The proof of education, more than anything else, is humility. To possess the ability to break the mould that culture has cast for us; to have the ability to embrace a sense of adventure; to be willing to navigate uncharted territory, to risk revision of long-cherished traditions—this is what defines life-affirming education.
How do we equip our teachers to become enablers of life affirming education? How do we create classrooms that deal with ideas and teachers who nurture intelligence plus character, wonder plus amazement, curiosity plus questioning, thought, reflection, creativity and imagination.
Beyond ‘Teaching’ – A conference on the larger meaning of Education
Presented by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In association with History for Peace—An initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts.
Below is the programme for the conference.
20 January 2020
8.30 – 9.45 a.m.
Inauguration. Chief Guest
Dr. B.K. Krishnaraj Vanavarayar, Chairman, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Coimbatore
9.45 – 11.15 a.m.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan project of public education.
A significant template for the early 21st century?
The presentation briefly outlines the character of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (BVB) project in its time, during the 1930s, and its changing significance at the time nationalism and nation building occupied centre stage in India during the mid 20th century. Identifiably an initiative in public education, the project came to be bound more closely with formal education structures later in the century.
The presentation poses the question whether the original template requires re-engagement, in an era that is drawn by ‘trending’ as much in education as the media. If it is to inspire re-engagement, how is this to be achieved, and with what value?
Hari Vasudevan is Professor at the University of Calcutta and former Chairman, Syllabus Committees and Textbook Development Committees for Social Sciences, NCERT. He is a specialist in European and Russian History.
11.15 – 11.30 a.m.
11.30 a.m. – 12.45 p.m.
Tracing Untold Histories: Going Beyond the Textbook
Textbook histories tell us only part of the story. For example, when you start to look for women in history, textbooks offer you almost nothing – other than the stories of a stray queen or two. So how do you trace the stories that remain untold? How make that search interesting? How do you involve students in it? My contention here is that tracing untold stories and histories can be a really exciting classroom and non textbook exercise – it’s rather like a detective story, where you have a clue that seems like almost nothing but leads you to a whole back story. In this session, I hope to put together some of these clues – a poem, a pamphlet, a library ticket, a sari, a phanek, a headdress, and more to look at the search for inclusive histories. We’ll look at absences in history, at what is available that leads us to the stories, and at how to seek legitimacy for new, and unusual sources.
Urvashi Butalia is an Indian feminist and publisher. Along with Ritu Menon, she co-founded Kali for Women, India’s first exclusively feminist publishing house, in 1984. In 2003, following the closure of Kali for Women, she founded Zubaan Books.
Butalia started her career working with Oxford University Press in Delhi. She later worked for a year at their Oxford headquarters, before briefly to London-based Zed Books as an editor in 1982. She then returned to India and, along with Ritu Menon, set up a feminist publishing house, Kali for Women, in 1984.
Butalia’s main areas of interest are partition and oral histories from a feminist and left-wing perspective. She has written on gender, communalism, fundamentalism and media. Her writings have appeared in several newspapers and magazine publications including The Guardian, the New Internationalist, The Statesman, The Times of India, Outlook and India Today. She has been a regular columnist for the left-wing Tehelka and for Indian Printer and publisher, a B2B publication dealing with the print and publishing industry.
In 2011, Butalia was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India. In 2017, the German Federal Republic awarded Butalia the Goethe Medal, an official distinction that ‘honors individuals who have displayed exceptional competence of the German language as well as in international cultural exchange’.
Butalia is visiting faculty at Ashoka University and a consultant for Oxfam India and she holds the position of Reader at the College of Vocational Studies at the University of Delhi.
12.45 – 1.30 p.m. Lunch
1.30 – 3.30 p.m.
