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India’s lost pride on its way to revival – Nalanda

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s present education system leaves a lot to be desired. With hardly any Indian representation in the top Universities around the world, the disappointment about our education system seems to be justified. Even worse is the situation at the primary level with 43% kids dropping out of school before completing upper primary education. Such despicable condition of education is all the more disheartening when considering the fact that India gave the world some of the earliest centers of learning and attracted students from all over the world long before modern civilization set in.

One such center of learning that has caught recent attention due to Government’s plans of reinstating it is the Nalanda University. The famed Nalanda University first came into being in 427 AD when Kumaragupta of the Gupta Dynasty established it as a center for learning of Mahayana Buddhism. Though it was set up as a Buddhist University, many secular subjects also formed a part of the curriculum. It was during the rule of emperor Harsha of Kannauj that the University reached its peak and achieved the status of a great learning center. Students from China, Korea, Indonesia, Central Asian countries and Tibet thronged the University with great expectations. Some of the excavations suggest that the University was four stories high. The campus also housed a nine stories high library with thousands of books and manuscripts. According to Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk scholar and traveler, Nalanda was home to over 10,000 students. The University was supported by the revenue generated from 200 villages.

It is said that Harsha invited 1,000 learned monks of Nalanda to Kannauj to hold a philosophical assembly. Nalanda’s Acharya Kamalasheel was invited by the King of Tibet to visit his country. He died while he was preaching in Tibet, following which, his body was placed at a monastery in Lhasa. Though it was established as a center for Buddhist studies, Nalanda attracted world class professors undertaking research work in astronomy and mathematics.

By the time Universities like Oxford started to come up in the west, Nalanda was fighting for its survival due to the attacks from Turkish invaders. It was eventually brought down to the ground by the army of Bakhtiyar Khilji, Qutb-ud-din Aybak’s military general. His destruction of Nalanda and the following conquest of Bengal laid the foundation for the commencement of Muslim rule in India.

When the idea for the revival of Nalanda first came up in 2007, it garnered much support from countries like China, Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore, each of which thought that they should “bring together the brightest and the most dedicated students from all countries of Asia — irrespective of gender, caste, creed, disability, ethnicity or social-economic background — to enable them to acquire liberal and human education.” The first batch of students was admitted through a rigorous admission process and had their first session on 1st September 2014. Whether Nalanda manages to regain its lost stature remains to be seen, but the authorities must be lauded for their efforts to bring back something that was the first mark of India’s knowledge prowess.

 

The author is a freelance writer. This piece was written exclusively for NewsGram.

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Education Institutions from Across the World Declares Climate Emergency

The first time education institutions made a collective commitment to address climate emergency

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Education, Institutions, World
In a joint letter, they talked about a three-point plan that includes going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the latest. Pixabay

Networks representing over 7,000 higher education institutions from across the world on Thursday declared a climate emergency and agreed to undertake steps to address the crisis.

In a joint letter, they talked about a three-point plan that includes going carbon neutral by 2030 or 2050 at the latest, mobilising more resources for action-oriented climate change research and skills creation, and increasing the delivery of environmental and sustainability education across curricula, campus and community outreach programmes.

The letter — coordinated by the UN Environment’s Youth and Education Alliance, The Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education, and Second Nature – a US-based higher education climate action organization — marks the first time education institutions made a collective commitment to address climate emergency.

Signed by universities including Strathmore University (Kenya), Tongji University (China) and KEDGE Business School (France), the call is also backed by major global education networks such as the Global Alliance and the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative, which have made commitments to meeting the suggested carbon neutrality targets.

Education, Institutions, World
Networks representing over 7,000 higher education institutions from across the world on Thursday declared a climate emergency and agreed to undertake steps to address the crisis. Pixabay

“What we teach shapes the future. We welcome this commitment from universities to go climate neutral by 2030 and to scale-up efforts on campus,” UN Environment Executive Director Inger Andersen said.

“Young people are increasingly at the forefront of calls for more action on climate and environmental challenges. Initiatives which directly involve the youth in this critical work are a valuable contribution to achieving environmental sustainability.”

Examples of best practices for sustainability on campus include Kenya’s Strathmore University, which runs on clean energy and has set up its own 600KW photovoltaic grid tie system, as well as Tongji University in China, which has significantly invested in delivering a sustainability education curriculum and is encouraging other education institutions to do the same.

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In the US, the University of California has committed to a system-wide goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2025, while others, such as the American University and Colgate University, have already achieved carbon neutrality. (IANS)