Shruti Foundation’s IInd WE ASC World Education Culture Congress envisioned by Lady Shruti Rana and organized in partnership with Indian Council for Cultural Relations was inaugurated by Kumari Selja, Minister for Culture, Housing and Poverty Alleviation and presided over by Dr Karan Singh, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations. Mr S.K. Misra, Chairman- Shruti Foundation enthusiastically welcomed the delegates and students and spoke briefly about the objectives of the foundation and the Congress.
Lady Shruti Rana, in her introduction to the Congress laid out the dimensions to the congress, and reiterated that the theme – Revisiting Education Culture for Organic Progress with a special focus on Natural Knowledge and New Experiments, adopted the following approach:
She reiterated the seminal significance of the three principles of teaching by Sri Aurobindo in this regard – 1) Nothing Can be Taught, 2) The Mind Must be Consulted in Its Growth , and 3) From the Near to the Far - hence experiencing and learning from one’s inner inspirations, one own body as well as one’s immediate environment and language, before imposing unfamiliar knowledge, language and abstractions, which detract from the child’s natural absorption, assimilation and expression. She further stressed that one must never lose sight of two key issues; soshan – action for personal benefit, versus poshan –nourishment by action for self as well as all universal elements and beings. She also reminded the Congress of two key ideas from the Upanishads, which taught the student the value of Shreyas - actions which contributed to sustainable and long term gain versus Preyas - choices or actions which were for short term pleasure or gratification.
The Honorable minister for Culture, Kumari Selja highlighted the importance of the synergy between Indian Culture and the educational process through its philosophies, values and Traditional Knowledge Systems, and its importance in developing a holistic human being. She said, “When we refer to ‘natural ways of learning’ we mean both the pedagogic methodology as well as the content. We are reminded of Tagore’s efforts to deconstruct the structured rigidity of class-rooms and take the young ones out to a more open, flexible and natural ambience. According to her, the children should focus more on the natural form of education system. The objective of education must be to replace an empty mind into an open one. She concluded with the famous Sanskrit verse beginning with, “Vidya Dadati Vinayam” which reminded the Congress that true knowledge and learning leads to humility and simplicity of being.
Dr Karan Singh, President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations in his presidential remarks spoke of the four pillars of education which he was also instrumental in drafting for UNESCO, which are - Learning to know, Learning to do, Learning to live together, Learning to be and spoke of their true significance and meaning in the context of the Congress. He stressed on the inculcation of human values and universal understanding in learning through one’s cultural knowledge and also spoke about the role of media in ignoring inter-faith and culturally significant events while highlighting negative and sensational events in the media. He congratulated Lady Rana on her dynamic action over many years and her vision for transformation in education, as well as on the intricately woven Congress structure.
The inimitable Dr. Sam Pitroda, innovator and advisor to Prime Minister of India, enunciated some personal experiences and his vision for education and development at the grass roots in India. He urged educators to understand the profound impact of the web in our relationships as well as respect and understand that connectivity is the key to revolution. He shared details of the developmental work in progress on AV connectivity of two hundred and fifty panchayats, where cyber security would offer jobs to more than ten thousand people in the telecom sector and thereby establish working environments to build a new India where more than hundred thousand crores are being spent. He expressed dismay over the fact that the best brains today are busy solving the problems of the rich, where the need is to solve problems of the poor. He emphasized on the importance of leading children to do what they want, innovate and allow them to evolve at their own pace where “talent needs to be given opportunity”.
Dr Abhishek Singhvi MP and senior-most National Spokesperson of the Congress party felicitated the very concept of the Congress, which he submitted was “about the necessity to think inclusive and to be holistic, not merely in educational paradigms or cultural concepts but in all our endeavors”. He felt that the themes of the Congress made it clear that “the approach is grand but universal, it is big but relevant and it is all inclusive but closely interconnected.” He appreciated the sub-themes of the Congress as actually being the “the bedrock on which our founders had conceived this great nation and were intended to be the foundational focus of our educational and cultural endeavors” He reminded us of the three jewels - Jnana, Darshana and Charitra that provided the framework of value-oriented education and reflected a holistic approach. He felt that since Independence, on this issue, there was” government but little governance, vision but little action” and felt the need to “redesign our moral science classes to rescue them from the stereotype jokes that they have become”. He cautioned that a “compulsory subject is not to be taught in an insipid or didactic manner, unleashing tomes of reading material and deadening the entire imbibing process”. He further stated, “If India is now a country of post midnight children with over seventy percent less than forty years old, we have to completely revamp the culture of our educational system and re-educate ourselves about our culture”. He quoted the Jain saint, Acharya Mahapragya who said “Intellect and intuition are two recurring words in Indian literature. Our educational system attaches high priority to memory, less to intellect and the least to intuition." Finally, he felt that holistic approaches such as that of the Shruti Foundation’s WE ASC Education Culture Congress “contribute far more, and much more effectively, to the GDP of the country. There is now a growing awareness, bordering on universal recognition, that GDP, as traditionally known, is a highly incomplete measure of prosperity and happiness”.
The scintillating and unique choreographies, “NAYIKA” by Dr Sonal Mansingh on Day 1 which seamlessly synchronized different classical dance styles to Tagore’s musical poetry and “Chirantan” by Tanusree Shankar on Day 3 based on Tagore's music and writings with Narration by Amitabh Bachchan, provided a truly exciting, multisensory, cultural, educational and joyful dimension, mesmerizing the participants of this unique Congress.
The IInd WE ASC World Education Culture Congress from January 12-15, 2012 was indeed a very meaningful movement on a significant platform, with endorsements from leaders and decision makers, who applauded the effort, focus and direction of Shruti Foundation and of
the impassioned organisers, educators, and last but not the least, of the students and youth volunteers who made the Congress a success.