Sri Sathya Sai Vrindawith Love, at His service

Global Education Conference 2019 – Sathya Sai Grama, Muddenahalli – Day 2 – May 25, 2019

Morning:

The second day of the Global Education Conference commenced at 9am with presentations by two speakers Professor Ron Toomey from Victoria University, Australia and Professor Emeritus Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, Rector of the International Islamic University, Malaysia.

Professor Ron Toomey began the morning’s proceedings and spoke about schools practicing values-based education and his involvement in research into values-based education. He quoted Parker Palmer who said, “Quality teaching is a values-filled exercise, it’s about caring and the quality of the relationships between teacher and student, and student and student.” Professor Toomey expanded on the double helix effect of values education and quality teaching and shared the words of four teachers who were examples of transformation through the practice of praxis, which means doing and reflecting.

After his presentation, there was a short question and answer session during which delegates were offered the opportunity to interact with and ask questions to Professor Toomey.

Then, Professor Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abdul Razak took to the podium and opened his presentation by saying that humanising education would allow students to become complete and integrated individuals. He emphasised the requirement of balance between spiritual, emotional and ethical aspects and the importance of having a balance between the mind and the heart. He said, “There is a void within us and that void is called education without soul. The link between the heart and the mind is almost shattered in this particular sense, or it doesn’t exist at all. What prevails then, are the elements of materialism and economics that fill in the void.” Professor Razak continued by talking about four pillars of education and brought his presentation to a close by touching upon some issues and challenges faced in implementing values-based education.

This was followed by a question and answer session with Professor Razak, after which Brothers B S Vijay Sai and Natesh Shetty, alumni of the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, conducted an interactive session with all the participants. With all the delegates divided into small teams of 18, each group took two minutes to note down personal experiences of moments of transformation which they wanted to share with the group. Thereafter, some participants from each of the groups shared their experiences with all the participants, with their experiences illustrating values such as love, self-sacrifice, acceptance and compassion among others.

Brother Natesh then expanded upon the difference between the words – change and transformation – where change is often reversible, and transformation is permanent and irreversible. Therefore, values-based education aims for transformation rather than change.

As the morning session came to a close, the delegates were left with the following four questions to deliberate upon:
1. Can values really be taught and if yes, then how?
2. Who is really the teacher?
3. Where do values originate from or take birth? Are we focusing enough on that in our educational system?
4. How do we practice values when we are faced with aggressive situations?

Afternoon:

In the afternoon, there were three insightful presentations by three different speakers: Ms Sue Webb, Dr James Biddulph and Venerable Geshe Lakhdor.

Ms Sue Webb, an Executive Consultant at Values-based Education International in the UK, spoke about introducing a value-based culture to a whole school and touched upon some of the challenges that arise. She spoke about parents and teachers needing to proactively engage with values as well as the students. Emphasising the importance of teachers practicing the values they preach, she said, “You model the values that you have chosen”. She continued saying, “Every teacher should aspire to strengthen students’ minds, fortify their hearts, vitalise their thoughts and help them crystallise their principles.”

Dr James Biddulph, the Head Teacher of the University of Cambridge Primary School in the UK, spoke about the school which is a values-based school. He spoke about various aspects of the school which, ranging from the building structure to curriculum, are all geared towards inculcating values in the children. Towards the end of his talk, speaking about educators with a heart, Dr Biddulph posed a thought-provoking question saying, “It is not how do children have to change, but how do we have to be as the educators? It starts with us.”

Venerable Geshe Lhakdor, Director of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamshala, India, spoke about various aspects of our lives, from our limbs to the technology we use, as being for the sake of others. He said, “Education is not equal to literacy. Education means personality development, human flourishment. Human flourishment means that the person should be able to become self-reliant physically, mentally and spiritually.” Emphasising service to others, Ven. Geshe Lhakdor brought his talk to a close by reminding everyone, “A teacher is like a burning candle. Only a burning candle can light another candle.”

Each of these presentations was followed by a question and answer session where the delegates were offered an opportunity to clarify their thoughts with the eminent speakers and thereafter, the afternoon session was brought to a close.

Alongside the speaker presentations in Premamrutham, another day of round-table discussions parallelly ensued, continuing on from yesterday, in Prem Deep.

Dr Kalpana Sampath, Director of Arpitha Associates Pvt Ltd and EFIL Educational Services Pvt Ltd, India, talked about their programme, ‘Education for Integrating Life’ which is an initiative to impart life education to students, that will enable revolutionary excellence.

Ms Jayashree Ashok, Co-Founder and Director of the Creative School and Pragya Living Wisdom Centre, India, spoke about the framework for building values-based education, called ‘Sacred Classroom’, inspired by the teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Dr Gagan Deep Sharma, Faculty Member of University School of Management Studies, India, talked about the strategic aspect for humane education. He said that there is value education and technical education and the purpose must be clear. Guidelines for value education should be universal, natural and all-encompassing.

