Education and Global Transformation: Conference Overview
Ac. Shambhushivananda Avt., Kulapati, AMGK
History has been made by people who believed in an ideal and who chose to devote their entire strength to attain it. Here today in this historical event, we have attempted to bring together a sample of such potential individuals from around the globe who believe in an idea that is greater than them. I recognize that our lives are filled with many hopes, aspirations and a passionate sense of urgency. I hope that through this ‘conference of sharing’ we shall be able to further strengthen and spread our indomitable spirit in order to turn the tide in favor of a world that will thrive in freedom, abundance, prosperity, inner peace, good health and unbounded joy to all. Of course, to do so will require a willingness to face the challenges and obstacles that are keeping us in vicious cycles of powerlessness. May we use this opportunity to address these and forge a path ahead for the entire humanity.
A lasting change cannot come without proper in-depth understanding of the problems & solutions. Beyond understanding, we also need a workable methodology, goodwill of others and active support of like-minded persons. Here, I hope, we shall find an opportunity to learn from one-another and build deeper ideological connections that will transcend all manifestations of factionalism, dogma and narrow-minded thinking.
On top of the agenda is the greatest predicament of our times- humans’ clash with nature & a befitting ecological response. One cannot remedy this in the absence of enlightened leadership at all levels and this is where the educational systems need to play a key role. The greatest of atrocities in human history could not have happened without the support of highly intelligent persons. So intellect alone cannot be the savior of today’s world. We also need the intuitional power of the spirit coupled with all-pervasive compassionate intellect to help us get over this hump. This gathering is unique because it is comprised of individuals who have dared to defy the status-quo and taken a step to embark on a new path- the path that will be inclusive of all, full of selfless spirit, imbued with benevolence and an awakened rationality.
I welcome each one of you to accept the challenge of building a road, which can become the torchlight for the entire humanity. Gurukul and its NHE movement opens its doors to one and all and we hope we can continue to collaborate and share to improve our effectiveness and impact especially for the future generations.
by Henk de Weijer and Arete Brim
The 10th Global Education Summit, “Education and Global Transformation” was held July 14th – 18th, at the Centre of Neohumanist Studies (CNS) in Ydrefors, Sweden. The event was co-sponsored by Ananda Marga Gurukula and GAP International. Gap International is a not for profit network empowering people to live and work sustainably, teaching that the inner characteristics of our planet and its inhabitants are intertwined, and promoting the expression and integration of all human and global potentials. The summit was attended by 75 persons from 25 countries, including Japan, Romania, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia, Egypt, South America, United States, India, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Netherlands. It was organized in Ydrefors, not far from Linköping, in the midst of vast, forever rustling pine forests that offered its blueberries and strawberries to attentive hikers. The sun shone until late in the night and rose early in the morning, accompanied by chirping swallows waking up everybody, like excited children.
Sunday, July 14th
After the opening remarks by Dada Shambhushivananda, the morning started off with a session on Education and Enlightened Leadership led by Eric Jacobson, Director, Progressive School of Long Island, USA and Dr. Marcus Bussey, Professor, Queensland University, Australia. Eric Jacobson through a participatory leadership test explored how NHE education as taught at the Progressive School of Long Island fosters leadership qualities in the students that endure as demonstrated by graduates of Progressive School a decade after their graduation. Marcus Bussey led the group in an exercise that explored the difference between hard and soft leaders and how they might respond to issues facing society such as climate change, education and immigration.
These participatory plenaries were followed up by a presentation the next morning by Marcus Bussey on: Towards an Education for Sadvipraship. In Neohumanist education, in preschools, schools, universities, and lifelong learning contexts, we are seeking to foster the conditions to enable the sadvipra (enlightened leadership) potential in all people. Marilyn Mehlmann, Head of Development & Training, GAP International, Sweden, gave an introduction to Learning for Change, a process, widely taught and used in Africa, Asia and Europe, and intended to accelerate learning from experience, which is a key element of ESD (Education for Sustainable Development). Changing human behaviour means becoming aware of personal attitudes to exclude or include to be followed by small, but conscious, daily actions.
Afternoon Workshops began with Peace Games, taught by Marilyn Cooper, Master Trainer Peace Games, USA. A series of nine interactive games that synthesize tai chi and meditation were presented. Based on tai chi body movements, these games are designed to help solve the problem of (youth) violence and poor health. They can be played by young and old and take no particular athletic ability. Please see full article in this issue on page 22. Henk de Weijer, Netherlands led a workshop on Deep Vision in Art and Ecology for becoming aware of and refining our perceptions. It is difficult, if not impossible, to initiate proper and creative actions with a biased mind. Yet many perceptions occur automatically, unconsciously and biased. However, to fully understand the nature of Nature, more subtle minds are required.