4 parallel workshops
Facilitators: Shiv Nadar School faculty, Ashwin Prabhu, Akhila Seshadri [Rishi Valley] Tina Servaia [History for Peace]
Perspectives in Pedagogy
Shahnaaz Khan, Shiv Nadar School
This workshop is on using the classroom and education to understand identities and conflicts. The workshop will focus on how the classroom is a coming together of differences, with each child a bearer of multiple identities and perspectives. How does the teacher engage with students as who they are and how they view others around them? Should pedagogy be removed from identity markers towards a blind objectivity as has been expected from teaching; or should it be informed and balanced, dealing with critical issues in a multicultural society? Teachers who are empowered to deal with these questions in the classroom will lead to empowered learners who will be able to deal with these issues outside the classroom.
Shahnaaz Khan has a background in peace and conflict studies, focused on identity based violence and using education to transform perspectives and challenge prejudices, and has spoken at multiple platforms including TEDxGateway, Katha etc. on the same.
Teaching History like a Historian
Tina Servaia, History for Peace
‘Teaching History like a Historian’ brings the historian’s craft straight into the heart of the classroom. It is a module focused on bringing in multiple sources and perspectives into the everyday teaching of history to encourage the teacher, and subsequently the students they reach, to critically question and engage with ‘given’ knowledge. ‘Teaching History like a Historian’ is designed to cultivate the crucial thinking skills that come with historical thinking, whose potential and repercussions far exceed the bounds of History as just another school subject.
The module is built around topics that feature in history syllabi across boards in the country. Multiple perspectives, primary sources and contending arguments have been used to complicate singular, unquestioning acceptance of given narratives.
Tina Servaia has taught for twenty years at various school and college levels and currently teaches History and Theory of Knowledge in the A’Level and IB curricula at the Calcutta International School, where she strives to use a variety of techniques to make students independent thinkers. She has co-authored History and Civics Textbooks for classes 6 – 8.
Learning to Use the Tools of History–learning ways to understand history through activities
Akhila Seshadri, The School (KFI)
In this workshop participants will work in small groups looking at the following aspects of history:
- Using evidence to come upon a reasonable explanation
- Using a monument to understand lives and environments
- Learning about a timeline
- Creating a neighbourhood atlas
- Understanding bias: Who writes history?
Akhila Seshadri always had a deep and abiding interest in the humanities. This has been further strengthened both by her training in history as well as her experiences at The School (KFI), where she been a teacher for the past 28 years. Her interests have been understanding and working with children, reading, theatre and music.
Learning history in school through trips
Enquiring into the past and relating it to the present
In this workshop I will explore how school trips can be a comprehensive pedagogical tool to teach history. The design and intent of the trip is to encourage observation, enquiry, questioning and reflection and give these tools of learning precedence over mere memorization of facts. On these trips, children come in contact with people, sites, landscapes, cultural practices and social realities which allow them to make sense of the present by looking at issues through the lens of the past.
We will look at actual worksheets used on these trips, understand their purpose and structure and even work in small groups to create fresh material for a local study trip in Kochi. Teachers will be invited to share their experiences, learnings and ideas with the larger group to help foster this spirit of learning in their classrooms.
Ashwin Prabhu has taught English and History at The School Krishnamurti Foundation India, Chennai. His interests lie in educational philosophy, creative teaching practices and constructing spaces for free and open dialogue between educators and students in schools.
21 January 2020
8.30 – 9.45
Teacher as Philosopher
First and foremost, philosophy is fundamentally about teaching. The earliest philosophers were basically the first teachers. In today’s world, there are new challenges to teaching. What is a teacher supposed to teach in a world filled with a surplus of information? To teach as a philosopher is to teach children the skills of thinking, reflecting, understanding, creating and being empathetically responsible. All these aspects of teaching are also the ways by which we can deal with the tremendous influx of information, distraction and entertainment that constitutes our technological societies today. From the story of Ekalavya to Gandhi’s ‘nai talim’, we can trace the importance of understanding the teacher as a philosopher.
