Monday, August 27, 2012

Ancient Indian Universities A Platonic Academy of Education !!

Nalanda was an old center for higher learning which was located in the State of Bihar, India. It came up in 427 and was operational till 1197. Located in northeastern part of India, it was not far away from Nepal’s southern border of today’s time. Its devotion was towards Buddhist studies but the university also used to train students in medicine, astronomy, war art, fine arts, mathematics and politics. This center of education had 8 separate compounds, meditation halls, lakes, parks, 10 temples and classrooms. It had one nine-story library where monks scrupulously copied documents and books so that each scholar could have a set of his own.

It had hostels for students. This made it the first educational institution, which housed 10,000 students inside the university’s premises. It also provided accommodations to 2,000 professors. This university attracted scholars and pupils fromJapan,Tibet,Persia,Korea,China,IndonesiaandTurkey. This site has large number of little monasteries where monks studied and lived. Many of these monasteries were rebuilt over centuries. One of the cell belongs to Naropa, one among the few who were responsible for bringing Buddhism to Tibet along with luminaries of Nalanda such as Padmasambhava and Shantirakshita. A small opening of cell reveals one tiny room, where Naropa used to meditate.

Although this site was one pilgrimage destination from the first century A.D., it is also important because Buddha often came to this
site with his two chief disciples namely Moggallana and Sariputra. A large stupa famous as Sariputra’s Stupa, marks a spot not just where his remnants are entombed, it is also supposedly to be his birthplace. Nalanda’s major significance comes from Buddhist roots as a learning center. Hsuan Tsang a famous pilgrim from China came here and taught and studied for five years in the university in seventh Century A.D. for about 700 years in between fifth and twelfth Centuries, this ancient university was center of Buddhist studies and scholarship in ancient world.
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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Nalanda University; The controversial hub

Parliament passed Nalanda University Act on Aug 2010 to revive the University as center for learning on the lines of ancient University in Rajgir, Bihar, so that could become “an icon of Asian renaissance.”

This ambitious project of Govt of India was first mooted in 1990’s but it was former President APJ Kalam who talked about this vision during the joint session of the Bihar Assembly in 2006 to set up a university on ruins of ancient Nalanda which is a center of excellence, linking past with future knowledge.

After that Government of India set up Mentor Group headed by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to give shape to this ambitious project., the panel including the member of stakeholder countries like then Singapore‘s Foreign Minister George Yeo , Prof Wang Banwei of Peking University and academicians like lord Meghnand Desai, Prof Sugata Bose , University, Prof Tansen Sen, who work in western universities, and N.K.Singh Member of Parliament, was given the mandate recommend how to shape up Nalanda University as a International body as 16 ASEAN countries are involve in this prestigious project. And MOS External Affairs Preneet Kaur while introducing the bill in Parliament said “Nalanda University would be establish as non-state, non-profit ,secular and self governing international institute with a continental focus.” The group, since its formation, was supposed to submit the recommendations within nine months for revival of University but it failed to do so, that too after holding half a dozen meetings in Singapore, Tokyo, New York, New Delhi, and Gaya during 2007-2009 with the government incurring an expenditure of around Rs 2.11 corer. Alas, the group’s final report is yet to see the light of the day.

Since its inception, this project mired in controversies ranging from irregularities in appointments to favoritism, setting up office around 1,000 km away from actual site in New Delhi, sidelining of Dr. Kalam, the silence of CM Nitish Kumar, who is keen to put Bihar up to world map center of quality Education like ancient times, to his offer to give 500 acres of land. But his silence over Dr. Kalam’s disassociation from the project is quite baffling as in a letter sent to Minister for External Affairs on July 4 , Dr. Kalam clearly mentioned about his non availability for any position. However, he wrote: “Having involved in various academic and administrative proceedings of Nalanda University Since 2007, I believe that the candidates to be selected /appointed to the post of chancellor and Vice-chancellor should be of extraordinary intellect with academic and management expertise .Both the Chancellor and Vice-chancellor have to personally involve themselves full time, in Bihar, so that a robust and strong international institution is built.”

