As approved by the Board of Governors in its meeting held on November 24, 2022, the following Position Statement on Culture and Curriculum has been resolved to be adopted:
A consultative meeting was held on Sep 27, 2022 on the topic: Tribal Worldviews, Culture and Decolonisation. The purpose of the meeting was to prepare a position statement on tribal worldviews, indigenous culture and decolonization for the University to guide its curriculum, pedagogy and research.
This draft incorporates part of that discussion.
Excerpts from the National Education Policy 2020
NEP 2020 makes many provisions and recommendations for culture in the curriculum:
Introduction: The curriculum must include basic arts, crafts, humanities, games, sports and fitness, languages, literature, culture, and values
3.6. To encourage local variations on account of culture
4.15. As so many developed countries around the world have amply demonstrated, being well educated in one’s language, culture, and traditions is a huge benefit to educational, social, and technological advancement.
4.29. All curriculum and pedagogy, from the foundational stage onwards, will be redesigned to be strongly rooted in the Indian and local context and ethos in terms of culture, traditions, heritage, customs, language, philosophy, geography, ancient and contemporary knowledge, societal and scientific needs, indigenous and traditional ways of learning. Stories, arts, games, sports, examples, problems, etc. will be chosen as much as possible to be rooted in the Indian and local context. Ideas, abstractions, and creativity will best flourish when learning is thus rooted.
6.2.3. Tribal communities and children from Scheduled Tribes often find their school education irrelevant and foreign to their lives, both culturally and academically.
17.5. In addition to their value in solutions to societal problems, any country’s identity,
upliftment, spiritual/intellectual satisfaction and creativity is also attained in a major way through its history, art, language, and culture. Research in the arts and humanities, along with innovations in the sciences and social sciences, are important for the progress and enlightened nature of a nation.
22.2. The promotion of Indian arts and culture is important not only for the nation but also for the individual. Cultural awareness and expression are among the major competencies considered important to develop in children, in order to provide them with a sense of identity, belonging, as well as an appreciation of other cultures and identities. It is through the development of a strong sense and knowledge of their own cultural history, arts, languages, and traditions that children can build a positive cultural identity and self-esteem. Thus, cultural awareness and expression are important contributors both to individual as well as societal well-being.
22.3. The arts form a major medium for imparting culture. The arts – besides strengthening cultural identity, awareness, and uplifting societies – enhance cognitive and creative abilities in individuals and increase individual happiness. The happiness/well-being, cognitive development, and cultural identity of individuals are important reasons that Indian arts of all kinds must be offered to students at all levels of education, starting with early childhood care and education.
22.4. Language, of course, is inextricably linked to art and culture. Culture is, thus, encased in our languages. Art, in literature, plays, music, film, etc. cannot be fully appreciated without language. In order to preserve and promote culture, one must preserve and promote a culture’s languages.
22.8. Initiatives to foster languages, arts, and culture in school children include a greater emphasis on music, arts, and crafts throughout all levels of school; teaching in the home/local language wherever possible; conducting more experiential language learning; the hiring of outstanding local artists, writers, crafts persons, and other experts as master instructors in various subjects of local expertise; accurate inclusion of traditional Indian knowledge including tribal and other local knowledge throughout into the curriculum, across humanities, sciences, arts, crafts, and sports, whenever relevant; and a much greater flexibility in the curriculum, especially in secondary schools and in higher education, so that students can choose the ideal balance among courses for themselves to develop their own creative, artistic, cultural, and academic paths.
22.9. Outstanding local artists and crafts persons will be hired as guest faculty to promote local music, art, languages, and handicraft, and to ensure that students are aware of the culture and local knowledge where they study. Every higher education institution will aim to have Artist(s)-in-Residence to expose students to art, creativity, and the rich treasures of the region/country.
22.11. High-quality programmes and degrees in Translation and Interpretation, Art and Museum Administration, Archaeology, Artefact Conservation, Graphic Design, and Web Design within the higher education system will also be created. In order to preserve and promote its art and culture, develop high-quality materials in various Indian languages, conserve artefacts, develop highly qualified individuals to curate and run museums and heritage or tourist sites.
22.13. Creating such programmes and degrees in higher education, across the arts, languages, and humanities, will also come with expanded high-quality opportunities for employment that can make effective use of these qualifications. There are already hundreds of academies, museums, art galleries, and heritage sites in dire need of qualified individuals for their effective functioning. As positions are filled with suitably qualified candidates, and further artefacts are procured and conserved, additional museums, including virtual museums/e-museums, galleries, and heritage sites may contribute to the conservation of our heritage as well as to India’s tourism industry
22.17. Efforts to preserve and promote all Indian languages including classical, tribal and endangered languages will be taken on with new vigour.
