By Dr. Swaleha Sindhi and Dr. Adfer Shah 20 August 2020
One of the significant features of the recently released and much-discussed New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 is to internationalise Indian education by opening up Indian higher education to global players. Now Indian universities can set up their campuses in other nations and foreign universities can open up their campuses in India too. Although setting up campuses by reputed universities in India is though a welcome step however to actualise it and even before that realising its pros and cons on the ground is not seen by critics without many ifs and buts, what’s, why’s and how’s. Because a larger chunk including columnists, field experts, intellectuals, and academics are concerned rather apprehensive about expanding privatization in the Indian context besides doubting the quality delivery by such big foreign brands. Also, there lies a fundamental concern that is working in unison towards a common global curriculum that is globally relevant, inclusive, humane, gender-sensitive and with peace education content besides being well integrated, all-encompassing and fully synchronised with the local as well as global ethos. The main pressing concern at the moment is that of the curriculum development, keeping in view inclusivity, integrity, novelty, experiential learning aspect besides critical thinking which has been discussed and emphasised upon in the policy as well. The question is who will do this curriculum development and are there enough academic bodies to do it, keeping in view the global standard and modern needs that can be meted out through education and injected into the younger generations. Therefore the prime consideration at this juncture should be the kind of curriculum development that makes the Indian curriculum global in scope.
Such an aspect primarily is the need of the hour as the world is too peace deficit with a huge human cost especially now. Right from the Wuhan virus outbreak leading to pandemic COVID 19 as a global catastrophe to the recent horrendous Lebanon bomb blasts, hardly any region on the globe is peaceful and safe. Frankly speaking, peace education needs to be critically evaluated and integrated into primary as well as higher education as it is imperative to build harmony and manufacture peace. It is a fact that the world at the moment needs just one thing that is peace content in curriculum to counter global terrorism and widespread uncertainty and insecurity. The aspect of peace education is very well synchronised with ideas of Indian education and therefore should be given a due space, by making peace education a connecting link to keep students connected internationally besides developing a solid peace based knowledge base back home. The question obviously is how to develop such a globally relevant peace content and later integrate it in the Indian curriculum that will be developed soon as per the policy directions.
Curriculum Development in the present context generally has been understood as making students globally competent, however, the aim must not be making the younger generation just globally competent but globally compatible and globally humane for peacebuilding on the globe. The peace content, its efficacy, and implementation therefore should be on the prime agenda of nations across the world with India taking lead. The fact remains that we cannot achieve desired results just by making students compete blindly and consider rat race for acute meritocracy against each other as the sole objective and purpose of education. Curriculum after all has to be for human beings and for society at large. The curriculum that does not infuse ‘the Humane’ element in any society can never be a complete curriculum. Like Vygotsky’s theory was an attempt to explain consciousness as the end product of socialisation, likewise, it can be argued that manufacturing ‘the Humane ‘within the curriculum must be the prime focus of curriculum development and for that peace, the content has to be developed.
As far as peace education in the Indian context is concerned, it is not a new concept. However, teaching values and morals have been emphasised upon but peace education has not to be given much priority and space. There is a considerable scholarly disinterest while we talk of integrating peace education as an essential aspect of the global curricular development that has to be given some serious attention. Through a global competition in education is good but creating a global peace conscious society through a curriculum loaded with peacebuilding content will be far better? Isn’t that more important than everything and defines the very core of interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinary, and universal educational standard? Doesn’t that make the curriculum more responsible and inclusive and integrating? Therefore the time has come to go for a global curriculum and think of a universal global curriculum to make citizens not just citizens but global citizens. Such a curriculum will boost both qualities in the classroom and peace in the society with a global sense of consciousness and responsibility and more importantly peace consciousness. The pity is while working on curriculum and curriculum development the academic bodies, organisations or as a state, we have been more working on integrating technologies, integrating robotics, artificial intelligence, and more or less technological aspects into education and trying to integrate them and calling it curriculum development. However, while developing this technological acumen we have been neglecting, that there must be an important element to it which is peace acumen. Peace acumen unlike technological acumen is the integration of the content of harmony, global brotherhood, peacebuilding framework, dialogue, and communication aspects and conflict resolution strategies. Along with the technological acumen whole world needs integration and synchronisation of peace acumen as well. The peace acumen will evolve from the contents of peace education, well merged in the global curriculum across the disciplines and different and diverse streams of knowledge, which will not just highlight the importance of peace, mutual harmony, brotherhood, and love but also manufacture and construct a society that values peace, rather than violence, works for harmony rather than hate and bloodshed and respects human and social development rather than nuclear weapons and warmongering. Unless and until peace content doesn’t come in an integrated form in the curriculum and becomes a compulsory part of its development process, all curriculum development will be an unfinished and incomplete project. Therefore, let it not be an optional content learning skill now but a compulsory and main skill to learn because the modern world and current younger generation doesn’t just need to work with peace or learn peace or learn the elements of peace but need to live with it and develop analytically and all the methodological and sustainable aspects of manufacturing peace on the ground. Therefore academicians, experts, or the authorities concerned at a higher level who have been thinking of curriculum development especially with the coming of NEP 2020, the peace element and peace content in curriculum definitely will be a step towards building India’s and Globe’s new innovation and peace economy.
Given the new policy, there is a clear emphasis on overhauling curriculum in Indian schools, reduction in syllabi, focus on experiential learning, and critical thinking. If we have to achieve and create a classroom atmosphere for experiential learning and critical thinking, it calls for a drastic change in the current curriculum in use and such a huge responsibility can’t be just done by school education departments, teachers or universities by nominating a few members for inputs but needs a global and serious engagement and experts from global organizations especially who work on the theme of education and have expertise on peacebuilding both in the field and in theory. Today when India’s NEP 2020 talks of skill development, let peacebuilding be classified and defined as a skill so that youth work for peace and manufacture it for a global peaceful society. Lastly at the global level let major organisations working on comparative education, allied societies, and cooperation with different nation-states intake a lead role in proposing a curriculum of a global standard.
(Authors; Dr. Swaleha Sindhi: Vice President Indian Ocean Comparative Education Society and Academic Advisor to Schools. Dr. Adfer Shah a Delhi based Sociologist and George Greenia Research Fellow at William & Mary U.S)