26th March and 27th March, 2018
Indian classroom are a reflection of the huge diversity that India represents. Along with States and Centre striving to improve the status of education at the larger level, there have been some 'alternative' institutions working towards making education more accessible, eradicating gender/caste/religion based inequality, bringing innovations in Pedagogy and assessment, providing alternative philosophical strands to education or creating culturally relevant curricular material. Alternative institutions have continued to strive towards responding to the needs of children understanding their specific milieu- social, economic and political.
The Department of Elementary Education organized a two-day national seminar on ‘Alternative and Innovative education in India- The way ahead’ on 26th and 27th of March, 2018. This seminar sought to bring together teachers, teacher educators, students, practitioners in the field of alternative education who have been working at the grassroot level in urban, semi-urban and remote rural areas, performing artists and all those who are interested in the domain of education on a common platform to deliberate upon the discourse of alternatives in education and how it informs the teacher education programmes.
Dr. Suman Sharma, Principal, LSR College lighted the lamp along with our invited guests and welcomed the gathering from across India and abroad. In her address, she highlighted relevance and importance of the theme of the National Seminar. The seminar was inaugurated by Shri Shakti Sinha, Director, NMML who underlined the need for teacher education programmes to be reflective and critical of their own processes and hence, the significance of Alternative institutions in facilitating this dialogue. The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Pankaj Mittal, Additional Secretary, UGC. Dr. Mittal informed the audience about innovations introduced by her in the higher education and also technological interventions designed to empower rural women in their daily chores. She focused upon the pentagon puzzle facing higher education and suggested remedies to meet this challenge. She emphasized that access and equity, relevance of education, connect between education and society, along with better management and financing of higher education are crucial issues in order to relate school education with higher education.
The first day of the seminar comprised two invited talks and two Panel Discussions on various aspects of alternative education in India. In the first invited talk, Prof. Poonam Batra, from CIE, drew a post-colonial perspective of how alternative education came to be conceptualized and proposed in India. The Panel discussion on Understanding the philosophical strands of different alternative models saw Mr. Pawan Gupta from SIDH sharing his idea of ‘Shiksha mein Vikalp: Sahajta aur Svatantrata
', Mr. Kamal Mahendroo from Vidhya Bhawan Society talking about 'Deconstructing the Alternative: What would it take to make it really matter?
and Dr. Jayanthy Ramachandran from Mirambika elaborating on 'Change and Renovation of Learning Approach in Education, Design and Technology, Arts and Music'.
The session was chaired by Prof Geetha Nambisaan, JNU. In the second Invited talk, Prof. Neeta Kumar, from Southpoint-The Vidhya Ashram School, lamented the present day disconnect with Indigenous ways of knowing and practicing education and argued for greater space for Indian Arts for Indian children. The second Panel discussion on ‘Parallel Discourse of Alternatives and Mainstream’ brought together an Alternative Programme Practitioner, Ms. Keerti Jayaram from OELP, an academician and a Researcher, Dr. Shobhitha Rajopal from IDS, and an ELT expert from NCERT, Dr. Kirti Kapur who all shared their vision and experience of creating inclusive classrooms by various means. This session was chaired by Ms. Anjali Naronah from Eklavya.
The second day of the seminar began with an invited talk by Prof. Avijit Pathak, who, in a very moving way, contexualized the present day educational crisis in the socio- political and cultural ethos of the society and pleaded for a philosophical introspection of our own selves to search for alternatives in education. This talk was followed by an equally thought provoking session on Performing arts as a forum for alternative education in which Dr. Ashish Ghosh shared his reflections as a theatre practioner and Anurupa Roy compelled everyone to rethink about the use of performing arts in learning spaces with a new perspective. The first Panel Discussion on the second day was on Sustainable Models of Education. In this Panel, Mr. Harsh Tiwari discussed the impact of digital intervention in rural night schools run by Barefoot College, Ms. Anjali Naronah highlighted the role played by Eklavya in creating an alternative and a parallel discourse of education in India and Ms. Srila Basu from Mirambika presented case vignettes from the journeys that teachers undertake in the Integral Teacher education programme. This session was chaired by Prof. Amitabh Mukherjee, DU. The last Panel discussion ‘Alternatives and Community Empowerment’ focused on the perspectives of practitioners from marginalized and conflict ridden areas. While Mushtaq Ul Haq, an Independent Researcher, put forth the challenges of accessing education amidst violence in Kashmir, Abhishek Mohanty shared the innovative ways of making education accessible to children from tribal communities in Odisha by his organisation Sikshasandhan. The third panelist was Harshita, a teacher from Southpoint- The Vidhyashram school who reflected upon her role as a facilitator in an alternative school and the dialogic process that it entails. This session was chaired by Prof. Farida Khan, Jamia Milia University.
The valedictory talk was delivered by Ms. Geeta Dharmarajan, founder of Katha, who very enthusiastically illustrated the work done by Katha in promoting meaningful literacy among children specially from the disadvantaged background and highlighted the use of story pedagogy employed by Katha Lab School. The seminar concluded with Dr. Tripti Bassi summarizing the events of the past two days. The seminar was a major step taken by Department of Elementary Education in creating a platform for discussion among students, teachers, teacher educators, researchers and practitioners from different alternative institutions and hopefully, would contribute positively in building a School- College Resource Network among teachers, educators and practitioners.