Published on: August 07, 2007[Photo]
Rajiv Malkan, far right, exchanges Rotary club banners with members of the Erode Rotary Club in southern India.
Rajiv Malkan, professor of computer science and business at Montgomery College, recently spent five weeks in southern India as one of a six-member team of the Rotary International Group Study Exchange (GSE) program.
The main purpose of Rotary Foundation’s GSE Program is a unique cultural and vocational exchange opportunity for young business and professional men and women between the ages of 25 and 40 who are in the early years of their professional lives. The program provides travel grants for teams to exchange visits between paired areas in different countries. For four to six weeks, team members experience the host country's institutions and ways of life, observe their own vocations as practiced abroad, develop personal and professional relationships, and exchange ideas.
This year, the Texas Rotary District 5910 exchanged teams with Rotary District 3200 in southern India. The team from India visited Texas in April and May, while the Texas team members visited southern India in May and June. In addition to Malkan, other team members included Bobby Simon (the lone Rotarian on the trip), Erin Brown, Daniel Combs, Andy DiMambro, and Stephen Duncan. Sponsoring Rotary clubs included LaMarque, Nederland, Dickinson, The Woodlands, Conroe, and Nacogdoches.
As a part of the team, Malkan visited the following cities: Cochin, Calicut, Ooty, Mettupalayam, Coimbatore, Erode, Phalghat, Tirupur and Thrissur. He stayed with the Rotarian host families in each city and visited numerous higher educational institutions as a part of the exchange program. Through this program, he was able to interact with higher education administrators, faculty and staff at different institutions and discuss the pros and cons of American education system with his counterparts in India.
“The Indian education system puts a lot of value on the theoretical aspect of the curriculum and less emphasis on the practical approach of teaching and learning,” said Malkan. “Even though, more and more, urban institutions are incorporating a hands-on approach toward teaching, the rural areas are lagging behind.”
Malkan was impressed with a rural polytechnic college that was offering the latest information technology curriculum (such as Cisco networking) and engaging faculty in professional development. The MBA program at one institute required every student to purchase a laptop with the facilities incorporating all-wireless Internet access in a business-like classroom setting. The placement of the graduating class was 100 percent.
On the business front, Malkan visited many factories and industries to understand the true impact of globalization. One important observation was that many industries were ISO certified and met all the international standards. In the textile export zone, Malkan witnessed the mass production of ready-made garments for American retailers such as Wal-mart and The Gap.
“A typical textile worker makes $5 a day, working eight-hour shifts with company buses providing transportation from nearby villages,” he said.
As medical expenses take a bigger chunk of expense in the Western World, many are visiting India to get their procedures performed there. The new wave of medical tourism was witnessed in action as a Canadian and European patients visited Coimbatore, India to undergo a spinal and knee surgery. The hospitals were using the latest technology available as in the U.S. (virtual 3D computer image-guided surgery) and doctors were educated in Europe and U.S.
“It is a win-win situation as the cost to a patient is no more than the out-of-pocket expenses for that procedure in U.S.
Added Malkan: “On the road as we traveled from city to city, we experienced the transformation from an urban to a rural town. Rural towns may have more than million people!”
Malkan also observed the first monsoon rains, traffic delays due to landslides, and near escapes on Indian roads as traffic can flow in any direction.
Staying with Rotarian host families was one of the most important cultural experience of the program, said Malkan. Understanding the daily routine of a family and being part of that family as a member for several days was “unforgettable.”
“Some hosts were up by 4 a.m. to do meditation, while some were up by 5:30 a.m. for an early morning walk or jog,” noted Malkan. “One wonderful experience was living with a joint family (14 members all living under one roof). It is hard to describe the tolerance and patience among all the brothers, their wives and their kids to live as a family and support each other in the daily routine.”
Besides making vocational and cultural visits, GSE team members made presentations at Rotary club meetings in each city. The presentation outlined life in east Texas, its economy, education and entertainment to help people in southern India understand the culture and hospitality of east Texas. Also, many visits were made to Rotary community projects such as a crematorium, parks, schools, hospitals and community weddings.
“We were able to provide suggestions and feedback for enhancements to their environment,” said Malkan, who added his appreciation and thanks to The Woodlands Rotary Club and District 5910 for sponsoring his GSE team membership. “But all members of the GSE team from Texas were extremely impressed with the Indian Rotarians who are dedicating their lives for the good cause of the community.”
Dr. Kenne Turner, a member of the Conroe Rotary Club and GSE chair for District 5910, added, “GSE has, for over 41 years, provided opportunities for young professionals from all over the world to further international understanding, goodwill and peace by sharing their knowledge, education and experience. Participants learn first hand that ‘the world is their family,’ developing relationships that last for a lifetime.”
For more information about next year’s GSE program for District 5910, go to http://www.rotary5910.org/.
Montgomery College is located at 3200 College Park Drive, one-half mile west of Interstate 45, between Conroe and The Woodlands. For more information about Montgomery College, visit http://montgomery.lonestar.edu/ or call (936) 273-7224.
North Harris Montgomery Community College District, among the largest and fastest-growing community colleges in Texas, comprises North Harris College, Kingwood College, Tomball College, Montgomery College, Cy-Fair College, six satellite centers and The University Center.