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IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563

Vol. 2, No. 1, 2012

Comparative Study on Singapore VS Indian Higher


Education System
Naganathan Venkatesh
Research Scholar, NITTTR, India

Abstract: In the world of globalization almost every country


in the world wants their education system to be the best, so
their students can obtain the necessary skills and knowledge
taught by the schools/universities that meets the challenges of
the 21st century. The present article explores how Singapore
and Indian way of higher education system works; in which
way both the countries differ and how they are leading in the
field of higher education and it also highlight the different
pathway that leads to the students progression from their
nursery to doctorate degree.
1.0 Indian education system:
The University Education Report had set goals for
development of higher education in the country. While
articulating these goals Radakrishnan Commission on
University Education, 1948-49 put it in following words:
The most important and urgent reform needed in education is
to transform it, to endeavor to relate it to the life, needs and
aspirations of the people and thereby make it the powerful
instrument of social, economic and cultural transformation
necessary for the realization of the national goals. For this
purpose, education should be developed so as to increase
productivity, achieve social and national integration,
accelerate the process of modernization and cultivate social,
moral and spiritual values.
India's higher education system is the third largest in the world,
after China and the United States. The main governing body at
the tertiary level is the University Grants Commission (India) is
a statutory organization established by an Act of Parliament
in1956 for the coordination, determination and maintenance of
standards of university education. Apart from providing grants
to eligible universities and colleges, the Commission also
advises the Central and State Governments on the measures,
which are necessary for the development of higher education.
Central Government is responsible for major policy relating to
higher education in the country. It provides grants to University
Grants Commission (UGC) and establishes central universities
in the country. The Central Government is also responsible for
declaration of Education Institutions as Deemed to be
University on the recommendation of the UGC. Accreditation
for higher learning is overseen by 12 autonomous institutions
established by the University Grants Commission.

At the end of the third year of XI Plan (2009-10), the number


of Universities has gone up to 493 (42 Central, 130 Deemed
and 316 State Universities and 5 Institution established under
Special State Legislature Acts) and the number of Colleges to
31,324, thus registering an increase of 36% in the number
Universities and 48% in the case of Colleges in comparison to
the figures at the end of X Plan (31.03.2007). During the
academic year 2009-10, there had been 146.25 lakhs
(provisional) students enrolled in various courses at all levels in
universities/colleges and other institutions of higher education
as compared to 136.42 lakhs in the previous year, registering an
increase of 7.2 per cent. Out of 146.25 lakhs, 60.80 lakh had
been women students, constituting 41.6 per cent. The
comparative trend of total students enrolment and enrolment of
women students, among states during 2009-10 had been
increased. The enrolment of women students, in terms of
absolute numbers, had been the highest in the state of Uttar
Pradesh (8.4 lakhs), followed by Maharashtra (7.8 lakhs),
Andhra Pradesh (6.1 lakhs), Tamil Nadu (5.2 lakhs) etc. In
terms of percentages, Goa accounted for the highest percentage
of 59%, followed by Kerala (57%), Punjab and Meghalaya
(51%) etc. indicating the dominance of girl students over boys
in these states and A&N Islands (52%), Chandigarh (51%),
Puducherry (50%) among the Union Territories.
(Annual Report, University Grant Commission (UGC, 20092010)).
The enrolment position in the academic year 2009-10 reveals
that majority of students in the higher education system had
been enrolled for a variety of courses at the under-graduate
level. The students at this level constitute provisionally 86.55
per cent of the total number of students in colleges and
universities put together. The percentage of students enrolled
for Master's level courses had been 11.49 per cent while a very
small proportion i.e. 0.89 per cent of the total number of
students had been enrolled for research. Similarly, only 1.15
per cent of the total number of students had been enrolled in
diploma/certificate courses. As regards the distribution of
students enrolment between universities and affiliated
colleges, the largest number of students in the higher education
system had been enrolled in affiliated colleges. About 90.24
per cent of all the under-graduate students and 70.83 per cent of
all the post-graduate students had been enrolled in the affiliated
colleges, while the remaining had been in the universities and
their constituent colleges. (Annual Report, University Grant
Commission (UGC, 2009-2010)).

