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India education: Engineering going off the rails?

India's bid for full Washington Accord membership, an elite honor, has been postponed again.

Educators in India worry that the country risks losing in the global race for talent. Membership in the Washington Accord assures a country that its engineering programs are recognized by, and are considered on par with, those in other member countries.

The All India Council for Technical Education has been accused of corruption, citing that approval to colleges with poor facilities was made by officials in exchange for money.

In July, under the direction of a new, reformist education minister, India's Central Bureau of Investigation filed corruption charges against R.A. Yadav, the council's chairman at the time, and three other top officials. They are accused of demanding bribes to allow an enrollment increase at an engineering college.

In September, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided several engineering colleges in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu following allegations of flagrant violations of the accreditor's norms, according to a report in The Times of India newspaper recently.

Following the raids, the investigative agency filed charges against the trusts and trustees that run the institutions, as well as the regulatory officials who allegedly helped them bend rules.

The council has begun changing its accreditation process, focusing more on teaching and curriculum quality, and less on the an institution's infrastructure quality. Those changes were among the recommendations Unnikrishnan put forth in his report.

"We expect that all this by next year will satisfy the requirements for full membership of the accord," said Mantha. "We want our people competing at the world level as international engineers, and we are serious about engineers' mobility. Besides, we have some very good institutions, and we want that to be recognized."