24th Conference of the International Environment Forum

Submitted by admin on 14. July 2020 - 13:17
2020, July 11-12
A virtual conference on line


Online International Conference on Education for Social Cohesion

A virtual event on 11-12 July 2020
organized from India


For its 24th conference, the International Environment Forum partnered in the Online International Conference on Education for Social Cohesion organized by IEF member Lesan Azadi of the Bahá'í Academy in Panchgani, India, with many other partners. The Conference addressed various dimensions of social cohesion and the role that higher academic institutions and teachers can play in promoting the same. These dimensions included:
Theme 1: Social disparities and discrimination, racism, gender equality, prejudices, unbridled nationalism, religious strife;
Theme 2: Economic disparities, extremes of poverty and wealth, role of women in poverty alleviation, inclusive development, spiritual indicators of development;
Theme 3: Universal education and role of teachers in laying the foundation of a new world order.

Participants came from 37 countries and 24 states of India, 71 universities and 200 institutions of higher education, with 12 main speakers, 21 panelists and moderators, and 1,500 registered attendees. The main presentations were followed by panels commenting on implementation and responding to questions from the audience. IEF President Arthur Dahl was a speaker, and IEF board member Victoria Thoresen a panelist.

The principal conference organizers were Lesan Azadi, Director of the Baha'i Academy, a Recognized Institution of Shivaji University, Panchgani, Dist. Satara, Maharashtra, India, and Dr. K. C. Mohite, Principal, S. S. P. Mandal's C. T. Bora College (Affiliated to Savitribai Phule Pune University), Shirur, Dist. Pune, Maharashtra, India. The National Partners were Savitribai Phule Pune University (Department of Education and Extension), Pune, Maharashtra, India; Shivaji University (Center for Gandhian Studies), Kolhapur, Maharashtra, India; and SNDT Women’s University (Department of Economics), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. International partners were the International Environment Forum, Geneva, Switzerland; International Institute of Organizational Psychological Medicine, Melbourne, Australia;  Westminster College (Office for Global Peace and Spirituality), Salt Lake City, USA; and Association for Creative Moral Education, Kazan, Russia.

The recording of the conference is available on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBAxJqvGZvfaWwMI7-DYztA




The conference was opened by Lesan Asadi, who described the present period of transition in the midst of a pandemic, requiring ways to build trust and overcome suffering. He reviewed the obstacles including prejudice, religious fanaticism, gender inequality and economic disparities, and the need for education to build a society for all, fostering both personal growth and social progress, including inputs from the arts and community service. He concluded with a call for moral leadership and a vision that is world embracing rather than confined to our own selves.

The inaugural lecture was given by Prof. Dr. M. M. Salunkhe, former President of the Association of Indian Universities and Vice-Chancellor, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune, India. He emphasized the need for education to enhance social cohesion, as emphasized by the global reaction to recent evidence of racism in America. He referred to the Bahá'í Academy as a leading institution for values education relevant to the global community. He criticized the narrow focus today of education for employment, and called for interdisciplinary education for peace, good citizenship, tolerance and social cohesion to transform society. There should be courses on human rights throughout the system. Education should be free and compulsory for all, with special attention to the children now out of school, leading to lifelong learning.

Theme 1: Barriers to Social Cohesion

The Moderator of this theme was Prin. Nandkumar Nikam, President, Principal’s Forum, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune India.

The first speaker was Dr. Jabbar Eidelkhani, a member of the Bahá'í Continental Board of Counsellors in Asia, from Bangladesh, speaking on the Greatest Global Challenge. He first described some of the symptoms of social dissolution, such as the 6.1 million victims of violence each year, the high divorce rate of more than half the marriages, and the 25 million refugees, half under the age of 18. Economic disparities mean that more than half the world population is poor, and 33,000 girls are child victims of early marriages every day. Our individualistic culture drives many to depression and less sense of belonging, while prejudices and discrimination produce poor social status. He then described five principles and attitudes needed to build social cohesion. The equality of everyone must be acknowledged without any distinction, as a source of motivations for social interactions. We need to recognize our inner dimension to foster our moral and ethical framework, culture and human rights. Social cohesion is a process on a spectrum which cannot be taken for granted and must be promoted and worked for. This includes social interactions, integration of minority groups, and building social harmony with love, trust and admiration. We must build connected, resilient, united communities, especially involving the youth. Women must be fully involved in the life of the community, as they are often the best communicators. All this means that we must redefine communities centred on love, justice and unity in diversity.

