In India, Faust Talks Education

This week, University President Drew G. Faust discussed single-sex education, public health, and the importance of a liberal arts model at institutions in Mumbai and Delhi.

“Knowledge has become the primary driver of social mobility, and of the prosperity and well-being of individuals and nations,” she said to a nonprofit educational institution called the Asia Society at a speech in Mumbai on Jan. 19.

Faust’s visit to the J.B. Petit High School for Girls focused on female empowerment. Faust met with a group of students, predominantly tenth graders, and learned the popular saying “Educate a man, educate a man. Educate a woman, educate a family,” according to The Harvard Gazette.

“Empowerment of the women has been our mission...women’s education has always been at the forefront of this school,” said J.B. Petit Principal Benaifer P. Kutar, in a video made by the Gazette. “I think in an Indian context it is especially important because it has been a traditionally conservative society.”

The students learned about Faust before her visit, studying her life and speeches, so they could ask questions and share ideas.

“India does need to change a lot of old mindsets because it’s not the old world anymore,” said a student in the video.

“I wouldn’t be here if it was still the old world. I would be sitting at home probably chopping vegetables.”

Faust has consistently visited all-girls’ schools during her travels abroad. She reminded the students that she had attended an all-women’s high school and college and encouraged them to “dream big dreams.”

At the University of Mumbai, Faust also discussed the increased rapidity of communication and the benefits of a liberal arts education in a globalized world.

“As I see it, Faust’s visit to Bombay has established something quite new and significant for Harvard’s iconic image in India,”  Professor Homi K. Bhabha, director of the Mahindra Humanities Center, wrote on the website of the Gazette.

“Here, Harvard has frequently been portrayed as a celebrated business school with a few small annexes across the river. Faust’s persistent emphasis in Mumbai on the humanities as an indispensable partner to scientific and professional learning will enhance Harvard’s global presence and enrich its conversations on campus and at home.”

During the second phase of her trip, Faust traveled to Delhi where she met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the South Asia Initiative Education Symposium, the Harvard Club of India, and the Public Health Foundation of India.

On Monday, she met with leaders of PHFI, which is a public-private initiative to strengthen public health in India.

Faust discussed Indian health care issues with K. Srinath Reddy—President of PHFI and a visiting professor of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health—and Harvard Kennedy School professor A. K. Shiva Kumar.

The meeting focused on a 2006 agreement between Harvard and PHFI to promote the development of research collaborations and programs in research and education, including student exchanges and faculty visits.

—Staff writer Alyza J. Sebenius can be reached at