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Difficult Dialogues begins

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The fourth edition of Difficult Dialogues, a forum which discusses and debates on important issues in South Asia was inaugurated on January 31 at Goa University campus. The event which this time around focuses on ‘Education: Illuminating Myriad Facets’ will have leading experts in the field of education, policy makers, and famous personalities talking about various aspects of education.

Kicking things off, founder of the forum Surina Narula stated that education is one of the most important aspects of our life. “Independent India is now ready to discuss and debate what has worked and what needs to be changed and to take cognizance of the dynamic world given the new technologies,” she said in her address.

The forum has this year partnered with Oxford University (UK), along with Goa University, the International Centre Goa (ICG) and Brookings India as local knowledge partners. And the Chancellor of Oxford University Lord Chris Patten in a video message stated that basic education is essential in ensuring economic growth. “Once you get the basics of education right some other things like economics and politics will inevitably follow,” he said.

Paul Flather of Oxford University further pledged support for Difficult Dialogues and hoped it will continue in the years to come. He also announced a partnership between Oxford and India to develop a relationship not just with scholars and researchers but also to explore other avenues to bring the two together.

The event saw trustee of ICG, Yatin Kakodkar deliver the key note address where he spoke on three urgent and interlinked challenges before us – rapid sustainable economic growth, the need to create and provide jobs to the growing working age population, and ensuring that the education sector keeps pace with the growing economy in a rising working age population.

“Every year 11 million people are joining the labour force only to find not enough jobs. This raises the question as to which sector the jobs will be created in,” he stated.

He also stated that while there is no doubt that India has made advancements in education, there were still a lot of problems. He illustrated this by mentioning Pratham’s study which found that 50 per cent of ten year olds in fifth standard cannot read stories meant for second standard and only 25 per cent can do basic division. He also made a reference to how the quality of teachers is below par and of the need to raise the standard of recruitment and training of teachers. He also criticised the current policy of promoting students to the next standard even if they fail. “This leads to a vicious cycle of failure leading to failure,” he said.

The event also saw the launch of policy papers of Difficult Dialogues 2018, following which Constantino Xavier, a fellow at Brookings India spoke about how this collection of essays seeks to provide a lens to view gender inequality in contemporary India.

The other key address was given by Governor of Goa Mridula Sinha on ‘Gandhiji’s Nai Talim’ which she stated was a mix of Indian traditions and modern thought and focused on holistic development of a person. “If we follow his thoughts, we will get swaraj in education,” she said.

The event also saw the Goa University students entertaining the audience with a moving performance. This was followed by the first panel discussion for the event focusing on ‘Educating minds, changing mindsets.’

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