The next speaker, Prof. Dr. Shashikala Wanjari,Vice-Chancellor, S.N.D.T. Women’s University, Mumbai, India, addressed the topic of Gender Equality and the Role of Women in Social Cohesion. She noted that the pandemic presented special challenges for women, while the lockdown helped men to see the importance of women as wife, mother, mother-in-law running the family, and the first educator of babies, transmitting values within the family. Women are strong and must be seen as equally responsible citizens of their country and members of their family. An enlightened woman is a source of strength. There should be no discrimination based on women's performance.

The third presentation by Prof. Dr. Russell D’souza, Head, Asia Pacific Division, UNESCO Chair in Bioethics, Haifa, and Executive Director and Dean, International Institute of Organizational Psychological Medicine, Melbourne, Australia, presented on the Psychology of Prejudices, Discrimination and Racism. He defined prejudice as an unjustified attitude, and discrimination as negative actions or behaviour addressed to an individual or group of people. Prejudice can be affective involving feelings, behavioural expressed as actions, or cognitive effecting knowledge or belief. Different theories try to explain prejudice. The authoritarian personality, perhaps resulting from a strict upbringing where hostility is displaced to something exterior, is totalitarian and antidemocratic. Realistic conflict theory sees prejudice as the result of competition between groups. Stereotyping involved simple fixed beliefs about a group, overgeneralizing and ignoring differences. In social identity theory, group identity is important, with us and them, in-groups and out-groups. Self-image is enhanced by seeing the negative in others. Racism is a specific case of prejudice towards an ethnic group, with race a highly variable definition.

The final talk on this theme was by Prof. Dr. C. Raj Kumar, Founding Vice-Chancellor, O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana, India, on Full Adherence to Human Rights.His presentation emphasized the human rights dimension of social cohesion, requiring an investment in democratic education and enlightened citizenship, with greater integration of the normative framework of human rights into education. Domestic constitutional law can advance human rights, as in the Indian constitution, but there are limits to implementation, requiring constant efforts. The media have an important role in speaking truth to power, highlighting cases of discrimination and oppression, but require strengthening the freedom of speech and the press. A legal approach can help punish violations, as with Black Lives Matter and other marginalized groups requiring special protection. The heart of the effort should focus on celebrating diversity and promoting pluralism, building trust among all stakeholders, both between citizens and the state, and between citizens themselves.

The panelists then responded to the main presentations, considering how they could be implemented and responding to questions from the audience.  Dr. Vasanti Rasam (Administrative Officer Shree Warana Vibhag Shikshan Mandal Warananagar, Kolhapur and Former Dean, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India) first described how the pandemic with its lockdown of the education sector had accentuated the social disparities and digital divide between those with Internet connections and computers who could follow distance learning and those without, requiring special policies. Educational institutions had a role to eradicate social injustice, with school education on social cohesion most important up to the age of 15. Higher education in the sciences does not address values, requiring transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches.

Dr. Bharati Patil (Dean, Coordinator, Centre for Gandhian Studies, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India) emphasized the importance of building the process of social cohesion by strengthening the moral and ethical culture in all societies, needing constant effort involving many actors. The Bahá'í Academy workshops on cohesion addressed the three actors, with individuals learning deep love, trust, equity and non-violence, supporting human rights and avoiding discrimination, while families could be reached through the media, and society needed to learn community values. Dr. Vibhuti Patel (Former Professor of S.N.D. T. Women’s University and Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India) referred to the coronavirus impact on women who were 75% of front-line workers while also having to educate their children out of school, since only 5% had Internet access. Gender justice for social cohesion and peace-building should be a focus of humanities and social sciences education. Gender equality is not a zero-sum game but a win-win formula to liberate women and girls.

