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Reflections on Higher Education

The following are the reflections of Prof.K.T.Sebastian on Catholic Higher Education.
Prof.K.T.Sebastian is one of the leading Catholic theologians of India and has spent much of his time and  energy to highlight the role of the laity in the Church.His contribution to the Church of India and to the Catholic Church of Kerala in particular is beyond parallel.
1. Christian Education- (Higher and General) is part of the pastoral ministry of the church. It is campus ministry – part of youth ministry. ‘Signs of the time’ indicate its relevance.
2. Christian education is the continuation of the prophetic mission of Christ; of the Church; Hence its importance in the pastoral planning at the local and eparchial levels, and also at the level of the Syro Malabar Church itself.
3. The teachings of the Church before and after Vatican II and  The Declaration of the Council itself on Christian Education (GE) highlight Christ’s presence on the Campus.
4. The identity of the Christian College needs deeper study. It should form an important part of orientation / training programme for the new recruits. The individual colleges, or colleges of each diocese may take the effort.
5. Facilitating Co Ordination between Diocesian authorities and Religious Congregations in the conduct of colleges – There should be common norms in the admission of students, appointments of teachers , fundraising, participative leadership etc. There are several instances of tension and ill feeling between the Diocesan authorities and religious superiors in the management of schools and colleges. This often tarnishes the image of our institutions. The Education office of the Syro – Malabar church can prepare the norms after proper consultation in this regard. he establishment of Diocesan corporate management of schools and colleges will be an effective solution.
6. The charge of commercialization of higher education - a recent  phenomenon. The higher authorities of the Syro- Malabar Church shall take steps to see that transparency and accountability prevail in our institutions – How to counter the charge of profit making?. This is to be strictly avoided whatever may be the justification for that practice. The end does not justify the means.
B. QUALITY EDUCATION (Christian vision)
1. Christian (Catholic) Education is more than good education (quality education) in the general sense. It is good education plus Christian formation (catechetical and liturgical) and witness of life (G.E.n.2). The identity of the catholic school/ college is its emphasis on faith formation.
2.The quest for excellence.Achievement of quality or excellence is the result of the continued effort of the staff, principal and management.
3.A new understanding of the manager’s role. It is one of inspiration, encouragement, and of humble service (Christ as model). This is in contrast to the old idea of exercise of authority and power, esp. power to suspend , transfer the staff.
4. Creativity. The most important role of the manager / principal is to promote creativity of staff and students. Creativity will flourish only in an atmosphere of freedom. Creativity of students is to be recognized through the award of prizes, of teachers through incentives and public recognition of merit (not merely academic) shall be the only criterion for this selection and appointment and promotion to the next grade. This will be possible only when our institution become autonomus. Autonomy is to be earned rather than granted.
5.Transparency. Transparency is to be insisted in the admission of students and appointment of teachers. Clear norms and criteria, guidelines etc shall be the basis for transparency. Guidelines are to be formulated by experienced exponents of  Christian education.
6. Minority rights are for the safeguard of the Christian identity of our educational institutions – not for the protection of vested interests. The education council of the Syro –Malabar church and the diocesean councils  are duty bound to evaluate their performance.
7. Need for Paradigm shift for greater effectiveness.(Ref. Chapter VI – All India Catholic Ed. Policy.2007).The National policy on Education.(1986) begins with the sentence  “There are moments in history when a new direction has to be given to an age-old process. That moment is today” Catholic Education Policy quotes this sentence in its epilogue of this document What is said about the national scenario is very much true of the Catholic education in India. Syro- Malabar church included in spite of its long history; its human and material resources etc. Our church has to seek new horizons; new ideas; innovative methods, systems approaches etc.
                               Just one example, In Kerala the most important and powerful Teachers Association are for the enhancement of salaries and redress of grievances. Academic interest is nominal. But in educationally advanced countries Teachers’ Association are primarily academic bodies organized for the advancement in the subject which they teach. Thus there are Associations of Maths teachers, Physics, Geography etc.
8.Co education at post graduate level of Arts and Science colleges. Most of the students are girls. Scarcity of men teachers – (the boys go for professional courses) At  men’s colleges ladies are not appointed even though the majority of the P.G students are girls. Is a uniform policy in this regard possible or desirable?
9.The need for frequent departmental meetings to discuss academic matters. Brain storming sessions – Educational tours, visit to autonomous colleges, deemed universities, research centres etc are suggested.
10.Updating Teaching-Learning process- a combination of classroom lectures, seminars, presentation of dissertations followed by discussion. Dictation of notes is  to be eliminated. Arts students are  to be encouraged to  spend more time in the Library and science students, in the Labs. The most creative part of education seems to be discussion with professors and participation in the inter collegiate seminars on specific themes. Such programmes can be facilitated by the Education Department of the Syro- Malabar church. Such programmes must be open to Christian as well as other institutions and academic bodies.



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