Sunaina SinghIndia conjures up many images but she is so much more than the land of the untouchables, snake charmers, or the Taj Mahal. On Wednesday morning, guest speaker Sunaina Singh, distinguished professor of English at Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, and president of Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, provided participants with an in-depth overview of India and the ways in which diversity impacts how we approach international education and exchange with India.

Singh’s presentation, Explore India: Democracy, Diversity, Divinity, covered the meaning of religion, culture, languages (India has 22 official languages), economic development and the knowledge community, and higher education, noting that it’s critical to understand the tremendous advances India has made in recent years as one of Asia’s tiger economies.

While India has the third-largest higher education system in the world after China and the United States, Singh noted that it has not been able to move quickly to groom world-class knowledge workers, and that the country must raise the quality of its higher education institutions.

Are institutions in India prepared to accept foreign students? asked a session attendee. “The aim now is to have an international curriculum to attract international students,” Singh said.

Singh also noted that a foreign providers bill was finally passed by the Indian government in March 2010 after five years of debate. The legislation would allow foreign education providers to set up campuses in India and offer degrees.