By Life Positive
Lady Shruti Rana, who is hosting a conference on world education in New Delhi early next year, offers a preview of its possibilities
An educationist, musician and exponent of Indic traditional knowledge systems, Lady Shruti Rana is also an Indic psychologist and health consultant and works towards social empowerment and wellness of women, youth and ethnic communities. Shruti was awarded the Delhi Ratna Government of India Award in 2002 for her contribution in the realm of healing music. She founded Shruti Foundation, a non-profit, charitable trust in 2006 for education, traditional wisdom and human rights. The foundation is hosting the World Education – Arts, Science and ‘Education Culture’ (WE – ASC) in January 2011 in New Delhi, for which Life Positive is the media partner. The aim of the conference is to create awareness and bring about a change in the educational system, giving it a more practical, holistic and growth-oriented approach. Excerpts from an email interview.
Was there any particular impetus to organising this conference?
For a long while, my passion has been to facilitate, through my personal knowledge and effort, and through the activities of Shruti Foundation and its journal “SUTRA-the thread”, a new awareness of culture, traditional knowledge systems and formats for awareness building, education, wellness and self-development. My particular focus has been in the areas of artistic, multi-sensory as well as inner education, curriculum development, evaluation and accreditation systems.
The World Education Culture Congress 2011, which is the beginning of the WE – ASC movement, seeks to bring together great minds, policy makers and implementers to express, ideate and work together towards the much-needed manifestation of a new body of education for a new world, for individual and mass empowerment through evolved journeys in holistic and integral education.
What is your dream outcome for this conference?
The ideal outcome of the WE – ASC movement, commencing with this WE – ASC World Education Congress 2011 is to influence change and empower society as well as humanity in the following ways:
• To create a dynamic world network of educationists, artists, scholars, administrators, policy makers and administrators.
• To evolve the culture and pedagogy of education for deep systemic change on local and transnational levels.
• To develop practical formats for training in skills for sustainable development and human empowerment, especially in environmental sciences, traditional technologies, mental skills, indigenous craft, arts, design, life sciences and wellness sciences.
• To immediately begin work on short-term, medium-term and long-term projects in teacher training and holistic education.
• To enable global collaborations and influence educational/cultural policy through resolutions adopted at the WE – ASC Congress 2011, on educational and cultural rights, ethics, evaluation and accreditation, course and curriculum development.
• To faciltate greater access to education for women and to provide general education of gender issues and representation in education, society and the role of gender in global dvelopment.
How is it shaping up? Any exciting names yet?
It is heartening to see the response to this conference from so many countries and the participation of extremely eminent personalities, including educationists, parliamentarians, cultural and educational institutions as well as innovative artists, scholars, and educational activists from across the globe. So far we have received registrations of delegates from 32 countries and expect more than 40 countries to participate.
There are many exciting personalities involved in the Congress. Some of the eminent personalities involved already are Chief Guest, Smt Sheila Dikshit (Chief Minister, Delhi NCR), Keynote Speaker Dr Karan Singh (MP and chairman, ICCR), Baroness Prashar (House of Lords, UK), Lord Meghnad Desai (House of Lords, UK), Sri Jyotiraditya Scindia (Minister of State for Industry), Baroness Verma (Government spokesperson for Cabinet Office, UK, Minister for International Development and Minister for Women’s Issues), Ruth Gee (Head of British Council), Film-maker and parliamentarian Shyam Benegal, Kapil Dev (celebrated sports personality), SK Misra (Founder chairman, INTACH), Rekha Mody (gender activist), Dr Shyama Chona(Educationist, Padma Bhushan recipient), among many heads of educational and cultural institutions from various countries.
Right now education does seem to be in ferment, at least in India. What is the global perspective on this?
I believe that the state of Indian consciousness is diverse and in transition, and so are its educational pedagogies and efforts towards human and societal development. The world is in a state of experimentation with human development, and is excited about the development and mental capabilities of a young and resurgent India and its global success in many areas of expertise.
The growing awareness of Indic culture and effective uses of alternative or traditional knowledge systems in India, make India an attractive source of multifaceted streams of knowledge, village wisdom including diverse arts and crafts, ways of healthcare and wellness, traditional as well as modern scientific development, and last but not the least, the technologies and knowledge of dealing with human psychology, physiology and consciousness.
Would you share your own ideas about what education should be like?
Education in its most natural form is self-oriented, environmental and multifaceted for the sake of personal nourishment, joy as well as self-understanding and expression. The child in its successive developmental stages seeks to understand itself, and the environment. It strives towards cognition, comprehension and interaction with its immediate environment for nourishment and growth through physical, sensory, emotional, psychological, mental and intuitive faculties.
Organised education should bear the following in mind:
• All natural knowledge is essentially within the being. The formats of education must facilitate the recognition of facts through natural processes so that the child resonates with knowledge accessed with a sense of natural familiarity, rather than thrusting ideas and facts which labour the child’s mind.
• The teacher must allow natural and multi-sensory education from the nearest environmental experience, before leading to education of the unfamiliar or the abstract.
• The child’s inner qualities and natural aptitudes must be considered in deciding the path and manner of absorption of knowledge for each individual.
• Education of narratives, sciences, facts and figures can and should ideally be woven and consumed through audio-visual ways and artistic formats such as melody, rhyme and rhythm, painting of forms and narratives, physical expressions such as rhythmic movement, dance and theatre. These formats engage multiple senses and facilitate long-term absorption, retention, comprehension and expression of knowledge.
• All forms of learning, including skills development, learning of the arts as well as learning of humanities and the sciences should be equally viewed as valid education. The treatment of the arts and skills education as secondary or co-curricular, and thus less important or valid is a societal disease, which has harmed the natural aptitude development of large sections of children and youth across the globe.
• Local development of educational and accreditation formats conducive to localised and traditional knowledge should be promoted to instil self-confidence, local application in native region for sustainable development as also to prevent exodus of local youth towards blind urban dreams.
• Primary, secondary and higher education must re-evaluate curriculums and include non-western and local perspective on culture, wellness, history, psychology, science and technology in national and global curriculums. The present curriculums primarily promote western mindsets, sciences and technologies with little or no inclusion of indigenous sciences and technologies. For instances, one may consider subjects such as mathematics, psychology, consciousness studies, nutrition and medicine, biology, among others.
Have you ever been exposed to the kind of educational experience you hope to inculcate?
I did not receive the education, I now hope to inculcate, during my school and college years. However, I have been inspired by the teachings and ideas of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, besides my own understanding and experimentation with traditional knowledge systems and methodologies of education in Indian history and Indian thought. I have developed and implemented formats in my own work as a teacher in Mirambika, Delhi, and also as a visiting research fellow to Queens University in the UK, besides my workshops and sessions with many groups and institutions internationally.
Anything else you would like to add?
The WE – ASC movement and its successive Congresses will be organised every 12 to 18 months in different nations, in order to get deeper perspectives of the mindset and culture of the host nation, and enrich the perspective and action of the movement.
The ultimate ojective is to consciously assist the innovative, creative and resurgent generations in the making towards a harmonious and peaceful world.
The WE – ASC Congress in 2011 is being orginised by Shruti Foundation and co-sponsored by British Council and ICCR. For details, please visit www.WE – ASC.org
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