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A quest for complete education

Is our education wholesome? Are our teachers really mentors? Do they help a child’s creativity to bloom even when he or she is not attentive in class? Does our education system really inculcate the right values?

The Fourth We ASC World Education Culture Congress presented by Shruti Foundation, in association with The Telegraph, saw teachers, professionals and artistes seek answers to these and many more such questions on Purna Taleem: Living Values in Education Culture.

“All the things that I am known for I have not learnt in school. There I only learnt some good maths. Our younger generation is also deprived of true teaching or taleem,” said Shruti Nada Poddar, healer, educationist and the founder of Shruti Foundation and SHE Worldwide, a global initiative by women of South Asia and their diaspora worldwide.

The three-day meet was inaugurated by Swami Shantatmananda, the head of Ramakrishna Mission, Delhi, at Swabhumi on January 14.

“All transformational efforts begin in a small way…. Swami Vivekananda had said that ‘education is a manifestation of perfection already in man’. Teachers should not thrust knowledge on students. They should endeavour to bring out the best in them. We need to change the teacher-student relationship,” said Swami Shantatmananda as he spoke about the essence of true learning through many real-life instances.

Also present at the inauguration were artist Shuvaprasanna, Ambuja Neotia Group chairman Harsh Neotia, former governor of Sikkim and Shruti Foundation chairman Sudarshan Agarwal and industrialist and a trustee of the Foundation, Sudarshan Maini.

Day II saw the venue of the conclave shift to ICCR. Seema Sapru, the principal of The Heritage School, G.M. Kapur of Intach, environmentalist Claude Alvares, Vartika Poddar, the founder of youth theatre group Swabhav, and Krishna Neotia, social worker, exchanged notes on living values in familial, cultural and societal learning.

Kapur shared how Intach heritage clubs in schools help children know their culture better. “Children discuss not just heritage buildings but also the area where they live and people who are an integral part of their para. We try to bring out the creative side in students and also encourage them to make films,” he said.

The next session had Shruti Nada Poddar, Alvares and educationists Uma Ahmed, Sister Greta and Suvina Shunglu talk about mentoring relationships.

“Human values cut across all boundaries,” said Shunglu as she highlighted the free school and mentoring programmes at Sri Sri Academy, where she is the principal.

Students of The Rainbow Programme of Loreto Day School shared with the audience how it has made a difference to their lives. Discussions were fused with performances by students of Rainbow, Santhal dancers, baul singers and other folk artistes.

The latter part of the day saw Ruby Pal Chowdhury of Craft Council and percussionist Bickram Ghosh, among others, engrossing the audience with their take on purna taleem. “A boring teacher can give asampurna taleem. I was a student of English literature and I loved the drums. I wanted to marry the two and make my education wholesome. I found rhythm in Shakespeare and a lot of similarity between tintal and trochaic tetrameter,” Ghosh said.

Day II ended with a panel discussion on living values in human assessment chaired by Karan Singh, the Indian representative at Unesco and president of ICCR.

The concluding day coincided with the first SHE (saluting her endeavour) Worldwide Congress. A panel discussion on marital rape, evil fallouts of NRI marriages, domestic violence and dowry deaths was the highlight. The speakers included Delhi-based advocate Priya Hingorani and professor Bharati Ray.