Tara Singh Vachani, Managing Trustee, Max India Foundation

Tara Singh Vachani is the Executive Chairperson of Antara Senior Living and the Managing Trustee of Max India Foundation 2.0, which represents the Max Group’s social responsibility efforts. As Executive Chairman of Antara Senior Living, Tara’s aim is to give a new dimension to senior living in India. She is also the Non–Executive Director on the Board of Max India Ltd. and oversees future business initiatives at Max Group. With an extensive education and experience across the world, and as a keen learner throughout her journey at Max Group, Tara has imbibed the values of Sevabhav, Excellence and Credibility.

 

The National Education Policy (NEP), laid down by the Indian government in 2020, aims to achieve a 100% Gross Enrollment Ratio by 2030. While the idea, along with the other recommendations in the policy, is ambitious, it is certainly achievable over the next decade.

What will hold key is the innovation the government will bring through new pedagogical structures and frameworks as well as how it restructures the existing modalities of education. Among the new structures or methodologies are critical thinking, systems thinking, and an intuitive way of existence catalyzed through formal and informal education.

There exists a rich body of pedagogical research that eyes to move beyond knowledge accumulation – something the new policy espouses – and focuses on holistic development of children to help them better navigate society, adulthood, and the world at large. One such approach is the Social, Emotional and Ethical (SEE) Learning program that focuses on the social, emotional, and ethical literacy of K-12 students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought along a significant change in the learning patterns of such students, majorly due to their inability to attend physical classes and the added labor of adapting to newer forms of learning, especially the digital medium. There is no doubt that the response towards digital adoption and adaptation was immense. But, it also exposed the digital divide in our country due to the disparities amid the various socio-economic sections of the society.

So, how can we usher in a disparate era of K-12 education in India keeping in mind the experience from the pandemic?

More holistic, all-round education

SEE Learning, on the back of its decades of classroom expertise and in-depth research, can greatly revive that enthusiasm among children and infuse a spurt of energy in the teachers. With its applications across sectors and geographical regions, SEE learning is more of a way of life that every human being can inculcate. However, this inculcation needs to begin at a young age when the cognitive abilities of the children are in their exploratory stage.

Interestingly, this is the stage where the correct form of intervention through holistic and well-curated pedagogical models can help children take advantage of their developing abilities to be able to pursue a life that best suits them on its own merits and demerits. Such models, of which SEE Learning is one of them, can go a long way in contributing to the growth of the mental faculties of K-12 students.

The SEE Learning program, developed by the US’ Emory University in collaboration with the Dalai Lama, builds on the advances made by the earlier Social and Educational Learning (SEL) community. SEE Learning grants recognition to the social needs of humans which are inherently biological. Therefore, education should not only provide students with the social skills necessary to navigate through life but also inform them about the intricate and complex web of systems that make a society functional (or dysfunctional).

In either case, the children will – over a course of time – construct their own meanings and chart territories that else might be difficult to envision. 2030 is a decade from and this is the decade that can not only revitalize the Indian education system but also set a benchmark for the future generations of scientists, writers, philosophers, and innovators. This will also align with the government’s idea to build an Atmanirbhar Bharat, a self-reliant India, as these children will be at the forefront of driving that idea of India.

Two fundamental pillars of the SEE Learning program – emotional literacy and ethics – set the perfect tone for the leaders of tomorrow. People who are in touch with their emotions are more likely to be in control of their lives, and less likely to get overwhelmed and swept under the larger societal currents that impact the lives of one and all.

Guided and motivated by a strictly non-religious, non-sectarian conception of ethics in the program, along with a focus on universal human values such as kindness and empathy, encourages students to engage with moral questions through the lens of compassion and empathy. This is where SEE Learning transcends the barriers of conventional curriculums by impacting the prevailing culture in schools and making the K-12 students realize their true potential.

The NEP aims to work closely with students to create a society that is more equitable, kind, and just, and the SEE Learning program is complementary to it. It is for this reason that parents, who play an equally crucial role during the child’s growing years, are encouraged under the program to guide their child’s ethical growth by asking thoughtful questions, recalling illustrative stories, and engaging in regular dialogues.

The mind of a growing child, particularly during the schooling years, is akin to clay. And, if it is molded in the right manner, it will help them become thinking individuals and not just a mere addition to the country’s burgeoning workforce. Therefore, a combination of the recommendations proposed in the NEP and the teachings of the SEE Learning program is what will distinguish India’s future from its past.

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