Chintan Shivir Reflections

The Chintan Shivir at IISER Pune on the occasion of 50 years of Kishore Bharati was personally very fulfilling for me. It gave me the opportunity of being in the midst of so many people who have worked tirelessly to make our country and world more egalitarian, just and empathetic. There is an observation I made during the meeting, which I share here.

Educational change, especially in India, is a complex process. One of the approaches to affect this change, perhaps the fastest (and perhaps most scientific and rational and logical), is to look at education and educational change as a political process. Education in India is deeply entrenched in class and caste created power structures and educational change can happen when these structures are weakened and eventually broken. That said, this is not the only way to approach educational change and it is important to not be disparaging or dismissive of fellow travelers walking towards the common goal of educational change, approaching it through a different path.

During the Chintan Shivir, the discussions on the floor were dominated by voices looking at education as a political process. But it hurt me to see voices who are looking at educational change in any other way not being encouraged to share their views, and on at least two occasions, being rudely shouted down. I feel this explicit signal of a restricted space for discussion discouraged people taking a humane approach to education change, from speaking and sharing during the meeting. Of course this led to many personal and meaningful discussions in smaller circles during the breaks.

There are different ways in which change happens. A retired professional associated with an “non-political NGO” taking science to the masses, an open source software proponent, a person encouraging a child to make a toy from whatever they can easily access, a person who chooses to move away from a high-consuming parasitic lifestyle to engage directly with their food and shelter needs, a teacher who recognizes a child who has unexpected knowledge about nature, and a poet who writes a song that moves us and makes us question our assumptions are all affecting educational and political change. It is in our own interest to hear out our fellow travelers and be open to the possibility of being inspired in different ways — ways which are not necessarily scientific or logical, but meaningful nevertheless.


I think education is as Political a subject as anything else. For eg, the reason someone from so-called non-political NGO has to come ahead and take a step to take science to the masses or take forward open source software itself means the society and polity are not encouraging science for the masses and alternative free open technology to people. As we all know scientific temperament is of the least concern of any education policies, further even free open access to technology, transparency in information access itself a huge struggle, and not limited to merely exercising it in limited spaces. Hence, any non-political narrow subject is exiting that way because of its own politics. Further, I dont attempt to reduce everything to politics, I agree the autonomy of all subjects, initiatives exist, and they need to be looked at in a way other than politics, some of the aspects work and education discussed in Chintan Shivir are purely related to only science, or certain aspects of environment can be related to only ways to mitigate climate change. But the reason science is away from masses or the reason climate is changing are all political. Politics is determining factor behind our existence and almost everything we do.

Thanks Anirban. The more we are involved in our own work, we tend to get fundamental about our own approach, and the deviations of our peers become larger than life. This is perhaps because of the fact that we may have giving the issues of deviation more thought, and have made our choices. So we do tend to get prickly at such meetings. Yet at such occasion, we are called upon to consider the larger “biraadiri” of social change activists, social workers, care givers, teachers, learners… There is no immediate “revolution” that we are in. I resonated with the Technology group precisely because of the criticism of technology in terms of access, control, digital divide because we seem to have abdicated the space of transformation of the IT revolution, to big capital, and to the State, which serves this big capital. IT education needs to bring in values of decentralisation, democracy, privacy, de-control. Our teachers must have some knowledge of how they can use such open source and decentralised IT systems, tp promote economic, community, social systems that bear values that we hold dear… Till we educated the next gen on this, they will only see the googles, and microsofts of the world…
IT education is not only using content available in the cloud, it is the form and learning methodology that we need to be savvy about as teachers… and as learners. We will not be able to do this if our IT education aims only at “using” content… There is a goal of developing an IT based economy which is decentralised, and maintained at the community and Community to Community level, which also connect with Community Economics (solidarity economics) , as well as Community politics including local decision making etc.
IT at the decentralised level can be leveraged to privielge local economy, local services, etc. We have to demonstrate how IT can be used as a group media, as a classroom idea, and as a mutual cooperative idea. Much like the example given of the Vigyan Ashram, where services to the community was enabling as well as supporting learning and revenue generation, IT services at the village level can be the pedagogical fulcrum. I feel that we need to demonstrate how much more effective it is to use educational content in groups or in a classroom, that through individual oriented assignments which most teachers now give… We have to bring about the revolution from the dailyness of our work.

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