PUBLIC POLICY, INDIAN SOCIAL DYNAMICS AND THE CULTURAL UNDERPINNINGS
NFSI2020 Lead-up Events
Event 1: Keynote Talk on Education, Culture and Social Dynamics
The first talk organised by NFSI’s Working Group II was titled ‘Education, Culture and Social Dynamics’. It was held on 28 October 2020 from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. The speaker was Dr. Triveni Mathur, Educator, and Media and Communication Professional. She spoke on how education acts as a tool for cultural and social change. She also explored the interconnectedness between education and culture, and how this in turn affects social dynamics. She took an auto-ethnographic approach to evaluate this relation and included anecdotes from her life as a Fulbright scholar. Discussions revolved around what was, what is and what could be, in a post-pandemic world.
The Q&A session had an interesting round of questions, focussing more on the current pandemic situation and how the field of education is adapting to it. The session had over forty participants.
Event 2: A Talk on Holistic Education, Past, Present and Future
Shri Mukul Kanitkar, National Organising Secretary of Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal, spoke on ‘Holistic Education in India: Past, Present and Future’ at the NFSI lead-up event organised by Working Group II on 17 November 2020. The session began at 4 pm with a prayer and was moderated by Dr. Vanisree Ramanathan, Head of the School of Ethics, Governance and Cultural Systems (EGCS), at Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth.
Shri Kanitkar opened his lecture with a quote from the Vishnu Purana ‘tatkarma yan na bandhāya sā vidyā yā vimuktaye’, which means ‘an individual should not be bound to action, and education is that which liberates the individual’. He mainly spoke about the four components that are significant in building a holistic and integrated education system. The four components being objectives, policy, content and methodology of education. The objective of education includes the aims and purpose of education. Shri Kanitkar emphasised that the purpose of education should be one which implements mukta kari vidya, yukta kari vidya and artha kari vidya. Mukta kari vidya is education that liberates an individual by making one qualified as well as employable. Yukta kari vidya develops the overall personality of an individual and artha kari vidya equips a person with skills which would help earn a living. This in turn will liberate an individual as one acts without being bound to the action. He stressed that an education policy should be framed with these objectives in mind. The content or the curriculum offered to students should be flexible, to provide ‘total knowledge’ as well as specialised knowledge according to their svabhava or aptitude. The credit-based choice system in modern education mainly indicates this flexibility in content. And finally, the methodology or pedagogy for holistic education should be based on research. The research skills should be honed by acharyas which would help students arrive at conclusions. The speaker also stressed on the fact that the process of education is that of learning rather than teaching, where both, the acharya as well as the shishya, learn and evolve together. Through his talk, Shri Kanitkar showed how the existing Gurukula system practices the rendering of holistic and integrated education. He also emphasised how the Gurukula system can be the future of education.
After the lecture, the forum was opened for questions. There was an active question-answer session and the session ended by 5.30 pm. The webinar had around fifty participants.
Event 3: Reflective Discourse on ‘The Changing Culture of Higher Education in India’
The Working Group II of NFSI4 organised a reflective discourse on ‘The Changing Culture of Higher Education in India’ on 25 November 2020, 6.00 to 7.30 pm as the third lead-up event to the fourth edition of NFSI to be held in January 2021. Working Group II focuses on ‘Public Policy, Indian Social Dynamics and Cultural Underpinnings’ which also includes the realm of education especially higher education and its policy dimensions. Prof. (Dr.) Amruth G. Kumar, Head of Department of Education, Central University of Kerala, was the invited speaker for the event.
Prof. Kumar deliberated on the changing culture of Higher education in India in terms of three ‘legitimised evils’ in the structural unconsciousness of the system namely competition, soft violence and inequality, and also reflected upon the effect of these on the various stakeholders in higher education—especially teachers and students. He stressed that mere structural reforms cannot reverse the new normal being created in the higher education system as a result of the neo-liberal competitive realities of the contemporary world and its ramifications. The lecture was followed by fruitful deliberations that explored the various aspects of the talk.
Dr. Pramod Dinakar, Assistant Professor, School of Ethics, Governance, Culture and Social systems, was the moderator of the event and Dr. Vanisree Ramanathan, Head of the School of EGCS gave the concluding remarks and rendered the Vote of Thanks. Dr. Bindu M. P. and Mr. G. Shekhar Reddy, Assistant Professors at the School of EGCS, introduced the invited speaker and moderated the Q&A session respectively.
Event 4: ‘Indic Studies in China with a Focus on Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts’ by Dr. Binod Singh Ajatshatru
The fourth leadup event of the NFSI Working Group II on 7 December 2020 from 4 to 5:30 pm, was on the topic, ‘Indic Studies in China with a Focus on Buddhist Sanskrit Manuscripts’. It was handled by Dr. Binod Singh Ajatshatru, the Director of BRICS Institute, New Delhi.
Dr. Binod initiated the session by providing a brief outline of the areas the talk would focus on, namely how the Chinese academia sees India and the Indic Knowledge System, what it has adopted or discarded, and the reasons for the same. He enumerated the challenges of working in a political setting in which religion and discussions regarding the same were controversial and how studies in the area were largely restricted to what the political class deemed fit.
Dr. Binod went on to talk about how the lack of vigour in India to preserve original Buddhist texts in Sanskrit and Pali combined with the prejudices against India in the Chinese minds largely overshadows the approach to Indic studies in Chinese academia. He spoke about how to make the Buddhist thought palatable to the Chinese masses, the Chinese have created their own Buddhist literature largely borrowing from Confucian thought. Dr. Binod also raised concern over the lack of monitoring by the Indian scholar community on the translation of Indian Sanskrit texts by the Chinese and the need for concerted efforts to retrieve, revive and encourage studies in Buddhist Sanskrit literature in India. He also urged Indian and Chinese academicians to put aside their differences and collaborate considering that Indian and Chinese relations go back centuries. After Dr. Binod’s presentation, the floor was opened to questions for 30 minutes and saw active participation from students and faculty alike.