Monday, December 2, 2013

CfPs: International Conference on Educational Transformation and Transformative Education: Possibilities and Alternatives to the Educational Crisis; March 2014; at SAU, New Delhi

International Conference on Educational Transformation and Transformative Education: Possibilities and Alternatives to the Educational Crisis
March 2014
Organised by Department of Sociology, South Asian University, India

Call for Papers
Department of Sociology, South Asian University in association with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung will organise this conference. The conference would look at the possibilities and alternatives to the crisis generated in the field of education by impact of neoliberalism.

Concept Note
There is a plethora of literature on how neoliberalism has impacted education and its different facets across the world. However, there has not been a concerted and organised effort to understand and analyse this impact in India, except for a few works engaged in this exercise. Realising the need to bring together scholars at one platform and deliberate on this impact the Department of Sociology at South Asian University organised a seminar titled "Mapping Changes and Transformations in Educational Systems and Discourses –Issues, Possibilities and Strategies" on 21st-22nd March, 2013. Participants discussed and deliberated on how neoliberalism has been altering and impacting the education sector.
It identified issues emerging out of this impact and the processes of how this takes place. Though most of the times seminars and workshops stop at identifying problems and recognising the symptoms of the problem it has been realised that there is a need to move beyond into the realm of discussing and debating alternatives or visualising/conceptualising solutions to the problems. In this context it would be relevant to look at the new/alternative systems that have emerged at different points of time in history and whether they may be useful in resolving the crisis that emerges in times of neoliberalism. On the other hand, it might also be useful to look at how different kinds of resistances to the neoliberalism have inherent visions of new/alternative systems within them. For instance, if the problem exists vis-à-vis quality of education, accessibility to education of similar quality for everybody, the language question or pedagogy in general, etc., how can it be resolved in these neoliberal times. This conference intends to explore these aspects and bring together people who have been thinking in this direction.
We all realise that education plays an important role in the continuous change of the society. An important component of education's role in social change also involves how it inspires students to imagine a world beyond the given. Along with taking up the issue of educational accessibility it is required, argue many educationists, to motivate students to imagine the world in a different way through dialogic engagement with the issues around them. This would also mean that the education imparted to students must prepare them to engage critically with the existing social system. Critical education helps in transcending the existing society towards a new one based on the principles of social justice, equality and further deepening of the democratic processes. The education system must "always preserve dissent and democracy within the educational institutions so that a multiplicity of points of view, including many that are unpalatable to the ruling political echelons, can flourish. The institutions must work out norms of conduct and modes of expression of dissent that ensure that debate thrives without being snuffed out and that the right to free expression of all sections of the community in an academic institution are respected. But, snuffing out dissent in the name of creating an atmosphere of work and promoting "excellence", by institutionalizing an authoritarian structure within the education system is fundamentally opposed to the "nation-building" task of higher education."
But an important aspect that requires deliberation here is whether it is the exclusive right of the state to take over the mantle and educate its beings or also create spaces for private players of different kinds – as corporates or many alternative schooling experiments that are there. It has often been argued that permitting non-state actors to run the educational institutions not only pave way for an endless pursuit of profiteering from education but also aggravates inequality, discrimination and by continuous attack on human rights. Scholars argues that "the better the education, the more its bearers become independent to think and act on their own. The better the market, the more its agents, depends on the products and services of others to perform their thinking and doing for them".
Every since early 1980s there have been evident and drastic changes at policy level – from opening up of the economy to commodifying education as any other object to be bought in the marketplace. There are different and often complex ways of effecting these changes. The direct, coercive, undemocratic policy making practice of the state is one while using the so called progressive voices to create an illusion of 'democracy' and 'welfarism' is another. So, the state opens up the education to private sector in an unprecedented manner but it also mustered support for its plan to corporatize and homogenise education system through committees such as Yashpal Committee report3. It has often been argued that the changes are not merely about tweaking of policies but it has had ramifications at all levels – from transactions in the classroom to textbooks to how the function of education is increasingly as subservient to the demands of market thereby negating host of alternative visions on education.
The current situation in education wherein its commodification becomes much more starker makes Freireian notion of Banking Education quite relevant. With the absence of the recognition of the differences and the critical knowledge produced with it, education thus, becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. The 'Banking' concept in education, in which the scope of action allowed to the students extends only as far as receiving, filling and storing the deposits. Critical enquiry and inventions are never emphasised upon by controlling the curriculum which would lead to breed a set of unconscious workforce ready to help the 'exclusive' in securing huge gains. This concept of education regards men as adaptable and manageable things. Thus, the idea of education has changed as it no longer dares one to dream of world free from inequality or does not encourage a questioning mind.
The idea of knowledge as critical and as an instrument that teaches the idea of liberation has been skillfully and deftly set aside. The tradition of critical pedagogues have dones extensive work towards redefining educational praxis. McLaren and Farahmandpur write "…even progressive educators who are vigorously engaged in the debate over global capitalism and theories that oppose one another within it frequently fail to address the fateful implications of capitalism's confiscation of freedom and kidnapping of hope". Education, indeed, has been a powerful component of the 'ideological apparatus' which has served the objective of securing the cultural and intellectual hegemony of a few. Hope, as a notion that defines the endless world of possibilities, a scheme of knowledge production that continuously opens doors to possible transcendance of the existing order of things, scholars feel, is gradually being thrown out of education system for being irrelevant.
Mainstream pedagogy assiduously disregards as crucial a knowledge of how asymmetrical relations of power become embedded in race, gender and class antagonisms that are reinforced through the dominant social and ideological apparatuses of the state. In contrast, alternative ideas of pedagogy have never seen education and its evolution as divorced from the fundamentals of the class society. Here the classroom for instance is conceived as a political arena for legitimizing the lived experiences of the oppressed social classes without assuming that such experiences are transparent or absent of racism or sexism. At a general level, the whole process of knowledge production becomes a political question.

This conference would deliberate on the possibilities and configurations of alternatives to the questions emerging out of the crisis fomented by increasing commodification of education under neoliberalism. Ideas and experiences would be combined to provide for a reflection on how one could create a resisting pedagogy and eduction system. Some of the themes around which the conference would invite papers would be (and one may go beyond these themes as well):
1. Imagining a transformative education
a. Resistance as the beginning of transformation; the distinct forms of resisting neoliberalism in education.
b. Alternative as the beginning of resistance; embryonic alternative visions within crisis and the resistances
c. Existing educational alternatives in South Asia and their transformative potential to neoliberal orientations
2. The changes in South Asian education as neoliberalism arrives and the nature of responses to the changes
3. Contribution of Critical Pedagogy towards imagining an alternative
a. Can education autonomously effect socio-political transformation
b. Consequences of locating education within the larger socio-economic and political matrix
c. Teacher as an agent of transformation
d. Conceptualising extensions of pedagogy beyond classroom
e. Establishing necessity to connect socio-economic and political realities with pedagogy
4. Social movements as pedagogical possibilities

The Conference will be based on papers contributed by scholars working on the issue in context of South Asian countries. Call for papers will be issued and the participants would send in their abstracts and they will be notified about the acceptance after a scrutiny. The coordinator of the Conference, Dr. Ravi Kumar, will be responsible for the scrutiny and final notification of the accepted papers. The papers should not exceed 8,000 words.

Last date of submission of abstracts (500 words): 15th December, 2013
For abstracts submission and any other enquiry contact:
Submission of selected papers: 1st March 2014

Download Call for papers

Concept Paper & Further Information

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