Responding to questions from the audience, Dr. Pooja Narwadkar (Principal, Bharati Vidyapeeth’s New Law College, Sangli, India) was asked how to implement human rights? For the government, there should be a paradigm shift in education from materialistic values to moral rectitude. Human rights should be taught from an early formative age. Community leaders must be role models for human rights in action. Everyone needs to be dedicated and committed to human rights. Dr. R. G. Kulkarni (Principal, Smt. Mathubai Garware Kanya Mahavidyalaya, Sangli, India), responding to the question whether social cohesion could be achieved rationally in many diverse countries, said we need to inculcate universal human values in society through education. Dr. Rajendra Kankariya (Chief Administrative Officer, Pratibha Group of Institutes in Pune, India) was asked about public discourses and social media. He responded that higher education should be free from political interference, and form a syllabus on the use and misuse of social media to enlighten students on how to use them well. No political parties should use social media to create controversy, and messages likely to create conflict should be filtered, with punishments for misuse. A commission was needed to protect against social abuse and misuse of media. Dr. Ashok Bhoite (Principal, Karmaveer Bhaurao Patil Mahavidyalaya, Pandharpur, India) was asked if social cohesion should be compelled or inferred, and how young minds could be freed from unbridled nationalism. He replied that this should be inferred from the bottom up. Nationalism had different forms before independence, after independence, and now in the 21st century. Philosophers write books about it, politicians consider it only in general elections, and for the common man, it should relate to the life of the masses and basic needs. Dr. Shaley Joseph (Principal, Yashwantrao Chavan School of Social Work, Satara, India) addressed religious hatred. Religion has an external expression forming a group, and an internal expression as spirituality. The family is the primary institution to teach values, including an understanding of freedom and spirituality. COVID-19 infects people of all religions, so why divide people on the basis of religion? It is important to promote religious freedom, including in higher education. There should be more values in education, drawing on the example of the Bahá'í Academy.

In his closing remarks on this theme, Nandkumar Nikam said we cannot teach values only in the classroom, but must observe them in action across all generations. Violations in human rights are more obvious in our digital world without territorial barriers. Social cohesion is for the betterment of all. Where to start? At all levels of education from pre-primary to higher education in a continuing process. It requires support from all disciplines including the new technologies. Who will do all this? Educational institutions and NGOs all need to work together. In a global society, we should continuously enrich sustainable development with social cohesion.

Theme 2: Economic and Developmental Dimensions

Dr. Mangesh Teli, Former Dean, Institute of Chemical Technology, Deemed University, Mumbai, India, moderated this theme.

In the first presentation, Prof. Dr. James P. West, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA, USA, addressed the topic of Economic Disparities and Rethinking Prosperity. He opened with a poem he wrote many years ago:

Profit as a sign of efficiency
Isn’t, I’ll agree, a deficiency
But sacrifice it seems
Is apparent for the needs
Of the masses
Who sleep hungry every night.

Ambition as a quality is noble
But when aims grow more parochial than global
It is time to reassess
If this attitude serves best
The masses who sleep hungry every night.

Good fortune brings to some a stately palace
But comforts will not last if hearts grow callous
To maximize true wealth
And ensure the planet’s health
Heed the masses
They rise angry with the light.
© James West, 'Wayward: Selected Poems", 2010

He then highlighted the year 1776, when individual freedom was declared in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations laying the foundation for the free enterprise system, and James Watt invented the steam engine starting the industrial revolution. With individual innovation and entrepreneurship rewarded, profit as a sign of efficiency, and now globalization, great wealth has been created. However true wealth is to feed the masses, or they will arise. It is necessary to eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty, and to redefine prosperity as more than money. Three pillars are needed in the economy. Government needs to provide an ethical framework, relying on voluntary cooperation. Free enterprise using markets can build production, property, prices and profits. The non-profit sector can be driven by private voluntary organizations. There is a role for religion that is more than magic, considering relative versus absolute poverty, and exploring the ethical spectrum from selflessness through self-interest to selfishness, and cooperation through competition to collusion. With the new prosperity from science and technology, the focus has been secular and materialistic. Yet globalization has brought us all together with the promise of world peace, acknowledging the oneness of humanity and our unity in diversity. Religions can come together through an appreciation of progressive revelation. With universal education we can eliminate prejudice and establish human rights. The founding principle must be justice at the political, social and economic levels. The family is important for education. To achieve the prosperity of humankind, the classical economic models need to be replaced by new approaches based on justice and equity, laying a foundation for world peace.

Prof. Dr. Arthur Lyon Dahl, President, International Environment Forum, Geneva, Switzerland, considered Inclusive Development and Spiritual Indicators of Development. He defined development as fulfilling our human potential or purpose, including physical, social, intellectual and spiritual dimensions contributing to the endless development of human consciousness. As a social species, human development is also collective with ever-wider forms of social organization. As systems become more complex, they become more diverse with high levels of cooperation and reciprocity to become more efficient and resilient. There can be no individual success if there is collective failure. A community must collaborate to meet all of its needs on a sustainable basis while renewing its individual members and transmitting its collective wisdom and experience through education. Each individual has potential to contribute to the wellbeing of the whole if properly developed, and the more such individuals are included, the greater the collective wealth and wellbeing of the whole. Marginalizing or excluding anyone represents a loss of potential in the system. Inclusive development means leaving no one behind. The collective potential of the whole human race is maximized when everyone is empowered to develop their skills and abilities in service to society, with nothing or no one going to waste.

