Panaji, Feb 1 (IEEntertainment) The fourth edition of Difficult Dialogues commenced on Thursday with the focus on ‘Education: Illuminating Myriad Facets’, which will see leading experts and academics discuss education policies in India over the next two days.
Difficult Dialogues, an annual forum examining critical issues in South Asia, founded by philanthropist Surina Narula, has previously highlighted issues around India’s position in a globalised world, health and gender equality.
The inaugural ceremony had in attendance the Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, Varun Sahni, Vice Chancellor, Goa University; Surina Narula, Founder and CEO, Difficult Dialogues; Paul Flather, Fellow of Mansfield College, Oxford University; Yatin Kakodkar, President, The International Centre Goa; Dr Constantino Xavier, former fellow Carnegie India; executive committee members and a distinguished audience.
The chancellor of Oxford University Lord Chris Patten said in a video message that he felt that the Asian economic miracle which refers to South East Asia (China) was in large part because of strides made in basic health and education and so it was important to “get the basics right” with better primary education in India.
The evening programme at Goa University’s auditorium also saw a lively interactive session on ‘Educating Minds – Changing Mindsets’. Moderated by Anurradha Prasad Shukla, Chairperson and Managing Director, News-24, the panel discussion set the tone for the remaining two days of the forum and served to engage the audience in a conversation about issues surrounding the education system in India.
The speakers on the panel were Arif Mohammad Khan, former Cabinet Minister in the Union of India; Deepa Narayan, International Poverty, Gender and Development Advisor; Manjushree Patil, India Country Director of Samanta, a sister organisation of THINK EQUAL – UK and Founder Director of Aatman Academy; and Renuka Chowdhury, Indian politician and a member of the Indian National Congress.
Congress MP Renuka Chowdhury said, “The three As of education are affordability, accessibility and availability… In the last five years, the budget for education has actually declined… The government of India needs to wake up and realize that true progress lies in investing in education, not arms.” She also added, “One student per hour commits suicide in India. The terror of exams is very real.”
Deepa Narayan, researcher and the author asked, “When you think back about school, what emotion comes up? I’ve been asking this question for many years and people don’t respond with a positive response.”
After the panel, a member of the audience brought up that Goa University doesn’t have an education department and Vice-Chancellor Varun Sahni explained that Goa is a small state and Goa University is the only public university, but they are getting a School of Behavioural Studies, which will have education as part of it. In addition, they are also getting a School of Sanskrit and Indology Studies, and have requested the state government for a law school as well.