22.19. All languages in India, and their associated arts and culture will be documented through a web-based platform/portal/wiki, in order to preserve endangered and all Indian languages and their associated rich local arts and culture. The platform will contain videos, dictionaries, recordings, and more, of people (especially elders) speaking the language, telling stories, reciting poetry, and performing plays, folk songs and dances, and more. People from across the country will be invited to contribute to these efforts by adding relevant material onto these platforms/portals/wikis. Universities and their research teams will work with each other and with communities across the country towards enriching such platforms. These preservation efforts, and the associated research projects, e.g., in history, archaeology, linguistics, etc., will be funded by the NRF.
The public intellectual has, by definition, to be liberal, that is, to insist, that there be space to present varying perspectives…reason and ethics should have primacy in debates. Today, as always, the public intellectual is expected to take a position independent of those in power”, whether this be orthodoxy, or political or ecclesiastical power. Romila Thapar (The Public Intellectual in India 2015).
The MLCU motto, The Light of Truth, indicates that we must uphold rational thought and reasoned analysis, questioning orthodoxy, authority, and convention.
In the last few years, the world and our nation have experienced cataclysmic events. In the environment we have observed the inexorable changes to climate leading to floods, aridity and extinctions. In politics, the march of fascism in countless countries has led to curtailment of rights and social justice. All sectors, including economics and health have been substantially affected. In education, we have been overrun by Covid, sweeping policy changes, the needs of Generation Z and the demands of the marketplace.
Who are our students? A redefinition is needed.
The word ‘student’ has some negative connotations. First of all, it creates hierarchy and separateness between students and teachers. Secondly, it denotes a scholar, precluding other dimensions of identity and need. They are also customers, clients, even patients (because many may suffer from lack of psychological and social well-being, or have learning disabilities like dyslexia, ADHD or ASD, conditions that may last into adulthood). Thirdly, and most importantly they are human beings, entitled to rights, equality and democratic processes.
There is a huge body of research data on Generation Z. The Wikipedia entry alone has 236 references. Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is universal. Members of Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2010s) have been dubbed “digital natives.” Data shows that the negative effects of screen time are most pronounced in adolescents and young children (Generation Alpha), not in Gen Z.
Compared to previous generations, Generation Z tend to be well-behaved, abstemious, and risk-averse. They tend to live more slowly than their predecessors when they were their age; have lower rates of teenage pregnancies; have less risky sex, and consume less alcohol, and are better at delaying gratification than their counterparts from the 1960s. They have been socially awakened by Covid, more tuned into social justice. They have moved from living in the moment to worrying about the future, and have a heightened sense of a need for self-sufficiency.
They are quieter, and there is greater awareness and diagnosis of mental health conditions. They have been psychologically scarred by Covid, depression has increased from 15% – 64%. They are feeling neglected, their problems are not solved, there is distrust of authority. In the age group 18-29 years, 60% expect vast change in the world and in their lives. Culture, music and arts help them in coping.
Around the world, members of Generation Z are spending more time on electronic devices, even for learning. They have lower attention spans, vocabulary, and academic performance. More online education is acceptable, they are willing to assume more responsibility and self-efficacy in learning. But there is more focus and selectiveness: education must be perceived as useful and relevant. They are frustrated with monotony. They are more concerned than older generations with academic performance and job prospects, and are willing to invest in education.
The CIM Report makes a telling commentary:
Students are the major internal customers of MLCU. Their satisfaction and delight are the key elements of customer focus. Student satisfaction surveys may be conducted periodically, at least once in 6 months and follow up actions may be initiated. What type of education does Gen Z want, in what format and what time frame are to be analyzed and fulfilled. This has to be done for all UG, PG and Ph.D. program students. A thorough understanding of Gen Z is needed for all faculty members. Current awareness seems to be low, and they may have to be educated on Gen Z psychological traits, learning styles, etc.
The distribution of Graduates passing out YoY from MLCU is given in Figure 6.4. The study reveals that the numbers do not synchronize. This may be because the failure rate is high or that the drop out is high. Both are undesirable. The ideal situation will be to have excellent student progression, with all the students passing the final year and getting placed or getting admission for higher studies.
The feedback from the MLCU graduates in 2020 and 2022 have given us fair warning. Though we have barely analysed the data, strong messages are coming through. As educationists and academicians, we have to dispossess ourselves of uninformed suppositions and superficial stereotypes about our students.
