Monday, June 27, 2011

Azim Premji University – Why not ESD?

One of the significant developments in the education domain in India has definitely been the setting up of the Azim Premji University by Mr Azim Premji, the head of Wipro, the IT giant.

I remember, in an article in India today, Azim Premji had written a page on how much importance he gives to meaningful education. The article was written along with the famous India Today – Education Initiatives survey of learning levels in top schools of this country. At that time, the thoughts which had gone across my mind were that its the usual CSR talk and may be Wipro is not as serious about it.

However, the setting up of Azim Premji University shows how serious he is about it. The most interesting part is that the university provides courses in only two subject areas Education and Development. Being an IT company at Wipro, a technology course could easily have been added ...but wasnt. That shows that the University is not just a set up to support Wipro. It shows the committment of Azim Premji towards Education and Development and he definitely sees education as driving development.

But this write up is not about Azim Premji or Wipro or the strategy behind setting up the university.

As a Education for Sutainable development (ESD) niche expert in India...I am most amused and interested by the two focal points of the university...Education and Development.
However, I am disappointed that the university looks at education and development as two seperate entities and has not yet seen the linkages between Education and Development especially with respect to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) .
The courses are either purely educational or purely course works at the interface of education and development. How about ESD?

If the context of ESD is not created then the university will create great educationisits and great development practitioners working in thier own respective domains of education and development respectively... but not educationists who drive and inspire development. Azim's dream of education driving development would still be distant. In that sense the linkages between Education and Development have to be made clear.

ESD is an important issue for India as a developing country. Until development as a context is not set for education in our would be difficult to see India as a developed country. Education has to happen in the context of Development for a country like India.

It would be a good idea for Anurag, the VC of the University to get in stakeholders like the UNESCO which have been trying to mainstream ESD for quite some time. The UNESCO Decade for Education For Sustainable Development (DESD) is going on right now 2005-2014. The Swedish Centre for Education for Sustainable Development (SWEDESD) based at the Gotland University in Visby could perhaps be another partner. Centre for Environment Education (CEE) the centre for excellence for ESD would be an apt partner in India. And there could be many more partners working on ESD.

Let Azim Premji University be the first University dedicated to Education for Sustainable Development.

(The above cartoon has been taken from Shankar Musafir's upcoming book on school education titled 'To The Principal...yours sincerely'. The book has an exclusive chapter on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in an Indian context. The book will be launched in July 2011)

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