Monday, May 11, 2009

Navashiksha - the future of education

But for a brief period of six years -- from 1980-1986 -- I've been completely immersed in academia: either as a student or teacher (or both). I guess I must like the world of education a lot, else why willingly spend nearly one's entire life in it? I present this as a question to myself, because I had all along thought that the main interests in my life were design, innovation and technology (as well as culture, cognition, collaboration and so on). Which they are. But as they say, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Education undergirds all my interests. Or perhaps education is where all my interests find expression.

Kind of odd, or ironic, since my parents' first attempt to send me to school (I was around 4 years old) was quite unsuccesful; after about ten days of being denied permission to look out the window and watch squirrels darting about playfully, I refused to go back to school.

I guess I finally saw the writing on the wall, for after about a year of hanging around at home, I bit the bullet and started school. Maybe it was the fun (and stinky) ride to school and back in a horse buggy. Perhaps it was the other kids. Maybe it was kindly old Miss Webb, the Anglo-Indian lady who ran the school. Just possibly, but I'm not too sure of this, I was actually learning something interesting and useful at school. Iffy. I'll never know for sure, but I've been in or around school ever since, except for that short break in the 1980's.

So yes, education interests me as a subject. But education, as it is practised, leaves me with a strong sense of dissatisfaction, or worse. Anger. Frustration. Despair. Loathing. And I want to be able to do something about it. And I do that, in my own teaching. But I would like to influence the philosophy and practice of education in the larger society. And do that from my own idiosyncratic perspective, borne of my varied life experiences.

Which brings me to this blog, where I intend to record my thoughts on past, current and emerging events and methods relating to education, and my opinions on how we can transform education. So that's it: I would like to help TRANSFORM education, and I hope this blog called NAVASHIKSHA -- "new education" in Sanskrit, that oldest of formally encoded languages -- can play some small role in the process. I invite you to please read and engage in a discussion on the subject.


  1. Hey, Murli. You remind me of Benjamin Button. Surely you meant "1980-1986" in your first sentence? Anyhow, like it or not, I too am in the field of education now and am struggling to hit upon the methodology best suited to training finicky civil servants. So, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this subject. Congrats on launching a new blog.

  2. Since you have named this blog 'Navashiksha' which is a Sanskrit word, I could somewhere in my mind link it with the ancient education system where gurus used to teach their shishya and take the whole responsibility of knowledge imparted. Therefore I welcome your this step in 'Revitalizing' the education system.

  3. Ashish, thanks for your comment! I did indeed have in mind the ancient guru-shishya parampara. That was when education really worked well, through close and intense interaction between dedicated teachers and highly motivated students who were interested in knowing and learning, not in degree certificates which have become an easy substitute for real knowledge and skills.

    As regards the teacher taking all the responsibility -- one lesson we learn from the story of Ekalavya is that the greatest learning comes when the shishya takes the most responsibility.

    As you probably know, 'Gu' means darkness, tamas, and 'Ru' means 'one who dispels' -- a Guru who dispels darkness. Hence the guru's role is to shine a light where there is darkness. But it is also the shishya's responsibility to look, to reflect and to learn. No student can be compelled to learn, but they possibly can be motivated to do so. A great teacher is a guide, not a fount of information.