An alchemy of culture
The youth of Generation Z, share a universal culture and enjoy an amalgam of cultural experiences, whether it be in music, movies, gaming, or fashion. Much of this is apparently for entertainment and being a citizen of pop culture. But there are deep themes as well: social, environmental, political and cultural. Most youth, while living their lives as universal netizens, are rooted in their own cultural identities as well. In a survey of MLCU students, almost all indicated their tribe as their most important singular identity, above religion, nationality, gender, or occupation.
Like our students, all of us in this room are at least bicultural (Peavy’s categories), if not pluricultural. But the education system has not kept pace. It is only recently that national policies such as NEP 2020 have brought culture as central to curricular thinking. The academic world has been recently apprised of the need to re-orient and reconfigure the higher education curriculum in terms of concepts, content and manner of learning.
Today higher education is challenged to review the old order of global Northern domination in favour of the inclusion of pluralism of worldviews, cultures, and pedagogies. Higher education must reflect the lived experiences of the community and serve its needs and aspirations. That higher education has failed in this purpose is demonstrated in recent events and developments in the scientific and professional arenas.
The question of restoring and solidifying identity on local distinctiveness has assumed greater relevance in the wake of globalization. Khasis are going through an identity crisis…a sense of cultural alienation. Unfortunately, nothing has been done even after political colonization to decolonize the teaching. We have been borrowers and imitators ready to use made-to-order packages based on settings and experiences entirely different from ours. TK Bamon, 2004
There has been a recent wave of apologies and acknowledgements from the most prominent Western scientific and academic institutions about their historical records of prejudices and injustices. These unexpected admissions have startled the academic world, but have been welcomed by scholars, students and the media. Coming amidst the Covid pandemic, when the attention of the world, academia included, was focused on the pandemic, it was all the more remarkable.
The APA failed in its role of leading the discipline of psychology, was complicit in contributing to systemic inequities, and hurt many through racism, racial discrimination, and denigration of people of color, thereby falling short on its mission to benefit society and improve lives. APA is profoundly sorry, accepts responsibility for, and owns the actions and inactions of APA itself, the discipline of psychology, and individual psychologists who stood as leaders for the APA and the field. It leaves us, as APA leaders, with profound regret and deep remorse for the long-term impact of our failures as an association, a discipline, and as individual psychologists.
We appreciate the growing acceptance of culturally competent counseling, cross-cultural psychology, and other multicultural modes of practice and scholarship…and the merits of approaches that acknowledge and challenge the imposition of Euro-, cis-male-, Christian-, or hetero-centric norms onto counseling and psychology. This is an important step forward for our profession.
Today, the APA apologizes to its members, patients, their families, and the public for enabling discriminatory and prejudicial actions within the APA and racist practices in psychiatric treatment for Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC). The APA is committed to identifying, understanding, and rectifying our past injustices, as well as developing anti-racist policies that promote equity in mental health for all.
Perhaps all education, in all disciplines, is subject to a cultural underlay, whether this is acknowledged or not. The historical weight of Northern influence must always be kept in mind, with the pervasive influence of Western thought, strategy and structure in present day academics, and especially the creation, analysis and significance of new knowledge as produced by research.
Decolonisation is an urgent priority because coloniality has survived colonialism. The modern purveyors of coloniality are native academicians. The search for decolonization needs a grasp of coloniality.
“Coloniality is different from colonialism. Colonialism denotes a political and economic subjugation. Coloniality, instead, refers to long-standing patterns of power that is maintained alive in books, in the criteria for academic performance, in cultural patterns, in common sense, in the self-image of peoples, in aspirations of self, and so many other aspects of our modern experience. In a way, as modern subjects, we breathe coloniality all the time and every day… and the coloniality of knowledge had to do with impact of colonization on the different areas of knowledge production.” (Maldonado-Torres, 2007).
“Decolonization is a process of centering the concerns and worldviews of the colonized Other so that they understand themselves through their own assumptions and perspectives. It involves the restoration, development and inclusion of worldviews, cultural practices, beliefs, and values that enhance the research process at every stage.” (Chilisa, 2012). Decolonization of knowledge is a concept that seeks to construct, legitimize, and valorize other knowledge systems that have alternative epistemologies, ontologies, axiologies and methodologies.
“There are more than 476 million indigenous people in the world, spread across 90 countries and representing 5,000 different cultures. They make up 6.2 percent of the global population and live in all geographic regions. Indigenous languages are extensive, complex systems of knowledge. They are central to the identity of Indigenous peoples, the preservation of their cultures, worldviews and visions, as well as expressions of self-determination. Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of living. These communities thrive by living in harmony with their surroundings. Research shows that where Indigenous groups have control of the land, forests and biodiversity flourish. Indigenous communities’ contribution to fighting climate change are far greater than previously thought” (UNDP). “Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies” (United Nations).
