Who We Are

The Ferdinand Centre (TFC) is a non-profit R&D initiative working to create and improve access to 21st century courses and learning materials for India’s students and their educators. The Ferdinand Centre prioritizes the originally European concept of a liberal arts education, the “humanistische Bildung” that sought to develop students’ humanity as well as intellectual capacities, and which in our view leads to readiness for civic life, as well as for higher education and employment.

The Ferdinand Centre, established in 2014, has been incubated in the Centre for Equity Studies with seed funding from the Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS) programme.

The Ferdinand Centre functions as an Education Resource Collaborative to promote the use and development of innovative and current curricular materials on self-development, citizenship and social justice, in school and higher education institutions in India, drawing on the diverse work of its partners, whose work includes grassroots to policy level efforts to deliver equity and justice for the poorest and most excluded in Indian society. Further, the Centre seeks to enable collaborative learning and create and network communities of learners across all traditional divides: of geography, ethnicity, class, caste, language and gender.

The Ferdinand Centre aspires to leverage digital technology to democratize access to high-quality, need-based and relevant learning opportunities through deliberate engagement with institutional partners who work with Government and NGO schools.

Our Vision

Sensitize all learners—teachers, teacher educators and students–to issues of inequity and inequality in Indian society, inspire and enable them to take charge of their own learning, and empower them to make a positive difference within the communities in which they live, and the contexts in which they work.

TFC is founded on the following Core Beliefs:

  • Education can and should be empowering, democratic and inclusive
  • Every student is capable of achieving excellence and has the right to an education that provides the opportunities and learning support necessary to attain that excellence
  • All educational contexts must use deeper learning methods and interactive pedagogies to build key capacities in every student, so as to enable them to participate productively in society.

Social Justice forms the content of our inquiry-based courses and informs the instructional processes of every course we develop; and social justice is also the ultimate goal of our endeavor, as we seek to enable every student to participate successfully and meaningfully in the 21st Century world.

We believe that “the equity challenge of our day is to develop and strengthen agency in students, so that armed with skills and competencies, they can head into college, careers, and their lives equipped to make the changes most relevant to them.”1

As an R&D initiative, TFC therefore seeks to deepen understanding of what kinds of learning opportunities can develop the “agency” of students and empower them for purposeful engagement in the world, as agents of their own and their community’s development.

Developing “Agency” in the 21st Century
Creativity & Innovation

Critical Thinking
  • Empathy, Compassion & Respect
  • Purpose, Motivation & Happiness
  • Resilience & Perseverance
  • Self-Development & Self-regulation
  • Social Responsibility
Citizenship & Social Justice
  • Engaged Citizenship
  • Social Justice:
    rights-based understanding
Meta-cognition | Self-awareness

Our framing of the key capacities that cultivate such agency, and that a high quality education ought to develop, is influenced by recent advancements of the idea of a 21st century education. We subscribe to the framework of the Partnership for 21st Century Learning and of ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education), but for our context we must extend it: to the 4 Cs–Critical Thinking, Creativity, Communication and Collaboration–we add two more, Character and Citizenship.

Our understanding of Character draws especially on the work on character and academic tenacity emanating from Stanford University and the Universities of Pennsylvania and Chicago, which suggests that these personal qualities are instrumental to success in school and beyond.

Our understanding of Citizenship and the imperative for social engagement reflects an impatience with the depth and extent of inequities and injustices that still persist in India, and is inspired by the commitment of our partner NGOs, of other institutions in India and of youth around the world, to democratic values, to social justice and to social change. Further, we believe that citizenship, as a sense of belonging to a larger community to which we feel accountable, gives meaning and purpose to an otherwise solipsistic existence, and is therefore critically important to individual happiness and well-being.

The Need

To be ready for college, for work, and for life, every student must learn:

  • To be comfortable in diverse contexts and with diverse people
  • To set and plan for long-tern goals
  • To work effectively with others
  • To think effectively about complex problems with no ready answers
  • To approach learning in a spirit of inquiry, as an opportunity for personal growth
  • To critically analyse ideas and information
  • To seek and give feedback respectfully
  • To develop a perspective, articulate it clearly, argue it persuasively
  • To use digital technologies fluently
  • To reflect on their work and improve it
  • To have the staying power to create their best work
  • To present their ideas to a relevant audience
  • To develop positive relationships
  • To engage meaningfully with community life
  • To take an active role in achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals

Much of the recent thinking about 21st century education is centered around the development of skills that young people need to survive and prosper in a globalising economy. Some core strengths and skills like critical and creative thinking are sometimes termed “performance character” while there is another set of strengths associated with “relational character,” the most critical of which is empathy, the foundational strength needed to understand the Self in relation to the world and the core requirement for leading a meaningful personal, professional and civic life. Our approach to Self-Development for the 21st Century can be found here.

  1. King suggests that “agency–the ability to take ownership of one’s learning, to be empowered to grow and develop, to be responsible for one’s goals and progress – is what students need, in order to unlock their power and potential.”