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Catholic Higher Education in Kerala

The Catholic Church in Kerala has invested heavily in education and has contributed immensely to the overall development of Kerala as well as to national integration.
 Our educational institutions have been in the forefront in increasing the opportunities for all irrespective of caste or religion.
 Those who have passed through Catholic   educational institutions know that those institutions of the Church have never discriminated against any caste or creed and have been a welcome place for people following different religious persuasions.
 We gather here today  to make an assessment of our contributions and to look at  ways in which we can cooperate with  one another in this effort more closely as well as to propose steps for further  improvements in the way we run our institutions.
 Transparency and fairness in the management of our institutions should be manifested to the public more clearly. We also have to update the existing level of the learning processes in our institutions. In a world of globalization and IT revolution, we have to devise ways in which we can become partners with other institutions working in this filed.
We have also to look for ways in which we can cooperate with institutions of Higher Education in India and use the resources that are offered by the UGC and the Central government.
Autonomy was granted by the UGC several decades ago but Kerala colleges are deprived of the benefit of autonomy. The demand for granting autonomy to colleges in Kerala has to be raised more vociferously.
As we reflect on our commitment and contributions in the world of Higher Education, it would be very appropriate for us to deepen our understanding of the mission of the Church in the light of the Papal pronouncements as well of the Vatican Council 11.
Papal Statements:
The Document on Education of the Second Vatican Council, Graivissimum Educationis, proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on Oct.28,1965 has the following observations on the mission of the Church in the field of education:
“The Sacred Synod heartily recommends that Catholic Colleges and Universities be conveniently located in different parts of the world, but in such a way that they are outstanding not for their numbers but for their pursuit of knowledge.
“The Church is bound as a mother to give to those children of hers an education by which their whole life can be imbued with the spirit of Christ and at the same time do all she can to promote for all peoples the complete perfection of the human person.”
 The Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae issued by Pope John Paul II in August 1990 states:
“The Catholic University is distinguished by its free search for the whole truth about nature, man and God. The invitation of St. Augustine, “Intellige ut credere; crede ut intelligere” is relevant  for Catholic Universities that are called to explore courageously the riches of Revelation and of nature so that the united endeavor of intelligence and faith will enable people to come to the full measure of their humanity , created in the image and likeness of God.
“Scientific and technological discoveries create an enormous economic and industrial growth, but they  also inescapably require the corresponding necessary search for meaning in order to guarantee that the  new discoveries be used for the authentic good of individuals and of human society as a whole.
A Catholic University is called in a particular way to respond to this need: its Christian inspiration enables it to include the moral, spiritual and religious dimension in its search and to evaluate the attainments of science and technology in the perspective of the totality of the human person.
“Catholic University is one of the best instruments that the Church offers to our age which is searching for certainty and wisdom.
Dealing with the identity and mission of the Catholic universities, the Apostolic Letter has the following to say:
“Every Catholic University as Catholic must have the following characteristics:
1. A Christian inspiration not only of the individuals but of the University community as such.
2. A continuing reflection in the light of the Catholic faith upon the growing totality of knowledge
3. Fidelity to the Christian message as it comes to us through the Church
4. An institutional commitment to the service of the people of God.
“In a Catholic University, Catholic ideals, attitudes and principles penetrate and inform University activities---promoting dialogue between faith and reason and enabling students to attain an organic vision of reality.
 The CBCI document on Education, “All India Catholic Education Policy” (May 25, 2007) has the following comments to make:
“Education has been a major concern for the Church, as she perceives it as an essential tool for the full development of individuals and empowerment of people. The Church sees education as an agent of transformation.
“Our schools and colleges must continue to remain sensitive and respond appropriately to the legitimate assertion of regional and cultural identities by different groups. By providing education to all, irrespective of caste, color, creed, the Church does make a distinctive contribution to attain the goals of national integration.”
The Document explains the mission of Catholic education in the following words:
“An education which nurtures an encounter with God as a personal event and a free response to the call to faith and which nurtures a life of meaning, purpose and personalized values...”
Introducing the Apostolic Constitution, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Pope John Paul II states that the Catholic Universities “ are for me  a lively and promising sign of the fecundity of the Christian mind in the heart of every culture.”
Minority Rights:
 Minority Rights enshrined in the Constitution of India are misunderstood by many as these have been perceived as a special privilege. The Constitution of India considers Article 30(1) to be a fundamental right. The Article states: “All minorities whether based on religion or language shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.” Dealing with the interpretation of this article, the judgment given in the case, St. Xavier’s college, Ahmedbad vs the State of Gujarat, by the Supreme Court in 1974 is worth mentioning as it would dispel a lot of misunderstandings on the interpretation of this Article. According to the judgment, “the word ‘administer’ is a word of very wide import. The other key words are ‘of their choice.’ The minorities’ right to administer must necessarily include (1)the right to choose its managing or governing body;(2)the right to not to be compelled to refuse admission  to students;(3)the right to choose its teachers and (4)the right to use its properties and assets for the benefit of its own institution…”
“To insist that minorities should surrender their fundamental right as a condition for getting recognition or aid from the State is to make the right unreal or illusory.”
The judgment also warns against the surrender of such a right by the community itself: “The past members of the community cannot surrender the right of the future members of the community.”
The judgment explains the total meaning of minority rights in the following words:” The real reason embodied in Article 30(1) of the Constitution is the conscience of the nation that the minorities, religious as well as linguistic, are not prohibited from establishing and administering educational institutions of their choice for the purpose of giving their children the best general education to make them complete men and women of this country.”
Hence, it is mandatory on the part of the minority communities to be watchful always so that the whole spectrum of rights implied in this Article does never get diminished or whittled down by the actions of the civil authorities.