We commonly use indicators for development. If development has a spiritual dimension, then we need indicators of values or spiritual qualities, and these have been developed. Values reflect the most fundamental level of individual development and social organization, and are the best leverage points for transformation. Individual values to support inclusion include humility, moderation, justice, equity, and service to the common good, providing positive motivation. Collectively, unity as an indicator would show how well all individuals see themselves as members of a single human family. Communities would be created at a more human scale for strong social relationships. A new economic system would be socially just, altruistic and cooperative, provide meaningful employment, and eliminate extremes of wealth and poverty with a more equitable distribution of planetary resources. Individuals would prefer materially simpler lifestyles with a focus on knowledge, science, art, culture, beauty, and harmony with the natural world. This would be the aim of inclusive development guided by spiritual indicators. His full paper is available here.

In his concluding remarks on these theme presentations, Dr. Mangesh Teli called for rethinking disparities, and the role of economics and education in incorporating ethics in all our activities. Religion has divided, but it also has provided our universal human values. If we are coherent, it can contribute to social cohesion. For education to contribute to social cohesion, values need to be taught in science and engineering, not just the physical reality, but also the mind, soul and inner voice of conscience. Science and religion need to be hand in hand for sustainable development. Teachers need to be role models, putting values into practice. We need to rethink prosperity with new indicators for spiritual qualities. We must be conscious that the disparity between rich and poor has increased.

In opening the second day of the conference, Lesan Asadi reminded us of all the reasons why we need social cohesion. The culture of materialism has spread around the world with moral and social consequences producing social dissolution: inequality, joblessness, migration, a family crisis, individualism, self-aggrandizement, corruption, extremes of poverty and wealth, a culture of contest and competition. The result is a culture that is socially unjust and ecologically unsustainable. Yet if we look at the moral and spiritual aspects of civilization, we see cooperation, mutualism and unity in diversity that have worked for millennia. Past civilizations were like separate ships on the ocean; today we all occupy rooms on the same ship without a captain to set a course.

Theme 2 on the economic and developmental dimensions resumed with panelists providing their reflections on implementation. Dr. Ruby Ojha (Professor and Head, Department of Economics, S. N. D. T. Women’s University, Mumbai, India) noted the failure of the economy to provide employment and creating extremes of wealth and poverty, with the ruthlessness of free market capitalism pushing many to want to replace it by a socialist economy. We need to rethink ways to become prosperous. The market, government and non-profits have different roles in unity with diversity, but implementation will require strong government. Religion has a critical role to raise moral standards, with education on ethical values important.

Prof. Victoria Wyszynski Thoresen (UNESCO Chair for Education about Sustainable Lifestyles, The Center for Collaborative Learning for Sustainable Development, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, LUP, Hamar, Norway) considered how to overcome fragmentation within and between countries. We need to recognize and remove prejudice, considering others we do not normally have contact with and value them. Between countries we need new ways to measure growth and prosperity, and equitable trade and immigration policies. Global governance is required with collaboration, not competition between countries. At the individual level, we need to change our habits away from a material lifestyle, and reward collaboration. We must consider how we use our time and money. Through values education and global citizenship education with constant learning, we can learn how to build self-confidence and community together. The old ways do not provide answers for today and tomorrow. The pandemic has shown us that we can change our ways overnight if we want to.

Padmashree Dr. Janak McGilligan (Founder-Director of Jimmy McGilligan Centre For Sustainable Development, Former Director of BARLI Development Institute for Rural Women, Indore, India) described her work at the BARLI Institute working with tribal women involving 6,000 girls in more than 500 communities. Using holistic practices, attitudes to empower, and useful skills, they show girls how to develop their selves and their community as two wings of one bird with gender equality. They also train men in empowerment, "we two" rather than "me too". The girls become entrepreneurs with a capacity to earn, such as with tailoring, using solar cookers for tea stalls or safe drinking water. This is integrated with moral principles for self-confidence, how to be happy in the family and at peace, with improved health and natural birth control. When the pandemic sent millions of migrants on the road, none of those they taught had to migrate.

