PoE Summer School

4th PoE Summer School: Pre-Colonial Systems of Education in India
3-14 June 2019

Call for Participants 

Azim Premji University announces the Fourth Annual Philosophy of Education Summer School. The Philosophy of Education Summer School each year provides an opportunity for individuals working in the area of education and allied disciplines to pursue an intensive course of study on themes that are central to the practice of education. The past Summer Schools have been centered on the following themes: Philosophy of Education and Indian Philosophy, Rationality and its Discontents, and Philosophy of Education for Teachers and Teacher Educators. The Fourth Summer School is being organized on the theme of Curricular and Pedagogic Practices in Pre-Colonial Systems of Education in India. Here, we discuss the theme briefly.

At a time when history of India is contested from several quarters, it is only to be expected that such contestations and systematic attempts at misrepresenting the past would come to determine textbooks for and teaching of history in schools and other educational institutions. In the midst of these debates, which have been on the ascendant in recent times, what has gone unnoticed or has not received the kind of attention it deserves is the set of claims made about the history of education in India. However, it cannot be denied that claims about various historical systems of education, especially those that developed in precolonial India, continue to form important subtexts for current discussions and debates.

What is equally true about these claims is that they are either embedded within Orientalist frames of discourse or as revival of defensive positions articulated against colonial denunciations of these systems. That these two kinds of responses share much with each other only complicates the matter. Further, even as scholarship on these systems have sought to radically revise our earlier understanding of them, the histories of education that educationists continue to rely on are highly questionable accounts. And, when discussions do center on more robust historical accounts of these educational systems, one finds that concerns such as the structure of curricula and justifications for the adoption of the same issues that should occupy an important place in any discussion on education – find very little space.

It is these concerns – how pre-colonial systems of education in India are understood, written about, and made use of in current discussions among educationists – that will form the foci of the Summer School this year and in the next couple of years. The Summer School is to initiate a long-term engagement with precolonial systems of education – scholastic,
artistic and vocational – in order to reconstruct them with greater rigor and also to push the debates to focus on aspects that have more or less been ignored. The central concern of these Summer Schools would be understanding the structure of curriculum in each of these systems. In order to understand the structure of curriculum in these systems, we shall focus on questions such as: What was the nature of discussions about curriculum and pedagogy within these systems? What is the conception of knowledge in these systems? What is the nature of classification of knowledge like in each of these systems? How are these divisions justified and how do these systems understand the relationship between these divisions? What areas of study are included in each of these segments? Is there even a hierarchy between these divisions, what is the structure of this hierarchy and how is the hierarchy justified? What is the structure of curriculum in each of these? How do these systems seek to achieve both an encyclopedic scope and, at the same time, facilitate an initiation into the sophisticated understanding of the system itself? How and why are the disciplines arranged in certain ways and what is the nature of justification made available for such arrangements? What is the nature and function of preparatory studies in each case? What is the nature of pedagogy in each of these systems? How are these pedagogical methods justified? What kind of pedagogical materials were in use and what led to the development of these genres? What are some of the normative claims made in the discussions about the each of the questions mentioned above in these systems of education? Raising such questions in the context of these systems and seeking answers to these would enable us gain entry into the internal structure of each system and also help us understand, to a large extent, how these systems problematized/conceived or practiced education themselves.

Though the way in which questions above are raised may appear both ahistorical and decontextualized, our inquiries shall remain sensitive to the historical evolution of these systems and their contexts, addressing questions that are continuously posed from both within and without. Responses generated within these systems to these concerns also reveal the utter dynamism these systems consistently display, and the changing nature of these debates reveal that educational questions were never settled and they needed to be attended to relentlessly. Attending to these debates will also enable us to better historicize the development and continuous constitution of these systems than what a merely externally posed historical enquiry would allow us to achieve. Further, starting with specific elements in the structure but also ensuring that we understand their relationship with the whole is likely to provide us with better historical accounts. In the process, we shall also understand how these debates in their complexity remain deeply appreciative of epistemic and other normative concerns.

Studying various precolonial systems of education with the set of questions raised above and many more, demands focused attention, especially, in order to ensure that their complexity and problematics are well understood. These studies would also demand that one pays attention not merely to works in epistemology, but also to educational treatises and manuals of pedagogy and several pedagogical genres. Considering the demands and intense attention required, this year’s Summer School will focus only on two complex precolonial systems of education in India, namely, the Buddhist scholastic and monastic systems and the Islamic traditions of education and learning. Both these systems, developed over a millennium or more, display an intense engagement with curricular questions, seeking coherence and commitment to what each take to be their first principles, and an array of sophisticated arguments in providing epistemic justification for their tenets, while, at the same time, displaying enormous sensitivity to the requirements generated by specific historical contexts within which these developments were taking place. These two systems also gave rise to a number of pedagogical genres apart from producing manuals for teaching. Further, apart from interesting changes that they undergo across time, they also provide interesting instances in exploring systems of education across geographies and time.

Devoting a week to each, we shall seek to understand both the broad architectonic and also the details and sophistication of educational debates within these systems. In a similar way, workshops in the subsequent years would focus on other systems from precolonial India. However, these explorations must not be taken to aim at comparisons or a critique. The choice of only two systems per workshop is to ensure that the explorations can be detailed and thereby issuing cautions to ourselves about to making sweeping generalizations. Hopefully, these inquiries would prove to be a beginning, modest though it surely would be, in the way history of education could be better explored and engaged with.

Applications for participating in the Summer School:

Interested individuals are requested to send us their CV and a statement of purpose explaining their interests in and the relevance of topics to be explored in this year’s Summer School for their current work. We look forward to applications especially from young scholars and practitioners. The word limit for the statement of purpose is 1500 and the deadline for submitting the same is 20th March 2019.

Travel and Accommodation
Participants will be provided travel reimbursement to the extent of 3-tier AC train fare from their place of residence, boarding and lodging near Azim Premji University, Bangalore, and commute to and from the University to place of lodging for the duration of the programme.

Important Dates:
Deadline for the submission of statement of purpose and CV: March 20, 2019
Announcement of selected Candidates: April 1, 2019
Dates for the Workshop: 3 – 14 June 2019

Applications along with CV and statement of purpose should be sent to: poe.conference@apu.edu.in