Saturday, March 10, 2012

Introducing Pawan Gupta

One wonderful outcome of my attending the Samvaad conference last month is that I had an opportunity to invite Pawan Gutpa of the Society for Integrated Development of the Himalayas (SIDH) to join us in Paro for the Curriculum Development Workshop to lead the teachers in developing relevant history lessons with a focus on cultural awareness and pride of place. I am very happy to report that he accepted our invitation. Pawan-ji has written and lectured extensively on the subject of education and his name was brought to my attention around the time of the 2010 Educating for GNH conference here in Bhutan. It was through his words that I first came to know him two years ago. Our paths have crossed several times since at various conferences and I have always found his views very much in harmony with what we are trying to accomplish with the LME curricula.

He's already generously sent forty copies of his excellent book Understanding History: A Guidebook for Teachers for us to distribute and use during the workshop in July. This handbook for teachers helps connect history to our own lives by illustrating in simple terms how change is a part of nature and how through a process of change we have come from the past to the present state. Pawan has published many other books which are available here.

Here is one quote from Pawan-ji:
In many ways, contemporary education has trapped us all in a set of assumptions, which has led to frustration and unhappiness. In the world-view that is now dominant, there are only narrow definitions for 'development,' 'progress,' 'education, 'science' and 'modern'...We feel it is important to challenge these assumptions and definitions. Notions about who is 'civilised', who is 'backward' or what is 'scientific' need to be viewed afresh. It is only then that we can have a drishti, a true perspective, of our society and its knowledge systems.

Our education system is a legacy of the colonial rule, and its overall framework has remained the same even 60 years after independence. This system impels the students to unthinkingly and unquestioningly accept the dominant world-view. It makes the youth dependent on the "other" for information, ideas, knowledge, understanding and decisions…NGOs have a critical role to play in challenging dominant mindsets. There are many people, thinkers and activists who are trying to bring about fundamental changes in the education system.

As we begin to structure the workshop, it's clear that Pawan will have an important role to play. Each of the pilot groups will be developing integrated units using the LME themes as a backbone then creatively filling out the lessons using their existing curricula and local environments as reference, and our resource materials and people for support. In the end they will have in hand a unique, highly-personalized curriculum that promotes true GNH thinking. Pawan can meet with each group independently and assess where history and traditional wisdom can be reflected and highlighted throughout.

We see it as a great alliance to be partnering with Pawan and SIDH. Our team of good people is expanding and for that we rejoice. Help sponsor the workshop with a tax-deductible contribution through The Bhutan Foundation or by participating in our book drive on Amazon.

The Society for Integrated Development of Himalayas (SIDH) is based in Kempty, outside of Mussoorie in the Central Himalayas. SIDH is committed to providing meaningful, relevant, and holistic education to local children and youth. SIDH’s primary mission is to use education as a tool for social change and to encourage a more meaningful exploration and dialogue, not only in the social and political spheres but also within individual mindsets. Currently SIDH operates 11 schools from the pre-primary level through high school and serves nearly 500 children in 40 villages of the Aglar Valley in Jaunpur. SIDH has expanded to include youth courses, teacher training, educational research, advocacy, and publication units, thus reaching out to all those concerned with quality in education.

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