Bhaktivedanta College, Belgium—one of ISKCON’s premier educational institutions—has entered a period of fast growth, with many exciting new developments on the horizon.
For many years, the College already offered scriptural study courses Bhakti Sastri and Bhakti Vaibhava, as well as a B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies.
But last year, staff developed a new three-year B.A. Honors course in Educational Studies, Theology and Religion.
International Students Enjoy New Educational Studies Course
The new course was accredited last summer by the University of Chester, UK, a prestigious institution established in 1839 and home to an excellent theology department. It began on September 17th, 2012, and will run until the end of May this year.
Now halfway through their first year, eight students are gaining a broad, critical awareness of education, covering its sociology, psychology, philosophy and history.
“So far this year, we’ve discussed what educational studies is, as it’s a relatively new discipline, and we just did a teacher training course,” says Course Director Rasamandala Das. “Coming up, we’ll be looking at the philosophy of education, followed by a module on contemporary issues in secular and religious education.”
Students will also develop a wide range of practical skills, including critical thinking, teaching and interpersonal skills, and skills connected to student discipline and child protection. They’ll also look at the role of education in strategic planning.
Rasamandala Das says that the students—an extremely diverse group of second generation ISKCON members from Australia, Canada, Belgium, Croatia, Swaziland, India, the UK, and South Africa— are a highly motivated, well-knit group.
“They’re enjoying the course a lot, because they find it extremely relevant,” he explains. “To the careers to which they’re aspiring; to some of the issues within ISKCON; and to the potential social impact of education. For example, one of our students is in from South Africa, and is very interested in the role education can take in building a society or emerging nation such as South Africa.”
Bhaktivedanta College to Introduce New Masters’s Degree in 2014
In addition to the new Educational Studies degree, Bhaktivedanta College is conducting a feasability study with regard to a possible Master’s Degree in Theology and Religious Studies, which will follow its longstanding B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies.
“We are exploring the possibility of launching the Master’s Degree as early as September 2014,” says Bhaktivedanta College principal Yadunandana Swami. “The Course Director for it would be Krishna Ksetra Prabhu, who also just became the College’s Dean of Studies this academic year. He has a PhD from Oxford University, taught at the University of Florida, and most recently has been teaching for several years at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.”
Further into the future, Bhaktivedanta College also wants to develop a business degree, based on the ethical foundation from Vedic scriptures, particularly the Bhagavad-gita and Mahabharata.
Bhakti Sastri program to be Accredited by Prestigious University
In another exciting new development at Bhaktivedanta College, Chester University is poised to accredit the Bhakti Sastri scriptural study program—which covers Srila Prabhupada’s books Bhagavad-gita As It Is, Sri Isopanishad, The Nectar of Devotion, and The Nectar of Instruction in depth.
This means that from September 2013, the Bhakti Sastri program will count for forty credits out of the 120 credits required for the College’s B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies. As a result, all students will now take Bhakti Sastri, where before they might have skipped it to focus on their degree program.
“We think this is an important achievement,” says Yadunandana Swami.
B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies to be Offered Online
Bhaktivedanta College is also quickly developing its online facilities. A brand new, more user-friendly website has just been launched, and courses are beginning to be offered online.
The first course to be offered in this manner was the Bhakti Sastri program in 2011, followed by an introduction to Krishna consciousness called Certificate in Bhakti Yoga Studies in 2012. The GBC’s “disciples’ course” for iniated ISKCON devotees was also offered.
On September 13th 2013, however, Bhaktivedanta College will begin offering a degree course online for the first time: its B.A. in Theology and Religious Studies.
The online version of the course will be offered through Moodle (www.bhaktivedantaonline.com), a Virtual Learning Environment, and is being developed by the College’s Director for Online Learning Dinadayal Das.
“We are going to treat online and onsite students in the same way,” says Dinadayal. “They’ll attend the same class. When we have a class here in Radhadesh, we will do a video recording of it, and within 24 hours, the video will appear in the Moodle environment. We will also have separate MP3 audio recordings of the class.”
Both online and onsite students will access the same course materials online, share the same forum, receive the same online messages from the teacher, submit their work using the same methods, and be treated in the same way regarding deadlines.
“Our target is ten students for the first year,” Dinadayal says. “We are very excited about it.”
Written by Madhava Smullen for ISKCON News on 18 Jan 2013