Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Naropa in Bhutan

This week I am participating in a workshop run by Deborah Young of Naropa University for the Royal University of Bhutan at the Paro College of Education.  The goal is "to identify the most deeply rooted values among the people of Bhutan, and to identify the gaps between those values and current educational practice." RUB has a four-year plan to revamp all the programs at all the colleges here. It's a huge task. RUB Lecturers will be doing a participatory action research project to determine exactly how best to design the colleges so that values and mindfulness become the trademark of Bhutanese education. 

It's been so interesting meeting and getting to know the participants who are all professors at one of Bhutan's eleven colleges. They are the ones teaching the future leaders of Bhutan, particularly those who are teacher trainers. We've begun identifying the principles that are essential to a holistic education. One afternoon I was participating in a group activity and one of the teachers at my table was a linguistics and English teacher at Gaeddu Business College. We discussed how he could incorporate practicum into his curriculum and how he could integrate with other business subjects. This lead to a lively discussion about how the future of Bhutan's business begins with these future business leaders in training. What a difference it would make if they received special sustainability training.

Bhutan's colleges all reside under the Royal University of Bhutan: Royal Institute of Health Science, National Institute of Traditional Medicine, Sherubtse (Liberal Arts), Gaeddu, Institute of Language and Culture Studies, Jigme Namgyal Polytechnic, Paro College of Education, Samtse College of Education, the College of Science and Technology, the College of Natural Resources, and Royal Thimphu College (an affiliate college).

Read the article in the Bhutan Observer about the workshop.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

It's Official!

It is a great pleasure to inform you that Lho Mon Society has been registered with the Bhutan Government as a CSO with effect from February 7, 2012. It has been a long wait but thanks to everybody's hard work we finally succeeded. We look forward to working with all of our partners as we continue onward with this good news.

Contextualizing Lessons

I loved this article about a school in New York City that serves primarily low income children. Several teachers have taken it upon themselves to find out what the students really needed to learn and to teach it to them in a relevant way. My only qualm with the story is that it focuses on the low income aspect of the situation, whereas I think this kind of instruction is important for all students at any income level in any country. The Lho Mon Education curriculum framework strongly emphasizes using the local environment as a learning tool. The monks will learn about managing the finances of their own monastery, the domestic helpers can learn about global trade through a visit to the market, rural villagers can learn about global warming by studying weather patterns in their own back yard.

Read the New York Times article here.

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.