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Philosophy of Education Unit (PoEU)

Rationale

The University’s charter includes Knowledge creation and establishing domain knowledge, in various areas to help engage in issues related to theoretical and practical concerns in education and development. This would mean both intensive work (deeper in relevant disciplines) and extensive work (covering multiple disciplines). This naturally also implies taking up work in important and popular as well as important yet ignored/unattended areas of knowledge—towards generating interest and initiating a discourse in a particular discipline.

The first step of teaching of courses in education and development which includes essential disciplinary areas is already initiated. This charter also translates into three additional priorities in relation to any discipline

  • Deep study and taking further current understanding in an area of knowledge
  • Take up projects that work towards connecting theory with practice
  • Initiate and sustain a discourse in those areas (in practitioner as well as academic circles)

The contribution of Philosophy of Education (PoE) to the understanding of and decision making in education, from classroom practices to policy making, is well recognised and hardly needs arguing for. Therefore this proposal will not try to establish the need to engage with and study Philosophy of Education, except to make three topical points.

The discourse around education in India is fraught with diverse perspectives and often philosophically contradictory. General discussions in education engage only at the level of practice. Academic debates are mostly engaged with socio-political perspectives and given the current context and times, this perhaps is necessary. Any debate on PoE or engagement with the philosophical underpinnings of educational theory and practice is notable only by its absence. Philosophy needs to, and should provide the basis for dialogue between divergent perspectives.

The second important issue in the Indian context is the state of PoE in studying education - in general and teacher education in particular. Only a certain kind of lip service to PoE is being paid in teacher education curricula across the universities. What is taught there at best leaves students confused regarding what PoE is, and of what use it could be to their engagement with education.

Thirdly, there is an absence of philosophical critique of educational policies and reform proposals in the country. Though there has been almost a continuous and vigorous activity in philosophy of education departments across the universities in Europe and the Americas and lately in Asian countries (Hong Kong (China) and Japan in particular), Indian educators have been largely content with repeating what philosophers and philosophers of education have to say. There is little or close to no philosophical discourse or writing worth mentioning in the country.

PoE Unit (PoEU)

The PoEU is conceptualized with the objective of generating interest and establishing rigour in Philosophy of Education in India. Therefore its work consists of the following areas of work:

  • Education and development of thinkers and educationists in PoE: This will mean developing, teaching, revising and improving full time as well as short-term courses in PoE at the beginning, and later on in various branches of the discipline of Philosophy. This needs to be combined with longer term engagement with students and others who develop an interest in PoE through different kinds of projects (for example, developing workshops or short courses, curricular material etc.)
  • Connecting APU with an international community of individuals, universities with active programmes in PoE and initiating collaborative work with them. Connecting with an international community of philosophers of education will also help develop a similar community in India. One of the important activities of this community is developing a corpus of writing (both academic writing and writing in other forms) and to build a thriving discourse on PoE in India.
  • Development and dissemination of ideas
    • Rigorous philosophical exploration of ideas and issues in Indian education
    • Exploring distinctive or alternative perspectives on philosophical issues on education offered by classical and contemporary traditions of thought in India.
    • Research, publication of papers and dissemination of ideas in various forms (like PoE curriculum material, workshops, online courses, writing in popular media etc.)
    • Developing appropriate practices which stem from rigorous engagement in theory

Each type of engagement would conceivably take multiple forms, and thus there is need for a larger charter which would evolve over a few years. The direction for the PoEU over the next two years is to take up activities which would pave the path for

this larger agenda. When more people join the university as faculty members or in other roles (research associates, interns, project groups), the objectives may be broadened to provide space and encouragement for their interests.

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