men and women. Spain is also considering the possibility of introducing Indian language programmes in Spanish schools.
IANS: Like Spanish, India, too, has diverse languages with a rich heritage. Are educational institutions in your country considering the possibility of teaching Indian languages as well?
A: We believe that it will be wonderful if we open up opportunities for the teaching of Hindi or Bengali or other Indian languages in Spain. Our responsibility here as an embassy, however, is to promote the Spanish language in India, but we will also tell our Indian friends that the doors are open for them to go to Spain and promote their own languages.
IANS: Are you enabling more Indian students to study in Spain?
A: Yes, we offer around 1,500 visas to Indian students each year. And we will be delighted to increase the number not only because they receive grants or help to go there, but also because we have so many universities that are placed very high in global rankings.
IANS: What kind of courses are Spanish institutions providing to Indian students?
A: Apart from language courses, we offer quality education to aspiring engineers, architects and doctors. We feel many Indians do not know Spain that well. It is a very well-concealed secret in the sense that when many Indians think about Spain, they think about bullfighting and flamenco. Yes, these are very important parts of our life and heritage, but our country also has much to offer in science and technology, which is what Indian companies discover when they move to Spain.
We have, for instance, the best system of organ transplants in the world. We have the second largest network of high-speed trains, which we are selling to the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. In the defence sector, we export C-295 tactical transport aircraft to India and other countries, and our warships and submarines to Australia and the UK.
IANS: Are Spanish universities planning to establish campuses in India?
A: In Spain, we have focused mainly on government-run universities because for us, it was important to give all citizens equal opportunities to pursue higher education. Some of these, like Salamanca, are among the world's oldest surviving universities.
Students at these universities have the option of either paying for their education or getting government support. The level of these government-run universities is very high. Some of these are among the top universities of the world in global rankings.
Private universities started only recently and these are the institutions that show an interest in opening campuses outside Spain. Our role as an embassy is to inform them about any show of interest from the Indian side and then it is up to them to take the matter forward.
IANS: Earlier, Indian students faced accommodation-related issues. What is the situation today?
A: Yes, we are conscious of this problem. Once again, it is because we have different systems. In Spain, university campuses are different. But we have universities that offer accommodation. These are summer universities, which are open from July to September, and in October, they offer specialised courses for students and professionals. At this time of the year, and for these courses, these universities usually offer accommodation for students.