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IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563
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There has in fact been considerable improvement in the higher


education scenario of India in both quantitative and qualitative
terms. In technical education, the IITs, and in management, the
IIMs have already marked their names among the top higher
educational institutes of the world. Moreover the Jawaharlal
University and Delhi University are also regarded as good
higher educational institutes for doing postgraduates courses
and research in science, humanities and social sciences. As a
result, students from various parts of the world are coming
today for higher education in India.
Apart from these higher education institutes there are several
private institutes in India that offer various professional courses
in India. According to the Department of higher Education,
government of India, there are total enrolment of students
(146.25 lakhs), 42.01% students had been in the faculty of Arts,
followed by 19.30% in Science and 17.83% in Commerce/
Management. Thus, 79.14% of the total enrolment had been in
the three faculties of Arts, Sciences and Commerce /
Management while the remaining 20.86% had been in the
professional faculties indicating the highest percentage in
Engineering. /Technology (10.33%), followed by Medical
courses (3.48%), etc. In the academic year 2009-2010, the total
number of teachers in universities and colleges had been 6.99
lakhs as compared to 5.89 lakhs teachers in the previous year.
Out of 6.99 lakhs teachers, 86% teachers had been in Colleges
and the remaining 14% in University Departments / University
Colleges (Annual Report, University Grant Commission (UGC,
2009-2010)).

1.1 Pathway of learning in Indian education system:


The Indian Education System is comprised of six stages:
nursery, primary, secondary, higher secondary, graduation &
post-graduation. Schooling prior to university lasts 12 years.
Higher education in India starts after passing the higher
secondary education or the 12th standard. However, there are
considerable differences between the various states in terms of
the organizational structures within these first 12 years of
schooling. The government is committed to ensuring universal
elementary education (primary and upper primary) education
for all children aged 6-14 years of age. These various stages of
Education, set by the Indian Education Ministry, are
instrumental in an individuals growth. Thus to ensure
consistency in the overall development of the individual, first
12 years of education are made basic for all. Graduation and
Post Graduation though depends upon persons academic
interest. Depending on the stream, doing graduation in India
can take three to five years. Postgraduate courses are generally
of two to three years of duration. After completing post
graduation, scope for doing research in various educational
institutes also remains open. (See the table 1.0 for details)
Education system in India covers almost all kinds of careers
right from health services, management, mass media, legal
services, social science, home science, fine arts to
environmental science, administrative services, fashion
courses, vocational courses, engineering, technology and

accounting, teaching, medicine, law, agriculture, veterinary,


polytechnic and others.

1.2 The Current Scene:


India is today one of the fastest developing countries of the
world with the annual growth rate going above 9%. In order to
sustain that rate of growth, there is need to increase the number
of institutes and also the quality of higher education in India.
Therefore the Prime Minister of India has announced the
establishment of 8 IITs, seven Indian Institutes of Management
(IIMs) and five Indian Institutes of Science, Education and
Research (IISERs) and 30 Central Universities in his speech to
the nation on the 60th Independence Day. The outlay for
education during the 11th Five Year Plan, which runs from the
current fiscal to 2012-13, represents a four-fold increase over
the previous plan and stands at Rs 2500 billion.

1.3 Advantages of Indian higher education:


With India emerging as a global hub for commercial R&D
(India Today International, 3 Oct 2009), R&D within the scope
of Higher Education has gained greater importance. Now, the
country is fast emerging as a major centre for cutting-edge
research and development (R&D) projects for global
multinationals such as Microsoft and Motorola as well as
Indian firms. More and more companies in industries ranging
from IT and telecommunications through pharmaceuticals and
biotech are setting up ambitious R&D projects, in part to serve
the Indian market, but also with an eye to delivering new
generations of products faster to the global market.
It has been stated that 150 international firms have set up R&D
centers in India and in 2004 US patents office granted over
1000 patents to Indian units of US companies. India has
developed one of the largest systems of Higher Education in
the world with over 493 universities and 6500 vocational
colleges catering to about 10 million students.
India provides a big market and playing field for private
initiatives at both the national and international levels. It is very
rich in human resources, in terms of quantity as well as quality.
Statistics from the Indian census bureau shows, over 35% of
our population is below the age of 20. By 2020, it is expected
that 325 million people in India will reach working age, which
will be the largest in the world. This will come at a time when
the rest of the developed world will be faced with an ageing
population were as India with its bourgeoning middle class
people who are willing to invest in quality higher education
will be an asset for Indias growth in education. No wonder that
foreign universities from the US, Canada, UK, Australia, New
Zealand, and Singapore are vying for students from India.
India, too, is trying to attract students from neighboring
countries. It is also willing to cater to the needs of the Indian
Diaspora. Many non-resident Indians are now sending their
wards to India for professional education in the fields of
medicine, engineering, and business management. For them,
higher education in India is both cost-effective and culturally
rich.

