The moment I saw the poster of GEF, I knew this was something big. However, when I reached the conference, it was much bigger than I had initially thought about it! In all conferences, it’s the people that make it big, so in the presence of big names like Mr. Anil Swarup, Dr. Sugata Mitra, Dr. Harish Chaudhary, Dr. PB Sharma, Dr. Kamlesh Misra etc. one feels already enlightened. There is so much energy & knowledge that is revolving around these people, it’s unimaginable & unexplainable.
The ideas that got bounced around were very encouraging for me personally & professionally. Personally, as they enriched my knowledge and professionally as they gave me a competitive edge & reassured me on my direction. Another thing which happens when I am attending conferences, is that ideas & experience of a multitude of people gets to us. For example the above mentioned dignitaries are aligned to the education domain but belong to various backgrounds or geographies such as bureaucrats, professor in UK, teacher in Ladakh, IIT Delhi, Amity, Britisher in Doon valley etc. So naturally, it becomes even more invigorating to hear their vast experience and depth of knowledge.
For example, where would one get to know that prior to implementing an initiative, the government has to look at the same being: (the below order is changeable)
- Politically acceptable
- Socially acceptable
- Administratively doable
- Technically possible
- Financially doable
On the other hand, Dr. Sugata Mitra famous for his ‘hole in the wall project’ brought forth a very reassuring fact, that teachers should be enablers in developing the ability of students to ask questions. I treat myself as not a trainer, but an ideator, facilitator or enabler to help my students (all ages) to design products. He said, the internet has started to play a very crucial role in education, it’s just that we won’t give it that recognition. A student with a smartphone is unbeatable at anything. Just she has to have a mind that can make the smartphone work to her advantage, decode the information being asked for and draw proper conclusions. He visually explained how a group of students when given a computer with internet, browsed the net and self-learnt in a group. So it got me to think that how better I can use the same, in my current framework. Dr. Mitra even went on to say that internet browsing & asking the correct questions on Google had become an essential 21st-century skill.
In this age of technology where English is the language of communication, if a speaker starts of in Hindi, eyebrows get raised! But when a person like Anand Kumar of Super 30, a celebrity in his own right, takes to the dais it’s a different thing. Coming from extremely humble beginnings, Anand for me epitomized the persona that it’s all in the mind. If you can dream it you can do it, only if you have fire in the belly. He has beaten the system, year after year by producing 30 students who clear the IIT entrance examination in one shot. It’s all about coaching & mentoring needy students in the right way. In the words of Anupam Kaushik, a teachers’ job in the near future will evolve into being a mentor to students. Students of Super 30 belong to poor families and turn around their family’s status soon after graduation. Anand mentioned that, if as a kid we tell them to read biographies of famous scientists, leaders, managers etc. they are bound to keep those in their top of the mind recall, emulate them and may be follow in their foot steps.
The internalization of typical Indian school education has become a comedy of errors. Though at GEF a panel went on to deliberate the same, I can’t stop myself laughing each time I remember, a school Principal telling me that his school is a Global School because it has air conditioned (AC) class rooms & buses. On the other hand, their other school which is called a XX public school (ie within the same group/management) as it has non AC class rooms & buses! Jokes apart, an international mind set & culture is critical and these should lead to the development of international skills among students. Panelists stressed on the need to, have an atmosphere to create, communicate & collaborate in our growing globalised world where the geographical barriers are coming down. The so called WIG (the world, international or global) schools will be lost in oblivion if they do not change. After all international school business is a US$ 40 billion industry, so why a society would have a WIG school anyway! In fact, it’s ironical, that in my introductory 3d printing email, I always say that when adopting 3D printing, a school will truly become a world, international or global school! Lt. Gen. Kulkarni – Director Mayo College added a wonderful quote on this whole debate, ‘one should strive for global boots with local roots’.
Dr. Harish Chaudhary was introduced to the audience as God of Education by the organisers. Throughout the 2 days of the conference, if someone was heard carefully it was him if someone spoke from the heart & the gut at the same time, it was him only. Very simplistically he described that education was the sharpening of intelligence and the means to earn a living. Anything that one learned be it science, social studies, maths or languages, the underlying objective was to sharpen the intelligence & earn a living at the end of the day. That day is generally 17-18 years long for many! Intelligence which I mentioned is different from cognitive intelligence. The latter emerged after the 1st industrial revolution and we live in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex & ambiguous) world, he said. From this emerged the need for leaders, Leaders who are required to have a vision, discipline, passion & conscience. Leadership is communication to people their worth & potential so clearly, that they come to see it in themselves. One has to communicate with all concerned.
In the midst of all this it is important to note that learning outcomes are very important. They eventually need to be scalable & sustainable in the rightful views of the private equity panelists. In the words of the story teller Valentina Trivedi, learning can happen anywhere, be it in a mall, a park, railway station etc. one has to be mindful when say walking and this leads to value education. Life is nothing but learning & expressing. So in the words of Dr. MM Pant one has to be a lifelong learner.
All my above paragraphs might seem to appear disjointed from one another. But I’ve tried to capture & pen down the thoughts of various speakers, panelists and share my own experiences & learning with you.