March 18, 2019

Georgetown and the Indian Jesuit Community College Network: A New Partnership

Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff traveled to southeast India to advance the partnership between Georgetown and Jesuits in Chennai who have created and sustained a successful network of community colleges for the poor.

Students in a motorcycle repair class in Chennai, India.
Students in a motorcycle repair class in Chennai, India.

The Indian Center for Research and Development of Community Education (ICRDCE), founded in 1999 by Fr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J., coordinates 174 schools that prepare young people for the labor market and imbue them with Jesuit values of social responsibility. Over the past decade, the center has trained 2,900 teachers and served 125,000 students.

In 2018 Georgetown initiated a partnership with the ICRDCE to improve teacher training and evaluate and implement best practices across the community college network. During a trip to the Chennai region in February, Banchoff and Fr. Julio Giuletti, S.J., made extended visits to three colleges and met with school leaders at center headquarters.

“The Jesuits in India are doing pioneering work at the intersection of education and social justice,” said Banchoff. “This partnership is an excellent opportunity to advance our mission as a university in service to the world.”

A Jesuit Model

The Jesuit community college network offers the children of poor families an alternative to entry into the labor force after primary and basic secondary education.

Over a single year of coursework, students learn a trade such as motorcycle repair, plumbing, electricity, medical assistance, tailoring, or primary school education. This vocational training is paired with a life-skills course designed to build capacity for self-reflection, ethical judgement, problem solving, and intercultural communication. To date, 84 percent of graduates have joined the workforce, and 16 percent have gone on to higher education. Banchoff said,

“The impressive combination of skills provision and character formation in community colleges is an inspiring example of the Jesuit educational tradition in action.”

More than 70 percent of community college graduates are women and girls. The proven combination of one year’s intensive training and mentoring has enabled young women, both single and married, to join the workforce. Instead jobs as domestic servants or low-wage factory workers, women who complete the program qualify for jobs as nursing assistants, seamstresses, primary school teachers, and other careers.

Fr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J.,  and Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff.
Fr. Xavier Alphonse, S.J., and Vice President for Global Engagement Thomas Banchoff.

The Georgetown India Initiative

The partnership with ICRDCE is part of Georgetown’s India Initiative, a university-level platform to advance research, teaching, and service around India and its growing role in world affairs.

Since its founding in 2015 under the leadership of Irfan Nooruddin, professor in the School of Foreign Service, the initiative has combined high-level events and partnerships with successful trips and on-the-ground efforts to engage Georgetown faculty and students around India’s development challenges.

“We look forward to deepening our collaboration with Jesuits and their institutions in India as part of Georgetown’s overall engagement in the region,” said Nooruddin.

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