Friday, February 26, 2010

Prof Krishna Kumar at the DDK Festival of Ideas

Oheraldo Goa's complete online news edition :: Livelihood-central-to-education-VC
Livelihood central to education: VC

Prof Krishna Kumar, Director of NCERT (National Council for Educational Research and Training), for unspecified reason was unable to catch his morning flight from Delhi forcing the organisers of 3rd D D Kosambi Festival of Ideas, being held at Kala Academy, Panjim, to improvise, yet retaining the theme of today’s planned lecture on education.

Indeed if education is about setting examples, Prof Krishna Kumar had set a bad example of reneging on the commitment and not having the basic courtesy of issuing apology for his absence to the audience that had gathered to listen to his lecture in Dinanath Mangeshkar auditorium on Tuesday.
Maria Aurora Couto, a writer and educationist based in Aldona took the initiative of obtaining a paper on education by Fr Rudolf Heredia, based in Mumbia, and used it as a basis for draw out the ideas and opinions of a panel comprising of herself, Girish Karnad, Fr Romuald D’Souza, Founder of Goa Institute of Management and Vice Chancellor of Goa University, Dilip Deobagkar.

Maria Aurora Couto read Fr Heredia’s academic paper on education which placed individual at the centre of the process of education and liberation as a meaningful goal of the process of education. Heredia’s paper referred to various models of education like of John Dewey’s, considered as father of educational philosophy and Mahatma Gandhi who laid emphasis on learning through experience. According to Heredia, our education system has failed to fulfill democratic aspiration and emphasis has shifted to create skilled and productive forces, at the cost of needs of the individual. While Heredia reaches for what is ideal and utopian, he does not dwell on what is possible but he certainly advocates a clean break from the past – a paradigm shift that breaks the old orthodoxy.

Commenting on Heredia’s Paper Fr Romuald said that opportunities are more important than ideas and educational system should enable individuals to achieve something through productive work and not necessarily employable people. He also laid stress on ability to compete, thereby advocating a more practical approach.

Prof Dilip Deobagkar pointed this out that Heredia’s paper defined the problem but did not offer any solutions and was critical of his use of concepts such as ‘liberation’ as the goal of education which may have little meaning for a person who is not sure of his next meal. Vice chancellor was more practical in his approach and urged that we need to draw on our strengths in this era of globalization which we cannot escape from. He pointed out that in the recent economic meltdown India has emerged stronger and there is every reason for us to spread globally what we are strong in.

VC also cautioned that what we are witnessing in today’s world is explosion of information but not knowledge which is different from information. He also felt that for education we need not talk about the world but pay closer attention to what surrounds us. For Prof Deobagkar, issue of livelihood will always be central to the education system and education system should find right balance between personal need and larger national economic goals.

He was also of the opinion that ‘values’ cannot be taught in schools but imbibed in day to day life.
Girish Karnad said that he was horrified that how incompetent a person Director of NCERT is as he could not even catch a flight. According to Karnad it is nothing other than arrogance and it smacked of “if you have power you can run roughshod over others”. Karnad offered historical perspective that the system of education established by the British was geared to creating clerks for their trade in India; otherwise traditionally it was the preserve of the Brahmins.

Karnad pointed out that in the first five-year plans little attention was paid to education and agriculture instead emphasis was laid of industrial development. It has lead to a dismal situation that even after over sixty years post independence, nearly half the country is still illiterate.

Second problem that afflicts our educational system is that because of the caste system our higher education has become field of social justice and not of information or knowledge, pointing to the system of reservations which paradoxically is making inequities more entrenched.
Then he came to the heart of the problem of poor infrastructure and lack of teachers in rural areas, narrating a personal experience while making a film on child marriages in Madhya Pradesh. He felt that the primary education has been given very low priority while we see proliferation of engineering and medical colleges.

After panel’s comments on Heredia’s paper and their own opinions on education audience asked various questions including the inevitable question of right medium of instruction – mother tongue Vs English – to which VC replied that perhaps it is wise to have initial instructions in the mother tongue. The other questions were on uniformity of syllabus, constraints faced by teachers while teaching over sixty students in a single class. Someone in the audience also pointed out that there was little community initiative to be seen in the field of education.

The panel concluded the discussion pointing out that learning never really ends and we should shift our emphasis from teaching to learning.

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