A Gandhian vision for the classroom of tomorrow
– by Lissa Chazot and Valentin Le Boeuf
Here are some of the central ideas shared by panelists during an international conference organised by UNESCO in Paris.
UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development and India’s Permanent Delegation to UNESCO organised a lecture on the future of education in Paris recently. A hologram of Gandhiji made extracts from his books came to life while members of the panel discussion, Anantha Duraiappah (Director of UNESCO MGIEP), Grégoire Borst (Professor of developmental psychology, neurocognitive development and school learning at CNRS, France’s National Centre for Scientific Research) and Vera El Khoury Lacoeuilhe (Professor at Sorbonne University) discussed the relevance of Gandhiji’s ideas on education. This lecture marked the 150th anniversary of the father of the nation and reminded the audience that his visionary ideas resonate even today.
According to Gandhiji, “literacy is neither the beginning nor the end of education. True education is that which draws out and stimulates the spiritual, intellectual and physical faculties of the children.” This is in line with the findings and the 1996 report of the International Commission on Education for the 21st century to UNESCO that highlighted the importance of developing values, knowledge, skills and abilities ‘to learn how to learn’ and organize life-long learning around 4 fundamental pillars to face the challenges of the 21st century: learning to know, learning to live together, learning to do, and learning to be.
Panel members also reiterated the importance of moving away from only delivering 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) in the classroom to teaching the 3Cs (Creativity, Critical Thinking and Collaboration) and shift the paradigm in classroom teaching and learning. This poses a unique challenge to teachers who need to adapt their teaching toolkit to adapt to the changing needs of students. They spoke about the scope of artificial intelligence algorithms and how it could ostensibly allow personalisation of the learning curve, thereby empowering students and providing support to teachers. Individualised learning is the holy grail of learning, with AI the feedback loop is almost instantaneous making it easier to scaffold the learning process and focus on developing skills and values in the classroom while personalising it to the needs of the student. By integrating technological solutions, it can free teachers to pay attention to the holistic development of students. Although AI will come to the aid of teachers willing to embrace this new technology, it might come in the way of teachers focused on didactic teaching and the 3Rs as information can be easily accessed. A simple question like – ‘Hey Siri/OK Google/Alexa, what is a neutron star ?’ will instantly provide the answer, teachers can see it as an opportunity to move away from passive learning to models of teaching for understanding that foster skills, abilities and character building…these remain beyond the scope of AI, anchoring the relevance of teachers albeit increasing strides in technology. Gandhiji believed that one of the essential goals of education is character development and compassion, “it is all very well to acquire a stock of knowledge from good books or from other sources. But the more important thing is to learn humanity. The primary function of teachers is, therefore, not to teach the alphabet, but to inculcate humanity.” Although the Naye Talim (New Education) scheme developed by Gandhiji was not discussed during this conference, there were a few obtuse references to it.
Children will shape the world of tomorrow and we all need to make sure that we equip them to confront the world of today and the world that awaits them in the future, without putting any obstacles for them to unleash their creativity. Let us enrich the learning process with ancient knowledge, new technological tools, self awareness, creativity, 21st century skills and service.
One of the panelists also highlighted the importance of continued teacher training in diverse fields including brain development, empathy, socio emotional skills and critical thinking. It is important to remind ourselves the purpose of engaging in a conversation about such a topic. Children are the cornerstone of any dialogue on education, without children there can be no teachers. Children will shape the world of tomorrow and we all need to make sure that we equip them to confront the world of today and the world that awaits them in the future, without putting any obstacles for them to unleash their creativity. Let us enrich the learning process with ancient knowledge, new technological tools, self awareness, creativity, 21st century skills and service.
Mahatma Gandhi International School in Ahmedabad (India) has been implementing some of the ideas developed in the conference with success. Compassion for instance has been included in the mission statement and their pedagogy embraces non-violent conflict resolution, new technology, collaborative projects, creative expression, teacher participation in research projects etc. to provide an intellectually stimulating yet emotionally safe environment for students. We hope this conversation inspires more schools to revisit the wisdom of Gandhiji while adapting it to the needs of the 21st century in the education sector.
“Literacy is neither the beginning nor the end of education. True education is that which draws out and stimulates the spiritual, intellectual and physical faculties of the children.”
Valentin Le Boeuf is a talented young teacher interested in new ways of learning. A graduate in electrical engineering from Ecole Normale Supérieur Paris-Saclay who passed the Agrégation in engineering in the first attempt, he decided to dedicate himself to the field of education and contribute to a better tomorrow. He is currently studying pedagogy through active research and experimentation. He went on a study tour to Mahatma Gandhi International School in Ahmedabad to understand and implement its innovative pedagogy. He is working at Schola Nova and Harmony School in Paris to experiment new forms of teaching practices.
Lissa Chazot is currently pursuing a Masters in International Development in Brussels. She was part of the first cohort of Apple Professional Learning Specialists and Apple Distinguished Educators in India and has trained over 1000 teachers and principals across the country. Lissa has been conferred the Pearson Teaching Award, a natioanal award for teaching excellence and has featured on CNN IBN. Her student’s work created using technology at Mahatma Gandhi International School has been used by the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (Gujarat), the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation among others and has reached an audience of more than 7.5 million people.