For some time now, India has been convulsed with violence at various levels. Educational institutions — whether schools, colleges or universities — have not been spared. It is in this context that Vidya Vanam School, Anaikatti, decided to host its third National Conference on Education on the theme, Peace in Education.
“The first conference in 2014 was triggered by the death of a young student in Betul. He had been beaten to death by a teacher,” says Prema Rangachary, director of Vidya Vanam. “Similar incidents of violence inflicted by teachers on students led to the theme of ‘Education for a Caring Society’, in which children could grow up without fear. The cornerstone of free and fearless living is Democracy and thus we chose ‘Democracy in Education’ as the theme for the 2016 edition.”
With violence, injustice, inequality and a lack of acceptance and empathy continuing to dominate the discourse, it was important to talk about peace and negotiating all these obstacles in a peaceful way. More so for teachers, says Rangachary, as they have a great responsibility in keeping the learning environment democratic and peaceful. “Promoting freedom of speech, individuality, critical thinking, debate and coalition empower the students to be agents of peace and change.”
Agreeing with Rangachary, Chintan Girish Modi, writer, researcher and peace educator from Mumbai, says, “In the atmosphere of hate that we see around us, it is important to create more platforms that emphasise peace, social justice and human rights. I hope this conference can be one such and raise pertinent issues for educators to reflect on and discuss. Our classrooms can be powerful spaces for social change.”
The conference is structured so that some workshops lead off from topics of discussion. So you have Perumal Murugan and Dr Kezevino Aram talking about Mindful Communication and Dr Kathy Ganske’s workshop focusing on Language and Conflict Resolution. If Dr RS Praveen Kumar, Chintan Girish Modi, Seema Bhaskaran and Gita Jayaraj discuss Negotiating Power and Privilege in Education, Prema Rangachary will delve deeper into the topic with her workshop on Inclusivity for Peaceful Education.
Dr Neeraja Raghavan’s Reflective Writing workshop helps teachers to look back on the impact of their actions and words while Dr Sanjay Molur will show how Living in Sync with Nature adds to a peaceful educational environment.
Freedom of Speech in the Classroom is a hot topic. Adding their mite to the views of academicians AR Venkatachalapathy and Prof Sambaiah Gundimeda and educationists Santhya Vikram and Banu Nagesh will be students of Vidya Vanam. Speaking about the importance of the topic, Venkatachalapathy says, “The classroom is a liminal space where normal restrictions on expression can be suspended for a heuristic purpose. It is meant to dis-inhibit students (and teachers as well). For instance, playing the devil's advocate, posing counter-factuals can animate discussion and enhance critical thinking.”
It is important to revisit those difficult questions that are the root cause of violence and reinforce values such as diversity, coexistence, gender equality, democracy and human rights. Only then will responsible citizens hold governments to standards of peace when citizens can exercise their personal freedom and be legally protected from violence, oppression and indignity.
“India has a large youth population that will soon be leading the country,” says Rangachary. “It is therefore imperative that many forums debate how we can bring this discourse into the learning environment so that the culture of peace becomes a part of one’s psyche.”
More on the delegates
Prof Samdhong Rinpoche, former Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile, an advocate of Gandhian philosophy and a lifelong campaigner of non violence, will inaugurate the conference
Dr K VijayRaghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, will deliver the keynote address
Other speakers include academician and activist V Vasanthi Devi, Vidwan TM Krishna, neurologist and researcher Dr Sriram Subramaniam and Gandhian scholar MP Mathai
Info you can use
When: May 25 & 26; from 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Where: Vidya Vanam, Thuvaipathy Road, Anaikatti
What: The registration fee of ₹5000 includes stay and food. For those who do not require accommodation it is ₹3000
How: Register on www.eventsnow.com/events/9365-national-conference-on-education-peace-in-education-vidya-vanam or email firstname.lastname@example.org For more details contact +919444413957 or +919445393833