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IRACST- International Journal of Research in Management & Technology (IJRMT), ISSN: 2249-9563
Vol. 2, No. 1, 2012

If TeamLease Services were to be believed, by 2025 India will


be proud possessor of a workforce equivalent to a quarter of the
world's human resource capital. This positive forecast comes
with a rider. A study conducted by the staffing firm,
TeamLease Services, suggests India has to harness the latent
talent of its young and productive population to achieve this
goal. As per the 'India Labour Report 2009' released by
Teamlease Services in collaboration with IIJT Education, the
India can achieve a per capita income of USD 4,100
(approximately Rs 187,554 at an exchange rate of Rs 45.74 per
dollar). The report says this is not impossible if a labourfriendly atmosphere is in place. The study suggests some
drastic reforms in the labour policy. The report says, "If we
harness this dividend by 2025, India will not only have 25 per
cent of the world's total workforce, but our per capita income
will be USD 4,100." The report further adds: "This would rise
to USD 9,802 in 2040 and USD 20,836 in 2050. This will
finally put poverty in the museum it belongs."

1.4 Issues for Indian Higher education:


India is being projected as a would-be super-power by the year
2020; at the same time, higher education, which is growing at
the rate of 20% per annum worldwide, is being counted as one
of the most important ingredients in knowledge-based
economies. India therefore faces a big challenge in achieving
its goals in this respect. Private initiatives in higher education
are not only feasible, but also desirable, if India is to meet the
target of 20% of its youth in the age group of 17-23, as against
7.2% today. The government has not been able to attain the
desired level of literacy during the last 65 years. At the time of
independence, the literacy level was just 14%; Indias target is
a 100% literacy rate by 2020. At present there are 300 million
adult illiterates in India and only 60 million out of 170 million
children at the primary school level are able to make to
secondary education. Out of these 160 million, only 9 million
make it to post-secondary education.
According to a recent report by Asian brokerage and
investment group CLSA, India's education and training market
is valued at $40 billion and is growing rapidly. It is expected to
be a $70 billion industry by 2012. Primary education (K-12)
makes up about half of the market. However, India continues to
face challenges. Despite growing investment in education, 35%
of the population is illiterate and only 15% of the students
reach high school [Source: India still Asia's reluctant tiger, by
Zareer Masani of BBC Radio 4, 27 February 2008]. As of
2008, India's post-secondary high schools offer only enough
seats for 7% of India's college-age population, 25% of teaching
positions nationwide are vacant, and 57% of college professors
lack either a master's or PhD degree[Source : SPECIAL
REPORT: THE EDUCATION RACE, by Newsweek, August
1825, 2008 issue]

2.0 Singapore Education System:


Apart from enjoying a status of famous shopping and tourism
destination, Singapore is also emerging as a place for pursuing

