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Recommendations of the III WE ASC World Education Culture Congress 2013:

The III WE ASC CONFERENCE World Education Culture Congress 2013 focussed its discussions on the theme of “Poorna Taleem” and witnessed the presence and participation of distinguished educators from all over Delhi, India and the globe.

The conference discussions ranged from understanding and empowerment of young people and children, pedagogical and mentoring methodologies, learner relationships and assessment, formal and non-formal education, natural, local and indigenous approaches to learning including de-schooling, the role of language, communication and the arts in cognition and learning, creativity, innovation and invention, and finally issues of spirituality and leadership.

The conference sought to be strongly grouted in the present day realities of schooling and education with honest portrayals of the sometimes abysmal conditions in which teachers and young children must learn and depressing presentations of the ways in which higher education today destroys young hopes and dreams. The conference was shown videos of actual situations of classrooms in some parts of the country, with hundreds of children packed into small spaces, some having to sit next to garbage bins to do their learning.

But the conference was also blessed with formidable demonstrations of courage and determination by persistent educators and mentors, and young persons who had decided to make a change, even if it meant sacrificing conventional careers, status and wealth.

Interspersed with the conference discussions were forays into the arts, with astonishing and memorable performances by Lushin Dubey, Maestros Pandit Rajan Sajan Misra and the young folk associated with Manzil, Delhi. These not only transformed the environment in which the conference was held, but challenged the format of present day academicians on learning in the deepest possible way.

Taking stock of the discussions, the Conference hereby now makes the following recommendations for the consideration of educational authorities, institutions and all persons involved in the field of education and learning, and all those who feel strongly about the promotion of other, more diverse and alternative avenues of learning and self-expression:

  • The conference explored the idea of poorna taleem (integral learning and training) in diverse ways, adopting the “near to far” approach, revisiting relationships between the local and global, the familiar and the abstract, the micro and the macro, the individual and society, with mentoring, the self and wellness as key factors. The principal idea was to advocate sustainable approaches that learning institutions, industry, funding institutions and policy makers and other bodies could encourage and support in areas of mentoring and training. The conference urged educators to ensure that pedagogical research as well as programmes and content development moves urgently in directions that are independent of the “text-book” approach.
  • Within the context of our own individual cultures, all participants felt the need to re-link with their own natural, organically evolved, indigenous traditions and redeem and rehabilitate the best of these, including (for example, in India) the guru-shishya feature of the gurukula system, learning for wellness rather than only for certification, indigenous psychology in place of Eurocentric or American psychological teaching, and reduction in the need to impose more and teaching when this interfered with self-discovery and learning.
  • The conference was in fact amazed to discover that persons who had studied their dance or music under accomplished teachers or schools within the country were forced to go abroad to get certification from foreign universities for their learning. It is time that the most experienced of our mentors in the various Indian traditions of the arts are empowered to award their own certification and such anomalies, an inheritance of the colonial age, are removed.
  • In the above context, it is clear that the idea of Poorna Taleem transcends the present sole preoccupation with training of the mind (or the left brain). Not only must educational practice take steps to stimulate those aspects of the self that reside in the right side of the brain, educational practice must ensure harmony and integration between the two.
  • The present climate of change in terms of educational possibilities needs mentors instead of teachers. Most present day teachers are not equipped to be mentors since they specialise only in providing content. For content, students invariably now go elsewhere including the internet. The educational system must transition teachers into mentors or face decline and eventual oblivion.
  • On the other hand, technology cannot be the runaway input in present dealings concerning learning and education, since the history of colonial and post-colonial education is nothing but proof of the negative impacts stemming from the exclusion of culture from educational processes. Culture must be brought back into education and education must respect and enhance culture.
  • However, technology can enhance the potential of human beings. For example, it can help transcend the limitations of the human hand and thereby stretch the limits of imagination, thus improving the scope for creativity and well-being.
  • Present day educational thinking ought to focus as much on unlearning as on providing education and awareness. Many needed improvements and changes are cancelled because of the immense negative influence of earlier conditioning and schooling. Parents also need to undergo the unlearning process, so that they too are liberated from present-day narrow fixations and collaborate enthusiastically in learning for wellness.
  • No one should be left behind. Mentors should recruit those who have been successfully educated to help in the mentoring of others, especially the weakest. Co-mentoring with students offers extensive possibilities. The joys and burdens of mentoring can be shared with co-mentoring, when students are invited to become co-mentors.
  • Pedagogy must recognize the need to create leaders who will take a civilization forward. This can only come if there is learning which creates the need to love and share. Leadership must link up with ideas of sharing. All educators are leaders, they must envision themselves as leaders.
  • It is hypocritical to talk of improving psychological testing and assessment, when the conditions of schooling today in our slums and villagers, the physical environment for learning, remains as a permanent stress factor on both teachers and students. More and extended syllabuses are imposed on teachers adding to their stress. It is difficult to imagine how these can be situations in which learning for wellness is taking place. We must therefore focus not just on tools for psychological assessment, but request owners and government authorities to ensure a more benign physical environment for learning, without too much affluence or degradation, so that there is a spiritual, psychological, space where each student can go and manifest his/her potential best, in an overall atmosphere of well being. If we revisit our definitions of what constitutes space for learning, this could have more benign and practical consequences.
  • Educational policy makers must remain conscious that learning must not just focus on good careers and status, but must be based on a holistic understanding of the human body, good nutrition, a sense of physical and emotional fitness, so lacking in our society, leading to violence. To achieve this, we should revisit as well our basic ideas of wellness.

Delhi 19 January, 2013