Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri emphasised that our education system needs a total revamp so that it can create more compassionate people, more who express love than hate.
The Civil 20 Summit on Education & Digital Transformation took place in Thiruvananthapuram with several dignitaries from India and abroad in attendance. Across two days, hundreds of delegates from civil society organisations (CSOs), experts, and stakeholders identified the most pressing challenges faced by education and the evolution of digital access. They worked on building innovative solutions and best practices that will directly impact policy recommendations to be launched at India’s Civil 20 (C20) Summit in Jaipur in July.
At the Inauguration, Sri V Muraleedharan, Hon’ble Minister of State for External Affairs, Govt of India, was the Chief Guest, while Dr Shashi Tharoor, Hon’ble Member of India’s Parliament, Thiruvananthapuram and a former Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, was the Guest of Honour. Other dignitaries present on the dais included Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri as a Troika Member of C20; Dr Luiz Claudio Costa, Former Vice-Minister of Education, Brazil; and Sri Armoogum Parsuramen, Former Education Minister of Mauritius and Former Director of UNESCO.
“Humanity is facing many extraordinary challenges. Today, human beings need two qualities: the wisdom to recognise the problem and the mental attitude and intelligence to correct it. Everyone who lives in this world must obey the universal law of inclusion. If we try to forcefully impose laws of exclusion, it will only result in disharmony and danger,” said Amma in her video address as Chair of C20.
“What we are experiencing today is the result of many people interfering with the fabric of the universe. The huge leap in science and technology, along with misuse of the Internet and increasing drug abuse among students, are all contributing to the predicament we face today.”
Amma continued: “The ‘new’ should never be allowed to trample on the ‘old’. New discoveries can also mean unique, new hazards. Before such discoveries become a permanent headache to society, we need to find solutions to their potential negative repercussions and threats that could manifest. Another concern is the mental health of children after the COVID pandemic.
“The children appear to be quite different from their former selves. What they have is the beginning of a depression and anxiety disorder that results from smartphone overuse. If we catch it at the beginning and offer timely counselling, it can be prevented from deepening into a psychological problem. Otherwise, they will become psychologically affected for life.”
In addressing the gathering, Swami Amritaswarupananda Puri emphasised Amma’s teaching that the main purpose of education is to impart a culture of the heart.
“It is true that our students are passing their exams with flying colors, and we are creating brilliant scientists and engineers. But what does our education system do to instill a culture of the heart in our students? How many loving, compassionate, and selfless human beings did our education system create in the last century?” said Swamiji.
“Our education system needs a total revamp so that it can create more compassionate people, who express love than hate. We need more people who look at the world with wonder, who would fall in love with nature, and unconditionally appreciate the unparalleled efficiency, effectiveness and accuracy of the Creator.”
Swamiji added: “The need of the hour is to have more good-hearted people who would adore the diversity of the universe. Only right education that inculcates the right values can bring about this transformation. We have to ensure that digital transformation actually benefits the students, and not harm them by giving them access to undesirable information and influences.
“Gathering worldly information should be balanced with nourishment for our souls. It is time to seriously contemplate, what are we doing in the name of education? Are we in the process of creating human machines, instead of human beings? Devoid of spiritual understanding, humans themselves will become artificial intelligence in the future.”
In his address, Sri V Muraleedharan first emphasised how India’s G20 Presidency has resulted in a true channel that voices the concerns of people from all economic and social levels, and that, too, from countries across the world.
“We have ensured that India’s G20 presidency is not limited to just being a routine diplomatic exercise but is truly a people’s G20. The G20-related meetings are being organised all over India. So far, we have covered 41 cities, in which more than 12,300 delegates from 110 nationalities have participated. Unique experiences showcasing India’s diversity, inclusive traditions and cultural richness, have been made a part of the visiting delegate’s program,” he said.
“India is advancing rapidly in digital education. The Indian Government is committed to reducing the digital divide and bringing the benefits of technology to all citizens. Upskilling the youth and increasing digitalising in education are our top priorities. Our seriousness can be gauged by the fact that the education sector has received the highest ever allocation of USD 13.66 bn in the Union Budget.
“Numerous policy initiatives have been taken for the education sector. The New Education Policy has provided a framework for the digitalisation of education by concentrating on digital infrastructure, blending learning, online platforms, open education resources and skill development. It is because of such initiatives that students living in the remotest corners of India can gain access to quality education today.”
Addressing the audience, Dr Shashi Tharoor expressed that we must urgently increase access to education and digital literacy to reach students in rural areas.
“A study conducted among 10,000 students in 400 Indian cities revealed that only 17% had access to laptops, and just 4% had access to smart tablets. Another report highlighted the infrastructural challenges in government schools, with only 28% of them having computers and a mere 12% having an Internet connection,” he said.
“Today, the definition of education must include digital literacy for children to access contemporary knowledge sources. Digitising classrooms and introducing a national computer curriculum in all languages is necessary. This would enable even primary school children to gain a basic understanding of computers and digital technology.”
The Summit saw the launch of Amrita Kutumbakam, an app to connect refugees and displaced people with CSOs and NGOs when they arrive in places of asylum. It was developed by the Amrita Center for Research in Analytics, Technologies & Education (AmritaCREATE).
Currently, there are 80 million asylum-seekers in the world who have been forced to escape their homes due to some form of violence. Free and multi-lingual, Amrita Kutumbakam is a prime example of using digital transformation for social good.
Many international collaborators from Africa and the Middle East have already committed to implementing the app to better serve their refugee communities, said Dr Prema Nedungadi, who is Director AmritaCREATE and also National Coordinator, of C20’s Education & Digital Transformation Working Group.