higher education. The pro-high technology policy of the


government has invited billion of dollars of foreign investment
in the fields of biotechnology, IT and research. The Ministry of
Education (MOE) is responsible for controlling the
development and administration of the schools and various
government-funded educational institutions. In case of private
schools, the MOE plays a crucial supervisory and advisory
role. Education mainly revolves around the interests of the
students. The teaching and pedagogical system follows a
flexible approach that helps the students in developing their
potentials and aptitudes. [Source: Ministry of Education
(MOE), Singapore]
The Singapore education system aims to provide students with
a holistic and broad-based education. Given the multi-cultural
and multi-racial characteristics of Singapore, the bilingual
policy is a key feature of the Singapore education system.
Under the bilingual policy, every student learns English, which
is the common working language. Students also learn their
mother tongue language (Chinese, Malay or Tamil), to help
them retain their ethnic identity, culture, heritage and values.
The mission of the MOE is to mould the future of the nation,
with a vision of Thinking Schools, Learning Nation. Since
2003, Singapore has also focused on nurturing a spirit of
Innovation and Enterprise (I&E) among students and teachers.
Teach Less, Learn More (TLLM) was a call for all educators
to teach better, improve the quality of interaction between
teachers and students, and equip students with the knowledge,
skills and values that prepare them for life [Yearbook of
Statistics Singapore, 2011]. For both public and private schools
there are variations in the extent of the autonomy in their
curriculum and the scope of government aid and funding.
Students in primary school do not pay school fees, while
students at secondary and Pre University levels pay subsidized
school fees.
The Ministry of Education aims to help their students to
discover their own talents, to make the best of these talents and
realize their full potential, and to develop a passion for learning
that lasts through life. They have been moving in recent years
towards an education system that is more flexible and diverse.
The aim is to provide students with greater choice to meet their
different interests and ways of learning. Being able to choose
what and how they learn will encourage them to take greater
ownership of their learning. They are also giving their students
a more broad-based education to ensure their all-round or
holistic development, in and out of the classroom.
Singapore currently has three autonomous universities, with a
fourth slated to open in 2012. They are the National University
of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University
(NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU). The
Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) will
be Singapore's fourth autonomous university. It is developed
in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology
and Zhejiang University. SUTD's mission is to advance
knowledge and nurture technically grounded leaders and

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innovators serve societal needs. This will be accomplished


with a focus on Design, through an integrated multidisciplinary curriculum and multi-disciplinary research. The
university is expected to open its doors in April 2012, with its
campus constructed by 2015. A graduate medical school,
Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School Singapore, was also
created through a partnership between Duke University School
of Medicine and NUS to increase Singapores capacity to
develop a vibrant biomedical hub.
Specialized institutions have also sprung up, both local and
international. For instance, well-known business schools
University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and
INSEAD, New York University Tisch School of the Arts,
LASALLE College of the Arts and Nanyang Academy of Fine
Arts (NAFA) provide specialized education in the arts, and the
Digipen Institute of Technology focuses on world-class
technology education.
In addition, polytechnics were also set up to train middle-level
professionals and their main aim is to educate and nurture their
students to excel in work and in life, and to equip young as
well adult learners with skills and knowledge to enhance their
employability in the market. A total of five polytechnic schools
(Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang
Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic, and Republic Polytechnic)
were established in Singapore to cater to students those who
passed the secondary school and those who are interested in
learning more technical subjects with hands on training. Most
of the diplomas offered are three years duration and their
course curriculum is designed to meet the industry needs.
Last, but not the least; the Institute of Technical Education
(ITE) was established as a post-secondary technical institution
of excellence. The basic purpose of the institute is To Create
Opportunities for School Leavers and Adult Learners to
Acquire Skills, Knowledge and Values for Lifelong Learning
in a Global Economy [Mission statement: ITE]. The Institute
of Technical Education campuses were reorganized under the
"Collegiate system" into 3 major colleges around the island,
ITE College Central, ITE College West, ITE College East. You
may also choose to send your children to one of the over 300
private education institutions in Singapore. Private schools
offer a large variety of courses, including language and
professional programmes. When choosing a private school, do
make sure it has proper accreditation. The EduTrust for
Education and Singapore Quality Class for Private Education
Organizations are two hallmarks of quality implemented in
Singapore.

Under the MOE, The Higher Education Division (HED)


oversees the provision of tertiary and technical education in
Singapore as well as registration of private schools. It oversees
nine statutory boards five Polytechnics, the Institute of
Technical Education (ITE), the Science Centre Singapore
(SCS), the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and
the Council for Private Education. HED also oversees the
development of four autonomous universities (the National
University of Singapore, the Nanyang Technological
University, the Singapore Management University and the
Singapore University of Technology and Design). (See the
table 1.0 for details) More details can be found in MOE
website.

