May 2015 By Jamuna Rangachari As soon as I entered the room where the educational conference, Samvaad, was being held, I felt a wonderful energy of learning, sharing and understanding all around. Children were sitting with educators and both were educating each other. I was impressed to see children of Heritage school interact openly with children from the underprivileged section. They sang and danced together, and after three days of the workshop, had indeed become good friends. Manit Jain, Director of Heritage School, who also attended the programme, says, “Samvaad is an educational conference that has no teaching taking place but where exponential learning is experienced. A conference where there are no experts and students are also teachers. This conference is designed around questions participants themselves ask. They co-create the experience. “ Ravi Gulati, the founder-director of the NGO, Manzil, felt that the sharing of experiences was what was needed to make India truly egalitarian and equal. He has been participating in Samvaad for two years, while the programme itself has been held for the past three years. I could see that everyone was considered equal in Samvaad, be it the director, principal, teachers or the students. Samvaad is a team work of the Heritage School, Gurgaon, and Sadanand Ward Mailliard, Trustee, Sri Ram Ashram and teacher at The Mount Madonna School, California. Every year different organizations partner with the core group to bring new flavours into Samvaad. The participation of more than 80 people from different backgrounds creates a synergy of ideas and thoughts. The participating schools included The Woodstock School, Step by Step school, Teach for India, Jamste Gatsal Children’s community, We the people, Youth Alliance, SOS children’s villages, Swatantra Talim and Pardada Pardadi school. They explored new ideas in education from all over India, and not only brought out numerous perspectives but also enabled everyone to explore their own relation with education. “It is dialogue that can enable us to learn all the time,” said the educators and children, doing just what Saamvaad aims to do, co-creating education and redefining humanity as a space of listening and understanding each other. The primary directive of Samvaad is to give learners of all ages, an experience of what it means to explore with others and discover the power of small group conversations that build trust and human bonding. Sadanand Ward Mailliard states, “Curiosity is the doorway to empathy. Once we truly understand how another person thinks, we meet ourselves in a profound way and discover that our differences are much less than we might have imagined. When we judge another person, we close ourselves to learning and to that person’s gifts and we marginalize them to the detriment of our community. Samvaad is simply the practise of creating dialogues through facilitation of experienced educators whose job is not to teach but to create a context for learning.” At the end of the programme, there was joyous music and dance with everyone saying this too was an arena to learn and share skills.
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