Dr. B. M. Hirdekar (Former Controller of Examination, Shivaji University, Former Registrar, Sanjay Ghodawat University, Kolhapur, India) showed how multiple approaches to social cohesion begin with education. Goals are redefined from pleasure, fame and wealth to service to society and the needy. Identity politics, fundamentalism and communitarianism are replaced by inclusion, social integration, a collective consciousness and shared moral values. Individual plants have their roots entangled, and composite materials are stronger, so groups should work together. Law enforcement should be transformed with preventive actions and peace officers. People who have to fight hunger develop anger, and poverty leads to no education, which must be addressed to reduce crime. A family partnership programme showed that proper care in the first two years reduced the numbers later going to prison. We need an alternative mindset, not an illness industry but a wellness industry, with a focus on community medicine and public health. Education can make people citizens of the world with universal values. The pandemic shows that societal pain is higher than individual pain. We must come together to solve the problems threatening social cohesion, in a shared moral community with synergies, not competition. Poverty can be eliminated when we come together, like the many instruments in an orchestra.

The final session on this theme addressed questions from the audience, sent in from around the world. Dr. C. N. Rawal (Principal, The Brihan Maharashtra College of Commerce, Pune, India) was asked if government policies are helping to reduce disparities. Government social spending generally reduces inequality, with many such policies in India for capital expenditure or special aid for children, youth and seniors. There is housing assistance and retraining for new skills and jobs. In many cases, reducing social disparities can increase economic disparities. Much depends on the political parties in power. Dr. J. S. Patil (Principal, Arts and Commerce College, Nagthane, Satara, India) was asked about the role of religion in social cohesion. He noted the vital role of local religious leaders who make a sincere effort for social cohesion, with all people getting together to help the needy. In higher education the religions work together for the benefit of society. Principles of humility, equality and unity in diversity should be included in the curriculum to support sustainable development. Dr. A. M. Gurav (Coordinator, Centre for Skill and Entrepreneurship Development, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India) addressed how employment could be provided to women from low groups, tribes and minorities. An important focus was skills development, both hard and soft skills, for those who lack exposure to skills for new jobs. Abilities to be developed include critical thinking, a service orientation, and coordination of activities. The effort to provide skills directly to the needy should include a 40% government contribution and 20% each from schools, colleges and NGOs. Prof. Dr. S. B. Deosarkar (Institute Project Director for TEQIP, World Bank Project, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Lonere, India) considered how rich and poor would be affected as the economy crashed in the pandemic. The economy and other sectors were in turbulence, with unemployment and particular impacts on travel and services. There were also new requirements for new kinds of services and new business models in agriculture , food, education, cleanliness and hygiene. New technologies are coming to the rescue. Environmental values need to be incorporated in every walk of life. We must prepare the workforce with social education. There has not been further division, but it is important to eliminate differences for the most vulnerable. The wellbeing of humankind needs unity in diversity and moral policy makers. Dr. Praveen Chougule (Principal, D.R. Mane Mahavidyalaya, Kagal, Dist. Kolhapur, India) was asked how could India's human development levels be improved? It is essential to improve economic factors including the standard of living, health and education through inclusive development. All those marginalized are stakeholders, with no exclusion on the basis of age, disability or other factors. Government needs to have moral values and be free from corruption and incompetence. Only government can ensure macroeconomic stability, a strong financial system, infrastructure, the adoption of modern technology, and reducing rural to urban migration. Corruption and malpractice also need to be fought at the global level.

Theme 3: Education for Social Cohesion

Prof. Pandit Vidyasagar, Professor Emeritus, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India, moderated the theme of education for social cohesion. He noted that present ignorance should be replaced by the realization of oneness among all humans and with nature through education.

In the first presentation, Prof. Dr. Rodney Clarken, Professor Emeritus, Northern Michigan University, USA, addressed Universal Principles for a New World Order. Since cohesion means the holding together of any elements, this equals unity in human terms. He drew the analogy of the human body, in which many cells with one genetic endowment do diverse things in harmony and reciprocity, in what we call life. The world is like the human body, which will progress when in unity, but where any sickness will affect every part. Social unity requires justice. If some parts have more than others, it is out of balance. Justice is lacking at many levels, in the greater power of the male sex, in prejudice of race and class, and in the adolescent behaviour of nations. The age of maturity will come when the cohesion of the whole planet creates one unified body. We are one human species and should become one people. We cannot choose how we are born, but we must use whatever privileges or resources we inherit to help humanity.

Prof. Dr. Sanjeev Sonawane, Dean, Interdisciplinary Studies, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India, followed with a presentation on the Role of Teachers in Promoting Social Cohesion. Teachers must understand their role in implementing social integration and social justice in all forms of education. They should teach the rules of interpersonal action and good citizenship, foster tolerance, and provide equality of opportunity for all students. They should design curricula to appreciate the complexity of issues and provide experiences concerning the human rights of those of different origins. They should also be concerned with problems of non-enrollment and the rights of the child.