Modernization in Higher Education:
Tim Sullivan, an Associate Press writer notes in a column in the New York Times : “ Indian schools churn out 400,000 engineers every year but as few as 100,000 are actually ready to join the job world. Graduates are leaving Universities that are mired in theory classes, and sometimes so poorly funded that they don't have computer labs. Even students from the best colleges can be dulled by cram schools and left without the most basic communication skills.”
Thomas Friedman in his book, “That used to be US” mentions the three Cs that are needed for modern higher education: “What is needed now for one to have a job in the modern market is to have three Cs..The three Cs are Critical thinking, effective oral and written Communication, and Collaboration.
The nature of the world of education is changing fast because of the merging of globalization and IT revolution....The time of average is over.”
Along with creating an open and transparent Christian culture in our colleges, we have to think of updating our teaching methods and programs.
The communication and leadership skills of our students have to be improved. We should have special institutes in our campuses to hone the skills and talents of our students.
We have to think of ways in which collaboration with foreign Universities can be established.
International student exchange programs have to be encouraged. Facilities for stay and study for international students should be provided in our institutions.
Instead of following the crowd, we have to lead it. Catholic colleges were in the forefront of many educational initiatives in the past. We have to continue that trend instead of getting bogged down in small matters.
Private University
In the North East, the Salesians have established a private Catholic University. We have to think of establishing a new private University with international collaboration.
 Catholic Schools of Management and Research Centers existing in our colleges should work in collaboration. Our aim is to foster the general academic excellence of our student community.
Without in any way diminishing individuality and independence, our institutions can engage in vital collaborative efforts to make rapid strides in academic progress.
In his path-breaking book, “The Future Church” John Allen calls for a new mind-set for a Catholic in the 21st century:
“What this century will demand is the courage to be globally Catholic, moving out of the parochialism of a given language, ethnicity, geographical region, or ideology, and embracing membership in a truly “catholic” church….Diversity is wealth, but division is impoverishment.”
The Changing Face of the University Education in India:
According to the National Knowledge Commission Report, only about seven percent of all Indians enter the high education sector.
The Report notes that India has about 350 universities. The National Knowledge Commission constituted in 2005 has recommended that about 1,500 Universities should be opened nationwide so that India is able to attain a gross enrolment ratio (GER) of at least 15 percent by 2015.
According to the estimate of the Commission, there are approximately 17,000 colleges and 131 affiliating Universities. These institutions are not enough to meet the demands of the burgeoning young population of India. Some of the developed counties have a GER of 40 percent. India is lagging far behind these countries in offering opportunities of higher education to its youth.
The Report highlights the challenges the country faces: “India faces today two exciting challenges in Higher Education: to increase the access to higher education and to provide educational institutions of academic excellence.”

New Initiatives

As there is a heavy demand for institutions of higher education, we should continue to get involved in this field as it offers the best opportunity for serving the youth of the country.
 Institutions run under Christian inspiration are the best nodal points for taking the Good News to people around us.
We should ask for autonomy for our colleges. We should continue to start new courses and new institutes in science and technology.
Obstacles and challenges coming from the over charged political atmosphere of the State should not in any way dissuade us from going forward with new initiatives. Although the expectations of the world about present India are very high, we know we have to do a lot in improving our educational standards.

Tie-ups with Universities in the U.S.

Our colleges can become a great hub of international collaborations. This is an opportune time for our colleges to get in touch with foreign Universities in order to open new doors of opportunities for our students in research and career improvements. As on-line collaborations are much easier, a lot of informal exchanges can be brought about between our colleges and the Universities in the U.S. and other countries.
Referring to the pioneering effort of  a Keralite, Mr. Abraham George who sold all his wealth in U.S. to start an elementary  school with computer facilities for the kids of the so-called untouchables in a remote village in Karnataka, The New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, after visiting the school, observes in his book “The World is Flat”:  “We …will have to work harder, run faster, and become smarter to make sure that more of us are able to connect and compete, collaborate and innovate on the flat-world platform—and derive all the benefits it has to offer. But remember: the most important competition is now within yourself---making sure that you are always striving to get the most out of your own imagination, and then acting on it…..The world needs you to be the generation of strategic optimists, the generation with more dreams than memories, the generation that wakes up each morning and not only imagines that things can be better but also acts on that imagination very day.”

Pope Benedict XVI:
“Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics. Neither can it be equated simply with orthodoxy of course content. It demands and inspires much more: namely, that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates with the ecclesiastical life of faith. Our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society. They become places in  which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young  person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s being for others.”(Pope’s Address to the Catholic Universities)


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