Education, Education, Education. This is a huge cultural asset we have as Indians - we value it, prioritise it and make huge sacrifices to give the best education to our children. In my town of Colchester we have two top Royal Grammar state schools - and Indian parents from all over the country are willing to move here to give the best education to their children.
I would encourage us now to reflect on the content and character of that education. Every year we as a diaspora spend hundreds of millions on their private education, because we want the best for them. But do we really get the best? How is our culture and identity respected by these institutions? Parents are mad about Oxford and Cambridge but do not look at their curriculum, strong Christian bias or mental health impacts on young students especially from minorities.
We rarely have influence over the content of Higher Education even though we ought to given our ancient civilisation. In Business education Dharma is off the syllabus. It is seen as unscientific and decadent, when in reality it has been a major force behind Indian success in global business enterprise and inter-cultural sensitivity.
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At the University of Birmingham Jains have made a major £1.5 million donation to establish new lectureships in Jain Studies. The funding came primarily from Dr Jasvant Modi in California. For two years I was a European representative on this academic project which includes an endowment at Ghent University. This is a positive step in the direction of Dharmic science and community engagement.
As a diaspora we now have to rally together to encourage our students to study at this University whether or not they choose to do its top-rated Philosophy or Religion courses. As a Civic University, Birmingham is listening to our needs and willing to engage with us, respecting our culture and positive attitude to learning. Lord Karan Bilimoria is the current Chancellor there. We do have influence.
Additionally, we need to move on from our focus purely on academic results and competitive achievement and ask for holistic education. The world is in a severe ethical and cultural crisis, and Dharmic wisdom is needed like never before, even though it is largely ignored in most Schools and Universities from their curricula. In my own way I am single-handedly trying to revolutionise Accounting and Finance education along these lines.
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Join and support me in this crusade and please don’t take my mission for granted. We must invest in public education and institutions and have a say in what is taught and how it is taught. Only then will we get a lasting return on our investment.
Professor Atul K. Shah [@atulkshah] teaches and writes about Indian wisdom on business, culture and community at various UK universities and is a renowned international author, speaker and broadcaster.