2.2 The current scene:


The proposed vision of Singapore education is to develop a
self-sustaining education ecosystem offering a diverse and
distinctive mix of quality educational services to the world,
thus becoming an engine of economic growth, capability
development and talent attraction for Singapore. Education
ecosystem refers to a cluster of mutually reinforcing,
complementary education institutions which vary in terms of
student enrolment numbers, country of origin, cultural
environment, nature of activity, academic level, academic
discipline/subjects, research interests and price. This network
of institutions will raise education standards, create more
choice for Singapore students and enrich the overall student
experience.
Singapore has placed an essential emphasis on education. This
can be seen from the fact that education spending forms at least
20% of the budget of Singapore. Primary education has
become compulsory for all the citizens of Singapore and if
parents fail to enroll their children into school, it is considered
a criminal offence. Singapores public schools maintain high
standards of teaching and learning. According to the World
Economic Forums Global Competitiveness Report 2009/2010,
Singapore was ranked 1st internationally for the quality of our
educational system. Singapore was also rated as one of the
worlds best performing education system, with an excellent
teaching force, according to the McKinsey & Company 2007
report How the World's Best-Performing School Systems
Come Out on Top. Enrolment in educational institutions, see
table below [Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2011]

2.1 Pathway of learning in Singapore education system:


According to the system, students in Singapore generally
undergo six years in primary school and four to five years in
secondary school. They can then enroll in post-secondary
institutions, pre-university courses, or move on to the
polytechnics. Eligible students are subsequently given the
opportunity to enroll in the universities.

[Source: Ministry of Education, Institute of Technical


Education, Singapore Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic,

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Temasek Polytechnic, Nanyang Polytechnic, Republic


Polytechnic, National Institute of Education, National
University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University,
Singapore Management University and Singapore Institute of
Technology. Note: Data for primary, secondary and junior
college exclude private schools.

2.3 Advantages of Singapore higher education:


Singapore has several competitive advantages that position it
well as a global education hub. These include a strategic
geographical location, reputation for educational excellence, a
vibrant business hub (which presents opportunities for
institutional-industry collaboration), and a safe and
cosmopolitan environment. Singapore can capture a larger
share of the global educational market (estimated at US$2.2
trillion), and increase educational services contribution to
GDP from the existing 1.9% of the GDP to a projected 3 to 5%
in 10 years. [Source: Executive Summary - Developing
Singapore's Education Industry Prepared by the Education
Workgroup].
About 120 of the 353 primary and secondary schools in
Singapore have some form of exchange programmes which
allow students to visit overseas schools. In 2005, the Ministry
of Education set up a SGD 4.5 million School Twinning Fund
to facilitate 9,000 primary and secondary school students to
participate in these exchange programmes, particularly in
ASEAN countries, China and India. [Source: Forss, Pearl
(2005-10-13). "Education Ministry sets up $4.5m fund to
facilitate student exchange programmes". Channel News Asia].
Singapore Government aims to increase the numbers of foreign
students studying in Singapore from the current 97,000 to
150,000 by 2015. Based on current statistics, approximately
one-fifth of those applying through UCAS are third-country
nationals mainly from mainland China, India, Malaysia and
Indonesia. Singapore is aggressively moving forward to
become an education service provider in the region, the
Economic Development Board has also continued to pursue
brand-name foreign universities to set up specialized campuses
to serve an international market from Singapore. The number
of students studying for foreign qualifications in-country
Transnational (TNE) programmes - was 36,700 in 2001.
According to latest HESA TNE data for 2009/10 the number of
students studying for a UK qualification in Singapore is 42,715
- The majority of these are delivered in partnership with local
private institutions.
According to the Progress in International Reading Literacy
Study (PIRLS) done in 2006, cited by MOE in a 2007 survey
by the Fraser Institute, Singapore was ranked fourth among 45
education systems. Dr Kishore Mahbubani, Dean of the Lee
Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, also proudly
claimed that educational leaders around the world are flocking
to Singapore to copy Singapore's successful educational model.
He said that some North American schools are even using
similar textbooks as those used in Singaporean schools.

