As one graduates from school, they are already faced with one of the most important decisions of their lives, the inevitable: “What do I want to do after school?” In most cases, Indian students start looking for universities to apply to, to study further. A majority of these students stay in India to obtain a degree, some prefer to go abroad.
While an education abroad, like most other things, has its pros and cons, it is a fairly popular proposition that attracts millions of Indian students each year. People are willing to pay the high tuition fees and endure the expensive costs of living for the promise of a world-class education, a better quality of life, and the possibility of employment in a developed country. For these students, the first few countries on the list are always the US, Canada, the UK and Australia. It isn’t hard for one to understand why these would be the preferred options for Indians, these are English-speaking developed countries that have hosted Indian students for several decades now.
This is where the Choose France Tour 2022 comes in. It is an attempt by the French government to make France a solid option in the future for Indian students that are looking to pursue higher studies abroad. With a surprising three-fourths of all French University courses being taught in English, the assurance of lower economic commitment for the students (compared to other options abroad), and a vague but positive chance of employment opportunities post-graduation makes it sound like a lucrative offering. The eleven-crore-rupee sponsorship that the French government is offering as a stimulus for the initiative is also a great starting point.
Even so, Indian students would have a hard time ignoring the fact that English is not France's primary language. Although 75% of the courses are in English, that is only restricted to the lectures and the curriculum material. A significant part of the university experience is outside the campus in the sphere of networking. Indians may feel disadvantaged compared to their French counterparts in these situations. However, the launch of the France Alumni India Chapter in 2016 provides Indian students who have studied in France with a unique channel for networking. Despite English being taught in French primary schools to children from as young as five years old, the language barrier will undoubtedly be felt in simple everyday life, socialising and interacting with locals. The French are certainly known to be very proud of their language, and rightfully so.
An optimist, however, would not view this as an obstacle but rather as an opportunity to learn the language. When you are in a foreign land, the cultural experience is much more enriching when you know the language. How cool would it be to be able to read Dumas’ original Les Trois Mousquetaires instead of The Three Musketeers! Besides, being fluent in French can accelerate a student’s career. According to the Business Standard, there are over 200 Indian companies, ranging from Tata Consultancy Services to United Phosphorus Limited, with offices all over France, and this number has been on the rise in recent years. Furthermore, top European firms heavily value fluency in an additional European language. Apart from the obvious social and occupational benefits, French is also known to be an analytical language that structures thought and develops critical thinking. It is no wonder that there are so many great French philosophers.
The question remains, why do the French even want to invest in Indian students? They could just focus on their own population instead. The truth is, France wants to tap into hot talent from a culture that values conscientiousness in education. Something that English-speaking developed countries have been doing for decades. Indian students’ GPAs are consistently above average in foreign universities. Today, the largest corporations in the world are run by Indians. What’s more, universities seek a diverse culture and an influx of Indian students would be another step in that direction for French universities.
Before the pandemic, in 2019, there were 10,000 Indian students pursuing higher education in France. The former French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian had set a target to double this number by 2025. Indian students currently enrolled in French universities appreciate the practical programme structure and the international outlook of these universities. Also very appealing is the option offered by the French government for international students after graduation to look for employment for a year.
All things considered, the Indo-French economic connection is already on the rise and this is certainly the beginning of a win-win situation that could benefit both the Indian student and the French government.
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