The most controversial decisions were appointments of V-C and her aides which are arbitrary in nature. The NMG group (now governing body) Chairman had sent three names to then MEA Minister namely Dr. Gopa Sabharwal, (reader in Lady Shri Ram College), Dr. Ramchandra Guha, (historian, biographer and writer) and Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta (Political scientist, President, Center for Policy Research). And Before even Nalanda Act Passed in Aug 2010, the selection of Dr Gopa Sabharwal was announced by Dr. Sen, who conveyed the decision to the Minister in a single page without giving any details about selection procedure. Not only that her appointment as Vice-chancellor designate was made before the Act was notified and that it was subsequently denied by the MOS. External Affairs, when this issue was raised in Rajya Sabha, but also Dr. Sabhrwal had already taken two decision as V-C without having been formally appointed as a vice-chancellor.

Her letters to Registrar, Delhi University, confirms this as she had written about appointments of Dr. Anjana Sharma, Professor of English DU as OS (university functional) and the appointment of Dr. Padmakar MIshra, Deputy Registrar, as OSD (finance) as there was nothing concrete on the ground since both appointment were done without notifications which is mandatory in any government job .

The lack of requisite qualification, the highest ever pay packet for any V-C and her aides in the country and her decision to work from Delhi became subject of heated debates putting question mark on University itself where in the ancient times even students got admission after grueling session and public debate. That’s why critics and intellectuals raised concerns about her academic credentials and asking how world Class University will be built because neither she nor her associates are well versed with the Nalanda tradition.

Favoritism is supposed to be flavor of this governing body and its appointed vice-chancellor. The board constituted advisory group comprising Delhi University teachers Ms. Upinder Singh (daughter of Prime Minister) and her friend and colleague Ms Nayanjot Lahiri to represent Nalanda outside India. Incidentally both are not the experts, and sad part in this that they did not even think.forget about considering any other eminent academicians or the Buddhist Scholars who well versed Nalanda Tradition and History. Dr Gopa Sabhrwal appointed her colleague and working associate Anjana Sharma as her OSD on salary of more than 3 lakh per month with clear violations of rules and regulations.

When The DayAfter tried to talk Dr Sabhrwal on phone, she said that she is busy for 20 days, and when I insisted she said that somebody from her office would get back to me which obliviously did not happened. This tells all.

The revival of Nalanda University is laudable effort; this 1,005 crore project needs sincerity flawless infrastructure, ,thinkers ,scholars and administrators, who not only well equipped but also have passion to revive old glory of Nalanda , which was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193 when Oxford University was in infancy. Till then it was most respected and renowned center of learning for world.
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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Indian Education In A State Of Emergency: Amartya Sen

The state of education and other human development indices in India is in a state of emergency, says Prof. Amartya Sen, the Noble laureate.

Asian countries like Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand have overtaken India in providing quality education to their people, said the noble laureate. “While these countries took lead, we were left behind and we have paid a huge price for it,” added Amartya Sen. Indians generally do well in high skills related jobs like IT, but the middle segment jobs are the most affected ones. This shows how the various sectors of the economy are not widely shared, reports The Financial Express.

In a recent deliberation, Sen along with Prof. Sugata Bose of Harvard University shared their vision on the Nalanda University. Sen was appointed as the first chancellor of Nalanda University and also the chairman of the University governing body.

Sen said “The University came into existence in Bihar eight hundred years ago and there were challenges in reviving it.

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Friday, August 3, 2012

Nalanda University to start academic session from 2014

Chancellor of University- Amartya Sen said that the School of Historical Studies and School of Environment and Ecological Studies will start functioning from 2014, if things completed according to plan.

Addressing a function Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said, "We will start a new academic journey with School of Economics and Management and School of Information Technology." Stressing on increased Public Private Partnership for building the university, Sen lauded the efforts of the Centre as well as the Bihar Government for giving shape to the university, located in the town of Rajgir which contains within it a memory of the ancient Nalanda University.

It may be called that Nalanda University was established in November 2010. It came into being by a special Act of the Indian Parliament - a testimony to the important status it occupies in the Indian intellectual landscape.

Member, University's mentor group, Sugata Bose said the university has approved 26 faculty position, 13 each for school of historical studies and 13 for school of Environment and Ecological studies and the faculty will be appointed by July, 2013.
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