Seeking philosophers in education sector..

The usually good columns from Anurag Behar (CEO of Azim Premji Foundation) tell you a lot about India’s education sector which is in a pathetic shape. Again it is about extremes in India. On one hand fifth class students are unable to read class one texts and on the other hand one needs 100% to get admission into a decent DU college. Ironically many get 100% which is a joke.

Anyways his recent column is a delight to read in this really depressing economic environment. He does not really talk about woes of education but on the importance of having philosophers in education sector. By this he means educationists which have a broader mind-set and philosophy helps here:

We have not had much success in recruiting philosophers. Good philosophy departments in India are few and far between. The en masse desertion of the social sciences and humanities by middle class students has hurt philosophy more than other disciplines. “Philosophy karoge kya?” is a form of derision, covering not just the discipline but also any other tendency to think versus do. It is often compared to something more “real” like pursuing a course in enterprise resource planning implementation or English for BPOs.

But why are we so desperately seeking philosophers?
Actually, we are not seeking philosophers as much as those who can think about issues that are within the broad area of philosophy of education. This thinking includes relating it to education practice, and working with others on these issues. It needs rigorous, critical and systematic inquiry into basic questions. This is what constitutes (loosely) the method of philosophy. A good student of philosophy is better placed to do this, so long as she is interested in the questions relevant to our work. Others interested in the same questions, with willingness and ability to employ the philosophical method, do equally well. So what are these questions and issues?
Hmmm..  Ironically Phd which stands for Doctorate in Philosophy has hardly any philosophy in it.  PhD should be about inculcating a philosophical outlook trying to think broadly about life. But these days it is about  defining your field really narrowly with very little breadth and understanding of philosophy. It is a pity really..
 We need people who can deal with these issues, because we need them in our work, not because we have some particular fascination for philosophical enquiry. Our work in education ranges from capacity development of teachers and administrators, to curriculum development, to running an education-focused university, etc. We have worked in education for years and others have worked far longer. All of us have learnt that these questions and issues are immediately and directly relevant to all kinds of work in education. Those who are most effective have learnt to deal with these in relevant ways, whether they call it philosophy or not.
Let’s take an example of how this comes to life every day. Should a student accept something as true because the teacher says so? Or should the teacher develop a reasoned argument? Why should the teacher do this—because it’s important to develop autonomy of thought or because of respect for a fellow human being who just happens to be his student? What should the teacher do if that reasoned argument confronts the child’s cultural beliefs? Exposure to issues of philosophy of education will help the teacher recognize and resolve these questions.
Given the process of learning, the nature of education and its purposes, philosophy and practice are inseparable, even though the practitioner may not recognize it. All practice often involves unexamined assumptions that are ripe for philosophical scrutiny. Since education has a deep impact, for better or for worse, on the next generation, it is important that teachers, principals and administrators become reflective practitioners. While philosophy alone will not do the job, it is an essential ingredient. That is why India needs people able to philosophize rigorously about education, even if they are not academic philosophers.
Great stuff..
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