The NHE Early Childhood Kindergarten Curriculum of Romania was shared by Didi Ananda Devapriya, Director, NHE Programs, Romania and Magda Zambet, educational Director of the Gradinita Rasarit Neohumanist Kindergartens in Bucharest. The presentation gave an overview of the curriculum which is grounded on a theoretical structure, derived from Ananda Marga’s concept of the full potential of human beings, embodied in the concept of “Bhagavad Dharma” with its components of Continuing Expansion of Mind, Flow and Service.
Monday, July 15th
Education for Joy and Holistic Health was presented by Dr. Sid Jordan, Director, Prama Institute, USA and Ole Brekke, Director, Commedia School, Denmark through a series of exercises that supported the joyful collective sharing of physical playfulness, fantasy, songs in our native language and experiencing our heartfelt gift to our community. The joy of experiencing the gift you want to offer your community was done in a guided meditation and visualization. Participants began by meditating on the passion that they felt in their heart that led them to offer their special gift to their community. Caring for Our Blue Planet: a Biosphere Stewardship Journey was presented by Cynthia Lazeroff, Executive Vice President & Director of Educational Programs at Planetary Coral Reef Foundation/Biosphere Foundation. Her presentation explored the work of the Planetary Reef Foundation and Biosphere Foundation and followed the journey of the Biosphere 2 experiment to the present day community conservation work in Southeast Asia. Its areas of focus were: challenges to coral reefs and oceans, solutions including community based education, outreach and conservation; the International Biosphere Youth Stewardship program in Bali-Indonesia and inspiring models for making a difference for a sustainable future such as Rights of Nature initiatives and the rights of the peoples of Planet Earth to live in a healthy biosphere. The short, but dramatic film ‘‘Midway Island” was shown. It was an emotional call to be conscious of the tragic consequences that our careless use of plastic has on millions of defenseless animals that – still- live in or directly near the oceans.
Eric Jacobsen and Cynthia Lazaroff teamed up to offer a workshop on Service Learning and Caring for Our Blue Planet. As a follow-up to the morning plenary, the work of the Planetary Coral Reef Foundation and Biosphere Foundation was further explored and coupled with how to turn service opportunities in the local and global community into service-based learning. When a connection is made between the classroom and real-life an inspiration for future learning is developed and skills are learned for life.
The Learning for Change workshop by Marilyn Mehlmann offered a ‘taster’ in applying the Learning for Change method to one’s own work in the field of ESD. A full length workshop normally takes 2-3 days and has the potential to improve both curriculum design and teacher training.
Teaching Love through Storytelling was offered by Tang Taminga of Taiwan. In this participatory workshops Tang shared a wide variety of techniques for telling stories that children can explore and retell themselves. All stories were built on a vision of growing the moral and spiritual qualities of children.
Tuesday, July 16th
Khun Krisida Kampanatsanyakorn, Chairman of Cellenium, Bangkok, Thailand, gave an interactive Skype-lecture remotely from Thailand, accompanied by a local PowerPoint presentation, (pictured above side by side), on The Vanadium Regenerative Fuel Cell: enabler of renewable energy into mainstream and a critical path towards sustainability. The need for sustainability was discussed and specifically the production and storage of energy on macro and micro scale. The vanadium redox flow, that Krisida Kampanatsanyakorn and his group developed, has the potential to play an essential role in the future of generation, conversion and storage of electricity. Dr. Aditya Mohanty, Professor, Center of Advanced Studies in Philosophy, Utkal University, Bhubaneshvar, India Future gave a talk on Education: the holistic perspective. Here is a summary of his talk.
In the generic sense of the term ‘education’ is a continuous process of learning and unlearning from the cradle to grave. On account of possessing a developed mind man is capable of acting autonomously, independent of antecedent or circumstantial conditions that explain why non-human behaviour is predictable, whereas human ways are unpredictable. In common parlance, education is construed as the process of teaching and learning, i.e. it is a bipolar process, involving both teacher and the taught.
A highly developed country may have citizens with a poor sense of values and are culturally decadent, whereas a country, which is not so advanced in terms of economic resources or war potential, may have people who stand out aloft in terms of the values they profess and practise. Here, one is introduced to the seminal distinction between civilization and culture. Civilization is indicative of what we have, whereas culture is significative of what we are.
The crisis of today is essentially a crisis of values. When knowledge is cultivated with total disregard for values, there is every likelihood of man turning into an intelligent savage. Value awareness lends a sense of goal and direction, the concept of right and wrong. Values cannot be cultivated ad-extra. They are to be integrated into our mode of living. Education should enrich one’s perceptivity or sensibility, so that every occasion of life turns out to be an opportunity to understand what is good and what is not and imbibes the former.
The million dollar question is how to effect the transition from paradigm to praxis, from theory to practice, from knowledge to action. It is quite possible that a person is fairly conversant with canons of morality, but turns out to be most immoral in his/her conduct. Knowledge and conduct should be so intimately wedded that given the one, the other can be read. Here lies the role of educators as exemplars of values. Actions speak louder than words. An ounce of practice weighs more than a pound of wisdom. A robot cannot replace a living creature. A teacher is a living embodiment of the values of head and heart. He/she inspires the taught, both in his/her presence and absence. Hence the best definition of education is the one given by the headmaster of Harrow School, London: “Real education is that which remains after everything is lost and forgotten.