Madam Kunawathyammal, Senior Teaching Fellow at the National Institution of Education at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, talked about character and citizenship education in Singapore schools.

Mr Jose Pacheco, Founder of Escola da Ponte (Bridge School) in Portugal, spoke about the Ancora Project which began in 1969 in Brazil, where the community is the school. There are no desks and no classrooms. The child is asked what he wants to do, how to help in the community and to find the answer themselves.

Ms Suwanna Chivapruk, Academic Director of the Roong Aroon school in Thailand which started in 1997, spoke about the holistic education provided at the school. She spoke about the physical environment that is so important for students to learn.

Dr Ram Bhooj, National Programme Officer, Natural Sciences, UNESCO Cluster Office for South Asia, talked about projects on sustainable development and on the cultural and biological diversity that is necessary.

Mr Sushant Kumar Pandey, Director of Praxis Vidyapeeth Educational Trust, India, spoke about value in children that should start early.

Mr V Venkataramana, CEO of the Shantilal Muttha Foundation, India, spoke about the Shantilal Muttha Foundation which started in 2015 for values-based school improvement.

Professor Pranab Chattopadhyay spoke about the ancient Indian education system where there was no structure and it was flexible, with a purpose to create self-awareness for transformation.

Evening:

The evening session consisted of a panel discussion moderated by Professor A Anantharaman, former Faculty Member of Harvard Business School, USA. The speakers on the panel, were: Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji from Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh along with Ms Jayashree Ashok, Mr Jose Pacheco, Mdm Kunawathyammal, Dr Ram Bhooj, Ms Suwanna Chivapruk, Mr Nimrod Sheinman, Mr Sushant Pandey, HE Mr Lytou Buapao (former Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Laos) and Mr B N Narasimha Murthy.

Professor Anantharaman began the proceedings by welcoming the respected participants of the panel discussion. Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji began the discussion by reminding everyone that the children of today are the seeds for the future. Posing the question as to whether we are giving children the tools they need to create the world they want to live in. She narrated a story of a conversation between a boatman and a philosopher, illustrating the importance of practical knowledge over theoretical knowledge. Sadhviji said, “The first thing needed is an education rooted in oneness instead of separation.” Emphasising the importance of unity and oneness, Sadhviji also spoke about the synthesis between science and spirituality and said, “When we bring back spirituality, with it comes oneness, love, deeper identity and a humility in science.”

Ms Jayashree Ashok then spoke about the Creative School which is like a Gurukula school and explained the influence of the teaching of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the running of this school. She spoke about the Divine nature of the teaching profession and expressed her own joy at having quit her job to become a teacher. She talked about the innate Divinity of children and the importance of loving them for who they are, for they are children of God and deserve unconditional love.

Mr Jose Pacheco then talked about the Bridges School in Portugal. He said that through his experience, he has learnt that schools are not buildings, they are the people and the people are values. He said that when values are translated into actions, they give rise to projects that produce knowledge and a cultural remaking.

Mdm Kunawathyammal then spoke about her own personal experience as a teacher and described some of the challenges she faced as a teacher in Singapore. She talked about the concepts of being and becoming from the perspective of an educator. She elaborated on the five-D cycle in appreciative enquiry, which involves: define, discover, dream, design and destiny.

Thereafter, Mr Lytou Buapao talked about the challenges faced by Laos which had a literacy rate of only 10% in 1975 and how education was the only way to combat poverty. He spoke about the struggles faced to find teachers and described the great strides made by the country of Laos in providing quality education.

Dr Ram Bhooj then spoke about research which opened a dialogue between the current formal education system and ancient education system. He talked about UNESCO’s World Development Report which focuses greatly on education and said that values education is one aspect which is an intrinsic part of sustainability which can build a new set of skills and competencies for solving many complexities of the current challenges.

Ms Suwanna Chivapruk talked about education development in Thailand and said that the basis for their values-based education is that every human being can learn, no matter who they are. She spoke about the Roong Aroon school which integrates mainstream, formal education with values education and allows children to learn from the environment around them.

Mr Nimrod Sheinman spoke about self-reflection and the balance of mind, body and spirit as a requirement for teaching values-based education, as information is not enough. He emphasised the importance of seeing the bigger picture and knowing that we are part of something bigger. He spoke about the various educational systems in different countries and how each country is beginning to develop values in education in different ways.

The final speaker for the evening, Sri B N Narasimha Murthy spoke about the importance of crystallising a model for a global values-based education system and offered his gratitude to all the speakers of the panel for their insightful and knowledgeable contributions.

Professor Anantharaman then brought the session to a close and the Vice-Chancellor of the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence felicitated each of the participants with mementos, after which everyone retired for the evening and the eminent guests proceeded for further discussion and deliberation on a framework for the global model.