The Ferdinand Centre develops and makes accessible courses and learning opportunities in various modalities including on the ground, online–as static unit plans and modules, and live or self-paced courses—and as blended learning, with online assignments for face-to-face courses, so as to reach the widest possible audience.
The USP of our Courses:
- providing learners—teacher educators, teachers, and students–with the experience of collaborative, inquiry-based learning about meaningful issues
- deliberately developing character strengths, skills and dispositions that are foundational for leading socially responsible, purposeful lives as engaged citizens of 21st Century India
- building the core capacity for self-directed learning
- harnessing web-enabled technologies to access current research and innovative practice
- enabling collaborative learning and innovative knowledge creation
- providing need-based learning support over time to generate deep and flexible understandings
Building Core Capacities for the 21st Century
For many teachers and students, especially of public school systems, the learning deficit is huge, and high-quality learning opportunities or even high-quality curriculum are sorely lacking. While we understand that one learning opportunity or a short course cannot presume to make good the deficit of many years of educational development, we hope that providing learners—teacher educators, teachers, and students–with the experience of collaborative, inquiry-based learning about meaningful issues will generate enthusiasm for learning while consolidating key skills and character strengths. We design our Courses and Learning Opportunities to develop, deliberately, some of the skills and capacities necessary for life in the 21st Century so that every short course moves them forward on the path to becoming self-directed learners, kindling a love of learning that will light their way through life.
At the same time, our profoundly unequal world, epitomised within India like perhaps no other country on earth, demands a horizon beyond individual aspirations. First and foremost, it demands the quality of empathy: the capacity to reach across economic and social and multiple other divides in order to come to a more sympathetic understanding of people from cultures and circumstances other than one’s own. Here, in fact, India’s rich history of tolerance and coexistence provides some extraordinary lessons to the rest of the world, as much as the picture is complicated and scarred by not infrequent episodes of intolerance and violence. Ultimately, we think, skills and character strengths developed through education should culminate in dispositions: so not just the ability to do something, but the readiness or willingness, at a given moment, to actualise this ability (Claxton, 2011). 1
We have understood from courses we have piloted in various contexts that students develop true empathy for individuals from very different backgrounds when they enter into dialogue with them and their ‘world’. Therefore, field-based engagement and facilitated one-on-one encounters with others, culminating in projects to recount or represent their life-stories, are integral to all our courses. A great strength of this model is that both the learning processes and the content of our courses lead to the development of critical knowledge and dispositions that are foundational for leading socially responsible, purposeful lives as engaged citizens of India.
Technology-Enabled Collaborative Learning Opportunities
We also harness web-enabled technologies (i) to access innovative materials, best practices and cutting-edge research from around the world (ii) to enable collaborative learning in and out of class, across town, and across geographies and (iii) to inspire learners to create and share new knowledge and innovative solutions to their society’s complex problems.
The Internet as a learning resource is hugely underused in India for several reasons: students and educators do not know of the learning opportunities available to them, they do not know how to access them and use them effectively, and/or they find the resources available unfamiliar and alien to their own context. They may also not have developed the skills to transfer learning to situations other than those the learning deals with. Yet even MOOCs, the massive online courses now so widely available, can develop new and deep understandings if students and teachers know how to use them. 2
Scale & Scope
Rather than developing MOOCs, The Ferdinand Centre focuses on the development of courses that are relevant to different contexts in India and the developing world, targeting specific user groups. However, given the large numbers of any specific user group—e.g. 50,000 street-children in Delhi alone, 8 million teachers across the country with many common learning needs, millions of students on the verge of graduating from school or already in college with few of the skills and strengths they need to engage with a complex and diverse world—all TFC learning opportunities would likely address some learning needs of a very large group of users. Since the goal is to build key character strengths and skills rather than simply provide information, the challenge becomes creating curriculum that addresses some critical learning needs of that user group without being so generic as to be inapplicable to anyone. Thus, a course for street-children would address character strengths of empathy and resilience—both likely to be highly developed through their life-experience–in a very different way from a course for more privileged and sheltered students who may go to the same schools. And a course for teachers would need to highlight the differentiation needed for these two groups of students.
- Claxton, G. (2011) The Learning Powered School: Pioneering 21st Century Education. Tlo Limited.
- See, for example, http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2013/04/30/new-online-teacher-training-program-joins-mooc-madness/