Increasingly, Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) are being recognized as inherently encompassing most of the aspects and principles of SDGs. The immeasurable diversity in Indigenous knowledge and modernity, are enabling Indigenous scholars break down colonial barriers to build bridges of intersectionality between activism and academia. Additionally, the Indigenous young people are stepping up to the challenges of environment, equality and education, and preparing themselves to lead positive changes (United Nations, 2022).
There are 105 million tribals in India, forming 8.6% of the population. NCERT (2005) and NEP 2020 have pointed out the need for tribal students to be taught according to their knowledge systems and pedagogies. Romila Thapar has deplored the fact that educational institutions in India have played a “miniscule role as agencies of culture” (2014).
Tribals and tribal face an existential threat. The Sentinelese have chosen to remain isolated from the threats of so-called development and have thrived through the millennia, surviving natural disasters such as tsunamis. The Man in a Hole, chose the same isolation, but his fellow humans, poachers and deforesters killed him and his fellow tribals in a modern-day genocide. The rest of us tribals have made a devil’s pact with development. Neither can we seem to get ahead, nor can we go back to being hunter-gatherers. So most of our people remain in a in-between state of misery.
In this existential struggle for survival and self-sustenance, tribal identity and culture provide rootedness and stability. In the preceding centuries of colonialism and then domination by majoritarian groups in independent nations, tribals have lost much of their agency. Even well-meaning governments and non-government organizations have engaged with tribal communities with a paternalistic mindset.
Most tribal groups are evolving societies. In anthropology, the term liminality literally means the ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals. In a larger sense, it could indicate the transition stage of a tribe standing at the threshold between their previous way of structuring their identity, beliefs, and traditions, and the new way of thought, values and behaviours.
A new pluri-cultural framework
It is useful to have a good knowledge of the theories coming from the West – but we must have the courage and confidence derived from our rich linguistic, educational and socio-cultural experience to change, modify and expand the existing models or to come out with a new model which will work in our setting. The task should be not only to prepare students for economic citizenship, but more so for a sound cultural citizenship with social, moral, and cultural values TK Bamon, 2004.
Emerging markets are adapting to a new world order in which globalisation and Western supremacy are in retreat. The Economist Nov 17, 2022
Do universal values really exist? China argues that universal values are in fact Western values. The Economist Nov 17, 2022
Three strategic concepts are suggested here:
Michel Foucault observed that Western society is concerned with social problems, but he challenges many fundamental assumptions about the supposedly humanitarian features of Western civilization. He shows how relying on Western science and reason to solve problems of humanity, instead evolves into different forms of mute, subtle and masked dominations pervasive in daily life. According to Foucault, what counts as knowledge in a given era is always influenced, in complex and subtle ways, by considerations of power (Duignan, nd, Datta 2012).
Bagele Chilisa, has written in the preface of her book Indigenous Research Methodologies (2012), “we are cognizant of the need of addressing the goals of enhanced human rights and social justice…” She goes on to say that there is a need for diverse research approaches suitable for various groups: tribals, women, LGBT socially and economically oppressed communities, disabilities, who have been excluded from dominant frameworks.
There have been recent efforts in Australia to involve aboriginal knowledge in natural resource management and environmental impact assessment. But the idea of integration contains the implicit but wrong assumption that the cultural beliefs and practices referred to as” traditional knowledge” should conform to Western conceptions about” knowledge,” and it should not regard traditional knowledge as a new form of data to be plugged into existing knowledge structures and subject to the same kinds of scrutiny (Nadasdy, 1999).
Knowledge in indigenous societies is constructed in different ways from Western science and to subsume indigenous knowledge in a theoretical framework may itself be antithetical (Mazzocchi, 2006). One of the defining ways in which tribal societies create learning is through inductive methods. Indeed, one study has shown that tribal children used more inductive strategies in problem solving (Resing, Touw, Veerbeek & Elliott 2017).
What are these plural cultures?
Culture is an umbrella term which encompasses the social behavior, institutions, and norms found in human societies, as well as the knowledge, beliefs, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in these groups. Humans acquire culture through the learning processes of enculturation and socialization, and in turn culture influences learning goals, processes and outcomes. Culture may found in a particular nation, people, or other social group. Apart from ethnic communities, who are these social groups, who may also have distinctive features.
Culture in its broad definition goes beyond a nationalist or sub-nationalist culture. One’s ethnic culture is only one of an individual’s identities. Apart from a universal youth culture there are political, environmental, feminist, organizational and work cultures.
Importance and benefits of culture in the curriculum