Sunday, February 12, 2012

Samvaad II Conference, Gurgeon, India

On the way back from Sri Lanka, I attended a three-day education conference (Feb. 10-12, 2012) just outside of Delhi called Samvaad – II. It's always so inspiring to sit with like-minded people, focus on the issues and share ideas, even if we don't always disagree. It was like an energy booster shot in the arm. The conference took place at the Archarya Tulsi Meditation Center, which is part of the campus of The Heritage School, and was co-hosted by The Society of Integrated Development of the Himalayas (SIDH), and the Mussoorie & Mount Madonna School
Samvaad means "dialogue," and for the most part that's what we did. Sessions began with meditation or raga music which helped set a contemplative tone. Also helping set the mood was the fact that we were sitting underneath a lotus pond. The photos will explain. It was a truly stunning setting.

There were people from all over India with a range of interests and concerns. Many were questioning the very notion of the necessity of schools. Home schooling and child-centric classrooms are gaining popularity in India. Someone voiced an opinion that we should "get out of the way of children." But then I wonder, isn't there an essential role of a master? I felt like a conservative extremist when I voiced concern about giving children too much liberty to determine their own coursework. It's an interesting subject for debate.

I particularly enjoyed conversation with KB Jinan who works with tribal societies and focuses on education for authenticity and cultural rootedness. He showed several videos of nonformally educated children exhibiting wonderful ingenuity and creativity. They could handle sharp objects and other tools that adults usually hide from small children with great confidence and skill. Jinan has an interesting blog on the subject of the homogenization of modern education here

I took lots of notes and there are a few that still pop out at me now that I reflect: 
  • How do we teach so that students can make a living while living a life.
  • What is the role of students in the development of their education
  • What is learning?
  • Not having a point of view, instead having a whole field of view.
  • We have two ears and one mouth for a reason - listen twice as much.
  • "Rituals for the ritually impaired"
  • Who shaped your idea of beauty?
  • Guilt and shame are toxic in a classroom.
  • When no one raises a hand to speak, what is the story behind the silence?
  • "Out beyond right and wrong is a field and I'll meet you there" - Rumi
One thing that we all agreed upon is: Education is that which liberates. And the questions that we addressed are the very questions we will be asking at the LME workshop in July: 

  • What are the essential competencies and capacities to live a productive and meaningful life?
  • What does it mean to educate in these times?
  • What can we do to support the development of citizens the world needs now?
  •  How must we address the challenges posed by the society and system?

Many thanks to Mahesh Prasad of the Heritage School, SW Maillard, of the Mount Madonna school Santa Cruz, and all the kind staff who made the three days comfortable, fruitful, and memorable.

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