Dir. Shamil Fattakov, Founder and Director, Association For Creative Moral Education (ACME), Russia, shared their experience in using Interactive Art for Social Cohesion. Since 1998 in Russia, and now in 66 countries, they have trained 3,000 animators in interactive theatre often called the Happy Hippo Show. Ethically-based situations are acted out up to a critical moment, when the action stops and the audience is asked how to resolve the situation, which is then acted to a conclusion. This promotes facilitated discussion of constructive solutions to everyday life situations by thinking independently in a safe environment. It highlights moral principles, the oneness of humanity and the importance of service. The brain is programmed for stories rather than data, and this provides a practical tool to help young people. It has been used successfully in conflict situations in Eastern Europe and Kosovo, Sudan and Darfur, often in collaboration with UNICEF.

Prof. Jan Saeed, Director, Office for Peace and Spirituality (GPS), Westminster College, Salt Lake City, USA, described Creating Compassionate Global Minded Peacemakers through Service Learning Activities, involving learning about relationships between individuals, communities and institutions for a global society. Her college has collaborated for a decade with the Bahá'í Academy to train college student animators to use junior youth materials with pre-adolescents to build interfaith understanding and race amity.

Dr. Shashi Gaikwad, Asst. Director (Research), Bahá’í Academy, Panchgani, India, outlined its approach to Education in Universal Human Values. The purpose of education is to provide a climate for nurturing values and forming character, recognizing that each child is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. It uses innovative educational practices including learning by doing, activities and games, group work, interactive theatre and service learning activities to address real-life situations, foster personal growth and promote social harmony. Students become leaders of a new kind.

The panelists again explored issues of implementation around this theme. Prof. Dr. Megha Uplane (Head, Department of Education and Extension, Savitribai Phule Pune University Pune, India) emphasized the importance of teacher education to bring changes in social interactions, communicating the knowledge of self-awareness, peace-building and interdependence, the skills of communication, cooperation, critical thinking and alternative solutions, and the attitudes of self-respect, tolerance, acceptance, solidarity and the joy of living. Teacher education is a multiplier of social change. 
Dr. Kavita Salunke (Director, School of Education, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik, India) saw teachers as the future of a nation, training minds to think through inculcating values. Videos prepared by the Academy were useful for parents too. Dr. Bhalba Vibhute (Former Director and HOD, Shivaji University, Kolhapur, India) highlighted the international dimension of the topic, suggesting that UNESCO create a commission on social cohesion, organizing regional conferences to understand the issues, and a world consultation on major barriers. In higher education, vice-chancellors needed orientation in this area to provide training and research on social cohesion for students of all faculties, as well as outreach programmes. Service learning should become part of all courses. Dr. A. D. Kumbhar (Principal, Sadashivrao Mandlik Mahavidyalaya, Murgud, Dist. Kolhapur, India) noted the importance of street theatre and dramatic performances for reaching the masses and building public awareness. In response to audience questions, Dr. Sanjay Chakane (Principal and Member of Management Council, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune, India) said that transforming curricula required context-based learning related to day-to-day life, as well as research-based learning. Dr. Vilas Karjinni (Principal, KIT’s College of Engineering , Autonomous, Kolhapur, India) suggested that values-based education would help to free it from political interference.

The moderator, Prof. Pandit Vidyasagar, in his summary of the theme, highlighted the important points. Humanity was emerging from adolescence to achieve its oneness. Teachers were agents of change and role models in thought and action. Creative education was a tool to build the social family of humanity. When people do not know each other and their interaction leads to conflict, service learning could lead to social cohesion. A research approach would help to create courses on universal human values. The principle of oneness needed to apply not just to humanity but with all of nature to achieve sustainable development.

The closing valedictory presentation was by Prof. Dr. Ram G. Takwale, Former Vice-Chancellor of Pune University, Indira Gandhi National Open University, YCMOU and President of I-CONSENT, Pune, India, on Education for Life Processes and Development. He emphasized that education has to be linked to life and development, with the goal to find the path of life. UNESCO described the four pillars of education: to know, to live together, to do and to be. The life path is learning to be, learning globally to act locally, growing from self-development to social development, to self and social creation, to social reform and transformation. With the emergence of the digital society, open and flexible distance learning is possible. We need a work culture with co-creativity to create social wealth, including both physical and mental wealth.

Last updated 13 November 2020