There is a strong need for values-based education in our society today and this year, the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence hosted a Global Education Conference with speakers from across the globe, on the theme, ‘Values-based Education for a Better World’. The aim of education is the knowledge, not of facts, but of values. In a world today, which places more importance on academic excellence rather than human excellence, the need of the hour is for the body politic to meet and deliberate on the dire need for the implementation of a global system of values-based education. Hence the need for a conference, during which eminent speakers from all around the world come, discuss, deliberate and decide on a way forward to foster a new generation of well-integrated human beings, which is the very motive behind Global Education Conference held at Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli from May 24 to May 26, 2019.
As the first day of the first Global Education Conference began, Baba glided into the Premamrutham Hall accompanied by a number of dignitaries and guests. As everyone took their seats on the dais, all the teacher delegates, speakers and dignitaries were welcomed to the inaugural session of the Global Education Conference 2019.
After the welcome address, Bhagawan and the dignitaries on the dais proceeded to light the inaugural lamp, after which each of the guests were felicitated and welcomed. This was followed by a short video on the need and importance of values-based education.
Thereafter, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy, Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence addressed the august gathering. He spoke about the unfortunate situation of the world today, as the current system of education lacks any emphasis on creating good and selfless human beings and rather, focuses only on academic achievements. Hence, there is a dire need for a global model of values-based education which integrates values into the entire process of education. He said that rather than simply educating children in what is right and wrong, the purpose of values-based education should be to cultivate in children, the willpower to practice the right thing at all times.
The next speaker for the morning was Sri T B Jayachandra, Former Minister of Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Government of Karnataka. Sri T B Jayachandra spoke about the importance of inculcating values in order to achieve success in realising one’s personal potential. He expressed his happiness at being part of such a conference and urged the respected educationalists from around the world to deliberate on a global model of values-based education.
Swami Atmapriyanandaji, Vice-Chancellor of the Ramakrishna Mission Vivekananda University, was the next speaker to address the gathering. Swamiji described the system of education and role of spirituality in ancient Indian culture. He spoke about the four Purusharthas or goals of life and emphasised the importance of Dharma. He explained how sustainability forms the bedrock of all human endeavor and that which sustains a human being, is the principle of sacrifice. He emphasised that sacrifice means to live for the benefit of the entire humanity. Swamiji expressed his wish for this conference to spark waves of great, good thoughts in the minds of young people all over the world, for the welfare of all.
Thereafter, mementos were offered in felicitation to all the guests seated on the dais, after which there was a brief presentation introducing each of the eminent speakers from both India and worldwide, who were to participate in various sessions of the conference.
Baba then granted His Divine inaugural message and spoke about unity in diversity as the most important aspect of education. Saying that unity is something which cannot be explained, He explained that true education teaches unity of all existence. As demonstrated through the prayer, Sahanavavathu, which prays for the welfare of all, Indian culture in its broad-mindedness, teaches us to pray for the welfare of all beings and creatures. He said, “The human values are those which add value to our life and personality and by experiencing and practicing which, we get preciousness to our life. The highest human value is love. From this fundamental bedrock of love, all other values arise. Love in words is truth, love in action is right-conduct, love in thought is peace, love in understanding is non-violence.
True education, true human values is selfless love. Where there is love, there come all the human values. Education will be complete if we teach our students how to love, how to accept, how to tolerate and how to be united with everyone. Education without true love is not real education, it is only incomplete, it cannot be perfect.” Exhorting the participants of the conference to deliberate on this and come up with a global model of values-based education and showering His abundant blessings on all, He concluded His Divine Discourse.
The morning session then concluded with a rendition of the National Anthem by the Sai’s Angels Brass Band.
The afternoon session comprised of two presentations by Dr Tobin Hart, Professor of Psychology in the University of West Georgia and Co-founder of the Child Spirit Institute, USA and Professor Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of the Earth Charter International Secretariat and the Earth Charter Centre for Education for Sustainable Development at the University for Peace, Costa Rica.
