As the COVID-19 pandemic brings about lockdowns and suspended events, France is proposing innovative ways to foster cooperation with India across the scope of its bilateral relations, particularly through direct exchanges between their peoples. This crisis will be turned into opportunities to boost partnerships in education, research and culture.
H.E. Mr Emmanuel Lenain, Ambassador of France to India, thus remarked: “At the core of the strategic partnership between India and France lie strong people-to-people ties. As France and India gradually emerge from their lockdowns, enhanced exchanges will pave the way for a new world. Trusted global scientific collaboration is the need of the hour since no country can achieve a breakthrough alone. Our country recognises that education will play a critical role in shaping a post-pandemic world, and thus reiterates that Indian students and researchers are welcome in France.”
Logistical and planning challenges are being actively tackled to welcome Indian students for higher studies for the next academic year. Thanks to a strong social and public healthcare system, France has taken care of its foreign students on an equal footing with French students, ensuring their safety and well-being. Visas and scholarships have been extended wherever necessary.
For new students, France is fully geared up to enable the commencement of the academic year through virtual classrooms, if necessary. France has also augmented its proportion of scholarships by 50% – equivalent to 10 crore rupees – for this academic year. These scholarships will be awarded regardless of whether a student starts the semester in India or France, as Indian students are still keen on following their dreams in France. The Embassy will organise a virtual version of its bi-annual “Choose France Tour” at the end of September for the intake of students for the 2021 academic session. This will enable a greater number of French institutions to interact with Indian students, reaching aspiring scholars from all over India.
France has a reputation for excellence in higher education and thanks to public investment in the education sector, it remains one of the most affordable destinations. Many of its institutions boast some of the highest global standards and offer over 1500 courses taught in English. Business and engineering programmes are the most sought after, but France has a great deal to offer in other areas as well. For instance, the latest rankings have shown that of the six best animation schools in the world, four are French, including Rubika, which has a campus in Pune.
French network programmes are adapting to the new reality. Alliance Française centres, present in more than 13 cities, have arranged for online classes during lockdown, thus ensuring continuity in French language lessons for their 31,000 plus students. They can now reach any internet-connected part of India. Likewise, professional training programmes for teaching the French language, such as ProFLE+, have become more popular.
On the cinematic front, while the Festival of Cannes will be missed, the film market will be held online in June – as will upcoming professional meetings for the film industry. With more and more streaming platforms, there is a great potential for Indo-French collaborations and exchanges. On the artistic front, in these difficult times, the Embassy is continuing collaborations with its Indian partners. Witness, the launch of the Serendipity Arles grant, which opens up opportunities for artists from South Asia to participate in the Arles Photography Festival next year. The Assises Internationales du Roman/Villa Gillet, in Lyon recently saw the virtual participation of Indian writers. Further, India will remain the Guest of Honour Country at the 2021 Paris Book Fair, for which preparations are underway.
The French Institute in India, through its #ifionline programme, is bringing France to Indian homes like never before through films, documentaries, museum visits, online trainings, dance and music performances.