Sunday , 21 January 2018
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Libre: Getting schoolkids’ brains wired for empathy, compassion

JAIPUR: The Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development, set up in New Delhi in 2012, in partnership with Unesco and the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development, is set to make students more mindful and compassionate through a new learning curriculum called ‘Libre’.

“We believe compulsory implementation of mindfulness practices in schools will ultimately lead to increased attentional awareness and reduced task effort,” says a booklet brought out by the institute in collaboration with Unesco, titled “Rewiring the brain to be future-ready”.

In his foreword to the booklet, Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar says, “I am very pleased that the Institute is taking its mandate very seriously and is building a new curriculum to address the global challenge of peace and sustainable development drawing from the latest evidence from neurosciences, education pedagogy and digital pedagogies.” Critical inquiry, mindfulness, empathy and compassion are seen as the pillars of this new educational practice.

The booklet explains, “Experiments using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have demonstrated specialized areas in the brain for empathy and compassion and connections between these areas. It has also demonstrated that connections between these areas can be altered because of a phenomenon called neuroplasticity… For a peaceful society, we need education that would allow learners to recognize the inherent interconnectedness and dignity of all life and instill the values of acceptance, equality and respect for diversity.”

Dr Marilee Bresciani Ludvik of the University of Nebraska, the author of one of the articles in the booklet, explains: “Through mindful compassion cultivation it may be possible to prevent violent extremism.”

Ines Kudo of World Bank, Peru, described as an expert in “socio-emotional education and school climate” says, “More and better learning experiences occur in positive school environments…ultimately, the goal is for children to be happier, kinder, healthier.” Dr Rich Fernandez, psychologist with a PhD from Columbia University, New York, says, “Controlled studies on mindfulness in children found statistically significant improvement in paying attention and participation in class.”

Seasoned educationists, however, are not enthused. A teacher, unwilling to be named, said, “Less than four percent of the Union budget is dedicated to education. There is a huge problem of teacher vacancies. In Rajasthan alone, over 20,000 government schools have been closed in the past four years. Those teaching on contract demand regularization of services. Children are poorly nourished. Our children would be happier, healthier and more mindful if we had proper facilities in schools and homes.”

A music teacher, unwilling to be identified, expressed alarm at the front cover of booklet, which shows an electronic chip with mindfulness and empathy marked on it about to be inserted into the brain of a child; the back inside cover offers a series of brain scans – of the team of people involved in this programme.

Source : timesofindia

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