In his presentation, Dr Tobin Hart, the first speaker, emphasised love as being the most fundamental aspect and biggest motivator that has existed since time immemorial, panning across cultures and civilizations. He continued saying that it is important to make it active within us as well as society and education is the best profession to realise. Dr Hart also emphasised on an approach called contact knowledge that is more comprehensive, subjective, extensive and participatory. In the last 400 years, knowledge has lost the sense of values while becoming more academically demanding. He also beautifully shared that knowledge by presence or awareness is open to one, to the extent that one is also open to knowledge. Quoting Martin Luther King who said that category-based education without spiritual awareness leads to a dead end and cosmic doom, Dr Hart elaborated the importance of the five gateways approach of: empathy, contemplation, imagination, body and beauty which are largely absent from modern education.
Dr Hart concluded his talk by answering a few questions which he answered by emphasising the importance of integration of science and spirituality in modern education.
The next speaker Professor Mirian Vilela, spoke about the work of the University of Peace in Costa Rica. She spoke about education for sustainable development and for social transformation to create a more sustainable society. Professor Vilela also focused on the Earth Charter which speaks about respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, social and economic justice, democracy, non-violence and peace. She beautifully explained the need of the hour which is for society to move from an ego-centric approach to an eco-centric approach to life. She reminded everyone to focus on being better rather than having more. She pointed out that learning and transformation occurs more easily with the holistic approach of integrating the mind, heart and hands. She concluded by saying that the holistic system approach focuses on the students’ and the teachers’ physical, mental, spiritual and cognitive wellbeing which forms the basis of a balanced education. Professor Vilela then answered a few questions which focused on utilising technology in a positive manner and also on the collaborative efforts of parents, teachers and society in bringing up children with good values.
Simultaneously, as these presentations were conducted in Premamrutham Hall, a number of speakers participated in a round-table discussion held in Prem Deep. Each of the speakers spoke about their various undertakings in the field of education, describing the ways in which they are successfully implementing values-based education in their schools and institutions. Some of these talks were accompanied by presentations and videos which illustrated the different ways in which such education is being incorporated into the current education systems in several parts of India and the world.
Dr Hanumanth Rao Naidu, Registrar of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence welcomed all the speakers to the round-table session and Dr Sarath Kumar, alumnus of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning and a senior Vice-President of Tejas Networks, chaired the entire discussion.
Mr Nimrod Sheinman, Founder and Director of Israel’s Centre for Mindfulness in Education, presented his experiences on mindful education in terms of children’s basic needs and spoke about the soul of education, envisioning a more holistic, humanistic and integrative education paradigm.
Mr Adinarayanan, founder of the Anaadi Foundation in India, then spoke about his own inner and outer experiences as a child and how they proved critical in shaping his thoughts as an adult. Therefore, it is important to use such experiences to guide our growth.
Revered Swami Shantatmanandaji, Head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Delhi, then spoke about two successful programs implemented all over India, which have proved to have high impact in the way students have responded.
Professor J S Rajput, former Director of the National Council for Educational Research and Training, talked about how the five human values of love, peace, truth, right-conduct and non-violence are the way to shape the world. He said that the objective is to create an illumined mind and harmonise thought, word and deed.
Dr J M Sampath, Managing Director of Arpitha Associates Pvt Ltd and EFIL Educational Services Pvt Ltd in India, then talked about the adoption of story-telling as a process of self-inquiry and teaching values. He described values as the beliefs one holds within oneself and which govern one’s behaviour in any given context.
Dr Binny Sareen from the Brahma Kumaris Foundation then spoke about the role of spirituality in values-based education. She emphasised that values are not taught but are caught, therefore teachers should live the values they expect students to exhibit. She also spoke about her research and initiatives of implementing values in the army and in healthcare.
In the evening, as Baba entered the Hall and took His seat on the throne placed below the stage, the final session of the first day of the Global Education Conference began with a brief summary of the speaker presentations and round-table discussions. This was followed by a drama enacted by the youth and children of Singapore, called “T for Transformation”. The drama highlighted the role of a teacher as not just a disseminator of knowledge, but as a key enabler of the transformation in the lives of the students.
The very first letter of the word Teacher is T and T stands for transformation. While information can make students great, it is transformation that makes them good. The drama narrated the story of an inspiring teacher who transformed the lives of her students through her love. The transformation not only made them successful, but also inspired them to serve their communities and see all as their fellow brothers and sisters.
After the drama, Baba blessed all the actors for their dedicated performance and lovingly distributed gifts to all the participants. After taking a group photograph, He proceeded back to His residence and thus concluded the grand events of the first day of the Global Education Conference, 2019.