Sarukkai was till recently a professor of philosophy at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru. He was also the Founder-Director of the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities. His work is primarily in the philosophy of natural and social sciences. He is the author of the following books: Translating the World: Science and Language; Philosophy of Symmetry; Indian Philosophy and Philosophy of Science; What is Science? and two books co-authored with Gopal Guru: The Cracked Mirror: An Indian Debate on Experience and Theory and most recently Experience, Caste and the Everyday Social. His book on JRD Tata titled JRD Tata and the Ethics of Philanthropy will be published next year. He has been involved in the field of education and education policy. He has been very active in outreach programs to take philosophy to different communities and places, including philosophy workshops for children and bringing philosophy to the public through his writing in the media and through his initiative Barefoot Philosophers (www.barefootphilosophers.org).
9.45 – 11 a.m.
Being in the story
What makes storytelling such a powerful and engaging experience, and how does it aid learning? What changes when you are in the problem instead of talking about the problem?
Kapil Pande is the founder and President of the Kutumb foundation, a non-profit that has been using drama and sport for development tools as means to offer learning and reflective spaces to children and young people from less privileged backgrounds. Kapil is a drama-in-education practitioner, and he believes that drama is a very powerful medium to create safe and reflective spaces, and to change power equations. Kapil has a Postgraduate diploma in Theatre for Education and Social Transformation from Shiv Nadar University, and has been training NGO, public and private school teachers in using drama conventions in classroom for the last 4-5 years. Kapil is an active storyteller. He has travelled the country with his stories, and can often be found telling stories to children and adults in schools, NGOs, parks and literature festivals across the country. He is a musician, and doesn’t leave any opportunity to use his musical skills in both his storytelling recitals and drama led sessions. Kapil graduated from St. Stephen’s college and led the hindi section of the Shakespeare Society, the dramatic society of the college. While at college, he was awarded the Rajpal memorial prize for maximum contribution to theatre in college. Kapil is an MIT certified design thinking professional, and designs signage solutions for institutions to earn his living!
11 – 11.15 a.m. Tea break
11.15 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
The Moving Histories: Cine Pedagogy and the History Classroom
In the times of post literate society certain pedagogical shifts have to occur in spaces where history is taught to an occularcentric student community whose mindset is impacted by the growing visual data bases that galore in these times. We need to address this mindset change that brings out structural changes in the responsive character of the student community who study history. Feature films, docu films and photographs contain historical plots which have to be discerned in the classrooms through developing critical social scientific aptitudes and skills of the students who easily get affiliated to the cinematic emplotment where history is transmitted through stories and interesting visual narratives. Studying a historical film through using film historical methodologies is imperative in locating past events and processes in its historical setting enmeshing with the emotions of the period of study and thereby emulating intense historical imagination of the students. The talk intends to orient the teachers in the art and craft of using historical feature films and other visual sources as texts of the past and reinforce the concept of cine pedagogy in the post modern world that engage more with the visual past than the textual past.
Sebastian Joseph, PG Department & Research Centre in History, UC College, Aluva, is a triple gold medalist in History. Dr. Sebastian Joseph passed his M.A in History from the University of Kerala with first class and first rank. He secured the highest marks in B.A History from M.G University and topped the list of candidates in all the three Universities in Kerala and secured State Merit Scholarship. The specialisation in forest history taken for his M.Phil was carried forward to his PhD, which was later awarded a PHDD Fellowship by the KCHR.
He has presented at several National and International seminars and is the author of Cochin Forests and the British: A Case of Techno-Ecological Imperialism, Primus Publications, New Delhi, which won the Fifth Historia Award for the best researched work on Modern Kerala History.
Sebastian Joseph completed his post graduation in history and went on to specialize in forest history over his M.Phil and PhD, the latter of which was awarded a PHDD fellowship by the KCHR. A Charles Wallace fellow, Joseph has extensively written and presented, both nationally and internationally, on areas of environmental history, family history and film history. He has also edited journals including Environmental History: Issues in Prudence and Profligacy.
12.30 – 1.30 p.m. Lunch
1.30 – 2.45 p.m.
A School Must Flower
Between Philosophy and Practice
The talk is an exploration into the educational vision of J Krishnamurti. It attempts a reflection on the purpose of education and the work of the teacher both within and beyond the classroom through words and images.
