Dr. Mahesh Prasad

सा विद्या या विमुक्तये
Unto that learning which liberates

The true aim of education since time immemorial has been to enquire into the higher purpose of life, and to help humans ponder over two main questions - ‘Who am I?’ and ‘What am I here for?’. From a child’s early explorations into life, through play and years of formal education, humans eventually aspire to reach a state of being, that is described by seers as 'present moment awareness' or just 'to be' and is regarded as the highest form of learning.

But does our current education truly help learners work towards these ideals? Or to explore any of these questions? Or does it merely develop in them, the capacity to fulfil a self-centred urge for security through livelihood, turning them into cogs in the wheel of a fast-paced economic engine that generates more and consumes more, without understanding the consequence of this activity?

Looking back at the school’s journey, it is with great pride and satisfaction, we can say that in a remarkably short period of time, together we have been able to lay a very strong foundation for what is today considered one of the best independent schools in the country. Today, our school is well regarded not only for its holistic approach to education but also the spirit of excellence it fosters in children. It is a testimony to the spirit of excellence in our students that despite not being an exam-oriented school, our results have been exceptional.

As you are all probably aware, there are many forces rapidly shaping and transforming the world. From innumerable human conflicts and climate change to globalisation and rapid urbanisation, socio-political and economic systems are beginning to crumble, and the ever-widening inequalities threaten to further disrupt our systems. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate - artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, natural language processing, neural networks and related disciplines have been evolving rapidly in recent years and these bring with them enormous implications not only for the nature of work and employment but more importantly, for what it means to be human in the near future.

These changes are happening at an unprecedented and almost disorienting pace. In order to stay relevant in the future, it is essential that as a school and a learning community, we develop an understanding about the forces reshaping our world and be able to respond intelligently to the needs of the changing times. We will have to develop a much broader perspective on what we consider 'good education' and understand what skills and attributes are needed to meet the challenges that will come with the advent of intelligent machines and unpredictable changes.

In this era of acceleration and increasing uncertainty, it is a challenge to predict what the future will look like in 2030, much less 2050. However, with a certain measure of clarity, we can describe the kind of human beings we want to emerge from our schools – students who are critical and reflective, creative, and innovative, open to a lifetime of learning and relearning, who are comfortable with change and have empathy and a global outlook. Students who will grow into global citizens capable of responding to a world that will call upon them to make decisions about the structure of their societies and economies, the nature of work and their responsibilities to others in the world. Above all, students who will have the capacity to enquire into what it means to be human and what we value about being human, and bring a quality of self-awareness, compassion, and mindfulness into their everyday living.

Research suggests that human creativity and empathy would be at the top of any list of uniquely human characteristics along with the ability to make ethical decisions. Creativity (which includes curiosity, intuition, imagination, originality, aesthetics, critical and divergent thinking) is the intelligence and Empathy (which is the ability to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the ability to place oneself in another's position) is the capacity - two characteristics where humans have a distinct advantage over AI. In the world that is coming, people who have these attributes and qualities of character will complement the most capable intelligent machines and will not be sidelined by them.

As a school, it will be our mission to dig deeply into what educational cultures, processes and tools are available to extend and enhance these human traits in our students. It will be our goal to reorient our learning programmes so that we help students develop a mindset of lifelong learning, to learn how to learn (not just what to learn), to learn to challenge themselves, to take risks, to persevere, to learn from failures and to have the confidence and courage to take on the unknown.

We will need to set the bar much higher for ourselves - in this era of over-information, endless entertainment, rampant consumerism and escapism, we will need to develop the ability to free our lives of what is superfluous - to free up space in our minds and hearts, that will enable us to live with a greater sense of self-awareness and mindfulness and allow us to delve deeper into essential questions of life. Only then will we develop the ground from which the intelligence required for the future will flower.

Even though we live in times of tremendous uncertainty and challenges, I have every confidence that, as a school, we will make an even more enriching journey in the coming decade. Knowing that change is the only certainty, together we will learn to engage with challenging and complex questions effectively and creatively.

I believe that their education here will equip them with all that is needed to be complete human beings.

"Training the intellect does not result in intelligence. Rather, intelligence comes into being when one acts in perfect harmony, both intellectually and emotionally. There is a vast distinction between intellect and intelligence. Intellect is merely thought functioning independently of emotion. When intellect, irrespective of emotion, is trained in any particular direction, one may have great intellect, but one does not have intelligence, because in intelligence there is the inherent capacity to feel as well as to reason; in intelligence, both capacities are equally present, intensely, and harmoniously. Now modern education is developing the intellect, offering more and more explanations of life, more and more theories, without the harmonious quality of affection. Therefore, we have developed cunning minds to escape from conflict; hence we are satisfied with explanations that scientists and philosophers give us. The mind—the intellect—is satisfied with these innumerable explanations, but intelligence is not, for to understand there must be complete unity of mind and heart in action." - J. Krishnamurti