Insights into Yoga Therapy by Christian Franceschini, Yoga Instructor from Italy, explored the basic principles of Yoga Therapy like food, fasting, movement, herbs, mantra and natural remedies.
The Personal Development of a Teacher by Tatjana Popov, Director Sunshine School, Switzerland demonstrated how fostering of personal growth requires a holistic and integral approach. Such training finds its practical basis in the application of: Creativity (music, painting, theatre, dance, pantomime, asanas, mudras and martial arts); Intuition (mind mapping, mask building, autogenic training, inner order through color, visualization, focusing, listening to the inner voice); and Ethics (exploration of values through opposites). Exercises for this interactive, experiential workshop included examples from all three areas.
Christian Franceschini and Tang Taminga offered a workshop on Yoga for Special Children with Different Abilities. They shared their experiences working with children with different mental and physical abilities and methods that can be used to address their needs. This group includes children with deficiency of concentration, autism, emotional problems, trauma and other personal problems. The Yoga Touch Program of Taiwan was explained. Ways were shown how to choose yoga poses for children with developmental difficulties and what benefits can be expected for them.
Ole Brekke, conducted a workshop on Informal Education Using Theater in the Classroom. Today education is increasingly taking place outside of formal institutions and schools. Theater brings joy to the learning process making events more effective educationally, socially and personally. The workshop was a playful entry into the physical aspect of creativity.
Wednesday, July 17th
Realizing Visions of Alternative Educational Spaces
Dr. Marcus Bussey and Dr. Sid Jordan led the participants in a day of exploring our visions for building alternative educational-spaces where humanity can reunite in spirit & action and what role progressive – educators, activists & social-entrepreneurs play in nurturing such initiatives.
Sid Jordan introduced the day’s task of Forming Communities of Practice surrounding the theme of what each of us wanted to contribute to our Future Vision of an Ananda Marga Gurukula University utilizing Open Space technology. Marcus Bussey then facilitated a What If….game after clustering peoples’ individually chosen topics of interest into a number of Communities of Practice in the “market place” now called the Futures Wall. After choosing your group related to a Community of Practice each group selected a set of possibilities from all the choices provided in developing creative pathways by choosing 3 or 4 elements from the Futures Wall and suggesting outcomes. After working in groups, each community of interest reported to the larger group what visions of future education evolved in their discussions.
The afternoon session was devoted to an introduction to Causal Layered Analysis (CLA) as a means of developing a past-present-future scan of the litany of failed industrial models, socially conscious systems offering solutions, and dominant hierarchical world views as we looked for a mythic metaphor for a future university. The metaphor could serve as a nuclear concept to direct all of our open space work in synthesizing our visions in various communities of interest studied through the lens of the CLA. The workshop left the future vision for this future university open ended, but inspired continuing working of creating the metaphor and realizing a global campus for Ananda Marga Gurukula.
Thursday, July 18
During the final plenary, Marcus Bussey shared one possible myth/metaphor for a new vision for Gurukula. Groups again met, this time to think about how Gurukula can help to support their continuing work and how they could contribute to the development of Gurukula. As an ending, participants of the summit shared their personal experiences and stories. It became very clear that everybody felt deeply inspired by the broadminded and all inclusive attitude of Gurukula that functioned as the cement for this Summit. Each person felt accepted and invited to implement his/her best potential for the welfare of the earth and all its inhabitants. The Summit featured interactive programs both in the plenary and workshop programs, fostering a sense of community and group work. New grids of connections and relationships were built. Plans for collaborative work, including various people and disciplines, can be expected in the near future.
The energy and enthusiasm that was generated in this Education and Global Transformation Summit has inspired those present to move forward in creating new connections and concrete objectives that weave together our “pre-k through 12” and higher education goals. The faculty of Neohumanist Education is working with new speed that will enable us to actualize the next steps towards creating a global AMGK University: more primary schools, teacher training centers and affiliations with Universities. Our publications and forums will inform you how to participate in this renaissance in Neohumanist Education.
In the evening representatives of various schools and projects gave inspiring, and often moving, visual presentations about their projects. These included, Progressive School of Long Island by Director Eric Jacobson, Dr. Aditya Mohanty and the Adruta Childrens’ home in Bhuvaneswar, India, Didi Anandarma and her exciting experience with Nile River School near Cairo, Egypt, Didi Ananda Amegha’s school in Venezuela, Tatanya Popov’s school and teacher training work in Switzerland, Dada Shankarsananda’s recognized Yoga Academy Singapore, Maya Pagandiri and the Surnise School, Bali, Indonesia, the Yoga Kids programme of yoga for children in Taiwan by Tang Taminga and team, the Yoga for Children and Teachers in Italy by Christian Franceschini and the Baan Unrak School and teacher training in Thailand by Didi Ananda Citrarekha and Jaree Naksamrit.