Jayashree Nambiar is the Principal of The School KFI, one of the six schools of Krishnamurti Foundation India. These schools look, in J Krishnamurti’s words, ‘to create the right climate and environment so that the child may develop fully as a complete human being. This means giving the child the opportunity to flower in goodness so that he or she is rightly related to people, things and ideas, to the whole of life.’ The school has been the ground for this exploration. After two initial years of work as a lecturer at college, she has been with The School the last three decades. As a teacher she has been interested in the learning mind and all that comes in the way of a student’s learning. She is interested in questioning the construction of knowledge and in understanding the nature of learning that goes beyond just the effective acquisition of knowledge. As a principal, her interests revolve around the potential for deep change, the need for understanding oneself and the importance of talking and working together with courage.
2.45 – 3 p.m. Tea break
3 – 4.15 p.m.
Mothers and Others
How to bring the margins back into young peoples lives
Fighting the erasure of women from history: a case study from Social Communications Media department, Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai.
We all know that women are written out of history; we know this is happening today. But can we do something about it? The students of the Sophia Polytechnic began to work on a project called ‘Lives of the Women’, with three volumes of lives out and another in the making. Jerry Pinto guided the project and will talk about it.
Jerry Pinto is a Mumbai-based writer of poetry, prose and children’s fiction. His novel Em and the Big Hoom (2012) won the Windham-Campbell Award managed by the Beinecke Library, Yale University; the Sahitya Akademi Award; the Hindu Lit for Life Award; and the Crossword Award. His analysis of the figure of Helen in Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb (2006) won him the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema. He is on the board of MelJol, an NGO that works in the child rights space; SPARROW, an archive for women; and The People’s Free Reading Room & Library, one of his city’s first public libraries. He started his career as a teacher and continues to do so at the Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai.
22 January 2020
8 – 9.45 a.m.
What is to be taught in History?
Whatever is taught in History, it must sharpen the intellect. This interaction will invite you to think about how we can achieve this goal. The teaching and learning of History ought to develop among pupils a range of abilities: to identify socio-historical puzzles, fit-in the jigsaw, advance fact-based, evidence-led arguments, fold arguments into a narrative, create a conversation among perspectives and grasp categories and concepts.
My presentation will also ask what should be the content of school histories. Whose history? The history of things? The many pasts of a social formation, of a nation? Non-national histories? The powerless, the voiceless in history. The leaders and the led. New kinds of history.
If recent decades have expanded the scope of school-histories, historians and pedagogues would have expanded the range of their sources. The students’ understanding of materials from which we construct histories can never be deepened if our teaching remains confined to a prescribed textbook. From where do we teach other than the ‘sacred’ text created for us by some ‘higher authority’? How do we go beyond the textbook while simultaneously maintaining its salience? What do we gain by doing this?
In so doing, we introduce young people to the historian’s craft, a method of enquiry useful in several walks of life. We also sensitise them to a multiplicity of perspectives, to the conflict of interpretations. They might then learn that there are several ways of seeing, that no vantage point is infallible, and how best to see in consonance with evidence and fact.
In a career spanning over thirty-seven years, Anil Sethi has been a University professor, a teacher of teachers and teacher-educators, curriculum-developer, researcher and academic administrator. He has worn two academic hats: in History and in Education. At present, Anil is Chief Executive Officer of the Pokhrama Foundation, based in Pokhrama, Bihar and Hyderabad, Telangana. The Foundation is in the process of establishing schools for disadvantaged children in the rural areas of India. Anil also continues to lecture all over the country. Anil has helped develop various History textbooks published by the NCERT. He has written for the current History textbooks of the NCERT: for Classes VIII, XI and XII.
His publications include School, Society, Nation: Popular Essays in Education (Delhi, Orient Longman, 2005) that he co-edited with Rajni Kumar and Shalini Sikka.
9.45 – 10 Tea
10 – 11.15 a.m.
Facilitator Meena Malhotra, Director, History for Peace—An initiative of The Seagull Foundation for the Arts
With support from all speakers
11.15 – 11.30 a.m.
Introducing History for Peace project website
11.30 a.m. – 12 p.m.
12 p.m. Lunch