Philosophers' Retreat, June 2018, Thimphu, Bhutan
The Centre for Escalation of Peace organised a Philosopher’s Retreat in Thimphu, Bhutan from June 13th to 17th. The retreat brought together eminent thinkers from the field of business, education and industry. The aim, which was successfully met, was to have an open discussion about the challenges in education and how the system could be equipped to ultimately benefit the learner in an ever-changing world.
The participants were Ambassador Shivshankar Menon (Former NSA - India), Arun Kapur (Director, Vasant Valley School, Delhi and The Royal Academy, Bhutan), Geshe Lhakdor (Director, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, India) Dinesh Singh (Former Vice Chancellor – Delhi University, India), Kavi Arya (Professor, IIT Bombay, India), Pranav Roach (President, Hughes Networks Systems India Limited), Anuj Kumar (Executive Vice President and Head – Structured Credits Group, Kotak Mahindra Bank, India), Suchita Salwan (Founder and CEO, Little Black Book, India), Raj Chengappa (Group Editorial Director Publishing, India Today Group), Sonam Tobgye (Former Chief Justice, Royal Government of Bhutan), Sonam Kinga (Former Chairman, National Council, Parliament of Bhutan), Tashi Wangyal (Member, National Council of Bhutan), Karma Tshiteem (Chairman, Royal Civil Service Commission, The Royal Government of Bhutan), Kuenga Wangmo (PhD, Archeologist, Bhutan) and Karma Lotey (CEO, Yangphel Adventure Travel, Bhutan).
With the ever-changing demands of society, the concept and purpose of education has expanded far beyond basic literacy and content-based knowledge. It has come to focus more on the process of learning, growing up and becoming an adult, which requires developing a personal philosophy. Therefore, education occurs both inside and outside traditional school settings. Today, the evolution of learning is taking place at a rate like never before and current practices of worldwide educational institutions do not seem to factor in this unprecedented rate of change. That is why, they are unable to prepare learners for the uncertainties and possibilities that these changes are going to usher in. Thus, many things regarding education and learning need to be reconsidered and re-evaluated to ensure that it is ready to evolve as needed. The main focus on the discussion was to encourage learners to develop a personal philosophy that can act as a guiding principle through this lifelong process of learning.
Going beyond a ‘problem-solution’ framework, the conversation highlighted challenges and opportunities present to the learner. Some of the themes covered in the discussion were the importance of family/peers, the need to inculcate mindfulness and spirituality in the individual, the role of policy and skills development, need for gender equality, and also the role of technology in taking learning forward. The discussions, which were personal, stressed the importance of enablers such as access to opportunity and unconditional love in helping learners find their inner drumbeat. Since the participants were from different backgrounds, their approaches to the challenges were also unique. As a result, there were a number of perspectives ranging from Buddhist teachings to business dharma to hands-on learning that found complementary expression. Overall the retreat ensured personal and professional reflection on the part of the participants and organisers.