While Singapore is clearly proving to be a popular destination


for students from Asia, small numbers of students from Europe,
the United States, and Australia are also choosing to study in
Singapore. Many international students consider Singapore to
be a comfortable introduction to Asia, providing both the
chance to get a Western education at a leading institution and
become familiar with Chinese language and business practices
as well closer to their home country. Moreover, most MNCs
have their regional base here and with Singapore positioned as
the business and commercial capital of the region, job
opportunities for graduating students are aplenty. Given the
better job prospects that Asia currently offers as compared to
the US and Europe, it is likely that Asian students will
continue to pursue their higher studies within the region and
more specifically in Singapore. This is a win-win situation for
all the students, Singapores education industry and the
companies based in the city-state. [September 22, 2009, in
Doing Business in Singapore]

2.4 Issues for Singapore Higher education:


Critics of the education system, including some parents, state
that the education system is too specialized, rigid, and elitist.
Often, these criticisms state that there is little emphasis on
creative thinking, unlike education systems in other societies,
such as those in the States. Those defending the current
education system point out that Singaporean student have
regularly ranked top when competing in international science
and mathematics competitions and assessments. Detractors
believe this is more an indication of students' skills in using
rote to prepare for a certain style of competition or examination
than of their ability to think critically.
There have also been complaints about excessive educational
streaming at a young age. A popular local film, I Not Stupid,
highlights the competitiveness of the system and the social
stigma that students struggling with studies have to face. The
best students are streamed into the best and normal classes,
while the others are streamed into the foundation class, where
teachers
usually
allow
them
to
get
worse,
since they are part
of the "ungifted" class
[Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_Singapore#
Development_and_future_plans].
Singapore's Ethnic Education Problems The problem is a
serious and persistent one. Figures from the Education Ministry
show that while Singaporean exam results have increased
across the board over the last decade, the stark disparities
between the city-state's main three ethnic groups remain. In
2008, just 59.3 percent of Malay students achieved 5 passes at
O-level, the exams taken by 15 and 16-year-olds, compared to
86.2 percent of Chinese and 73 percent of Indians.
[Source: Written by Ben Bland, Feb 2, 2010 in
http://www.asiasentinel.com]

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Overview of the Singapore vs. Indian Education System


Table 1.0

Conclusion:
I understand that I have different ways of thinking and different
mindsets compared with most people. My comments only
show my perspective, not an absolute authoritative assessment
of the situation. I admit to have a certain level of subjectivity
due to my previous involvement in the system and my limited
set of experiences. Progression pathway for the students might
be different from county to county but what is the key in higher
education is who provides better service with high quality
education at affordable rate is in high demand worldwide.

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AUTHORS PROFILE
NaganathanVenkatesh obtained his Degree and a Master degree
in Computer Science from University of Madras, India as well he
also holds another Masters Degree in Human Resource
Management and presently he is pursing PhD in Computer Science
& Engineering from University of Madras, India. As Research
Scholar, from NITTTR(National Institute of Technical Teachers
Training and Research, Ministry of Human Resource Management,
Govt. Of India) he has published many international journals to his
credit. He is also a charted member of Microsoft and holds
Microsoft Certification in MCAD.Net, MCPD.Net, MCSD.Net and
MCTS in SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. He is also a
ACTA (Advanced Certificate in Training and Assessment)
certified Trainer, Assessor and course developer awarded by
WDA, Singapore.
He got fitteen years of work experience out of which; 5 years he
worked in software industry with different roles played - Business
Analyst, Associate Consultant and Program Manager for various
clients in US and India whose company status was PCMM Level 5.
In training industry he has over 10 years experience; roles played
has a corporate trainer, Train the trainer, Chief Manager, Senior
lecturer, Assistant Dean, Academic Head. He had delivered and
conducted wide range of training in Information Technology,
Business Management and Human resources management
subjects; for various top corporate clients and Universities from
US, UK and Australia. He had delivered number of technical and
marketing seminars in US, India, Singapore, Malaysia and
Indonesia for respective employers he worked earlier.
Venkatesh email: nvenkat25@hotmail.com

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