The third Annual Educational Conference took place at the Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh in period from May 2 to May 4 . Unlike previous years, the Conference this year will have a regional European focus.
The aim of this year’s Conference is to consolidate our educational efforts and come together to devise a future strategy for expanding ISKCON Education in Europe and materialize its vision cooperatively.
Report prepared by Anasuya Dasi
Key Note Speech – Jewels in our Backyard by Urmila Devi DasiUrmila Devi Dasi, a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, with decades of experience in education in ISKCON, and a PhD in education, gave the Key Note speech to this year’s Education Conference in Radhadesh. She was also one of the main organizers of the event.Her Grace Urmila Devi Dasi urged all participants to think about what their goals are, especially their goals related to education. Since all participants are somehow engaged in education, what would education in one’s own city or yatra look like in its perfected form? Urmila Devi Dasi warned us regarding the dangers of focusing on the negative. When we feel that our needs are too big or too many, our project seems impossible. However, a lot of what we need actually already exists. It is more a matter of connecting with what is already there. Drawing our attention to some of the issues that make it feel impossible, Urmila Devi Dasi mentioned that, in ISKCON, we often simply don’t connect with others. Relating to her own experiences of connecting, she explained that these connections can be very enlivening and practically helpful. In Mumbai, for example, many devotees sat in one room to talk about school administration, sharing resources, sharing human resources, sharing experience, etc. Sometimes, resources can be obtained from people who are not at all engaged in education. Maybe someone else has done it in a different way or language, but that does not mean it cannot be used for our own project. Have we looked outside of ISKCON for resources, such as Gaudiya Math, Christian Church, or the secular world? There was a time when ISKCON looked down on academics or non-devotees. However, Urmila Devi Dasi explained that she has received resources of good quality for free by professionals outside of ISKCON, especially from educators. The kind of people we need to connect with are people with “people networks”, some people simply know a lot of people. All one has to do is find that person and one is connected with that whole network. Then there are people who are resource persons. Urmila Devi Dasi called these “the cosmic librarians”. One has to build a collection of resource people, because they tend to collect within their own field. At the same time, we also need to go beyond that and be able to look at the Ministry. It would be wonderful if it could function as a resource and information centre. Maybe the Ministry can also provide validation and support. This can sound scary, but there seems to be a need for such validation, since many devotees ask about the quality of different education projects. Without a procedure for validation, how can we provide an answer based on more than just our own feeling or experience? For now, this question usually gets answered through gossip. Yet, we are all a little nervous about being evaluated like this by a neutral party. However, it would be healthy to learn about our areas of strength, and our challenges from a professional and neutral perspective. In this way, the Ministry can aid the different projects. In conclusion, Urmila Devi Dasi asked all participants to make a list of their needs for their projects, so that everyone is prepared for the sharing exercise later on.
How the Jesuits Expanded Their Mission through Education and Higher Values by Yadunandana Swami
Teaching Sastra so as to be Relevant to Individual Students' Lives by Krishna Kshetra Dasa
Creating New Learning Environments by Using Innovative Methods of Teaching by Raghupati Dasa
Making E-Learning Work: Case Study Based on Bhaktivedanta College by Dinadayal Dasa
How Centro Studi Bhaktivedanta Educational Programs Specifically Assist Prabhupada's Mission of Forming a Society by Matsya Avatara Dasa and Ananta Deva Dasa
The Meaning of Oral Tradition in the Context of Personalism by Maha-vidya Devi Dasi
Teaching Dharma in Religious Studies; Looking into Ancient Histories through Contemporary Arts and Media by Bhakti Rasa Dasa
Short, Medium, and Long Term Goals of MoE, and Moving Ahead with Serving Educational Initiatives in Europe by Ramgiridhari Dasa
Available EU Funding and Grants by Dasaratha Suta Dasa and Mukunda DasaEven though the presenters were not physically present, and there had been some technical issues, this session was well received. Through Skype and by showing some introductory videos, Dasaratha Suta and Mukunda gave an overview of the possibilities of EU funding for the ISKCON Ministry of Education, and the different education projects run in Europe. It was an eye-opener for many attendees and lots of discussion followed, both with the presenters, and among attendees afterwards.
Presentation of and Brainstorming for Specific Projects
Metaphors and Stories by Urmila Devi Dasi
Concluding Words by Sesa Dasa