CESI 2017: Concept Note
CESI 2017 Conference
Proposed Conference Theme
Criticality, Empathy and Welfare in Contemporary Educational Discourses
The proposed conference attempts to build on the earlier CESI annual conferences, which had broad yet encompassing themes to accommodate richness of ideas. In the selection of the theme for this year's conference, CESI 2017 we have tried to tread on a relatively uncharted territory that brings to the fore a curiously significant and seemingly persistent tension between three important educational ideals of Criticality, Empathy, and Welfare. The contemporary educational contexts seem to be grappling with all these concerns. The current socio-political climates and the neo-liberal economic philosophies that dictate societies and policy making world over also brings us to reflect, negotiate and strive to achieve these educational ideals. The role of comparative perspectives in collectively making sense of educational scenarios and developing pragmatic ways to handle the tensions within the educational systems is the underlying current that is sought to facilitate engagement in this conference. Hence, policy-makers, practitioners as well as researchers are anticipated to be the participants as well as the beneficiaries of the conference.
The three dimensions of criticality, empathy and welfare should form the foundation for addressing the major objectives of policy making in education and inform other sectors of social and economic development. The trends of standardisation, individualistic definitions of equality and equity, the beliefs in each according to his/her earning and affordability dominate today's discourses in societies and in the policy circles. The utter disregard for historicity of social groups, the need for facilitating and accommodating deprivations with an empathetic approach or even facilitation of social and cultural diversity accentuates the existing discord and harmony within the societies. Often education becomes the site for the consequences to get demonstrated and it becomes the instrument for manipulation for restructuring of the societies. This is what we observe all over the world - developed and developing. India too has been experiencing such dilemmas and discourses in the post 1990s era of economic liberalisation and political and social change.
Further, a lurking challenge, within most societies today, that pervades efforts towards realising democratic, emancipatory and transformative potential of education hinges on reference to quality in, of and for education. A comparative perspective on education thus allows us to draw upon learning from studying socio-historical paradigms of influence, transitions in educational thinking across wide contexts of inquiry and engagements. Such possibilities lend themselves to positioning our conceptualisations within the global contexts and within the vast body of experiences drawn from studies of scholars from across diverse fields that form the composite of the eclectic discipline of education.
At the same time, we are aware that the educational ideas no matter how critically designed, empathetically driven and be guided by benchmarks of quality, face the threat of falling short of promised outcomes, if they are not supported by the cause of larger welfare of society. In this sense, our aims and concerns ought to be harmonious with our axiological framework. In thinking about issues of welfare, it is important to look for resonances and concordance in voices and at the same time address the discontent or challenges that confront educational thought or practices. A significant body of work in education draws upon educational initiatives driven by welfare concerns and we need to embrace an understanding from diverse sectors as social work, work of NGOs and independent agencies that have also supported educational development and thinking.
Consequently, 'Education' as a discipline has evolved as a complex constituency with a number of forces (socio-political contexts, social structures, market forces, value frameworks, etc.) in play. Further, education is also a mediated phenomenon. While the design of educational policies, curricular content and discourses inform the practice, several educationists, practitioners and stakeholders are invested in conceptualising trends and reflecting on issues to make conscious efforts to reshape the educational thinking and discourses. Thus, education plays out as a dynamic phenomenon that can be systematically influenced and shaped by informed practices, which in turn are drawn from an examination of existing practices and discourses in various societies and objective of the policy makers and the ruling dispensation. A comparative outlook is and has been a necessity to extract insights and develop robust frameworks of practice. It is interesting to notice that the characterisation as well as yardsticks for practice of these concerns are both studied and derived from a comparative, analytical approach. This conference attempts to understand the play of these aspects in the contemporary educational thinking, policy making and practices.
A critical discussion of these issues in education draws from a balanced orientation that is neither predisposed to a certain line of thinking nor is it predominated by prejudices. It is abstracted by developing perspectives that infuse educational thinking with fresh insights. Sharing of insights and experiences from novel settings, contexts and situated scenarios broaden as well as enrich our contemporary understanding of education. Efforts to conceptualising educational experiences at different levels, pre-school to higher education and continual learning, building from diverse constituencies of engagement, and capturing diverse methodological, disciplinary and ideological orientations, all bring rich and valued understanding of educational practices. The CESI 2017 conference thus serves as a platform to facilitate dialogue and mutual learning that can inform our praxis and decision-making.
Sub-themes for the conference: