PA Considers South Asian Curriculum

Dr. Christopher Shaw, Instructor in History, and Rajesh Mundra, Instructor in Biology and Assistant Dean of the CAMD, are working tirelessly to incorporate South Asian studies into the Andover curriculum. Three years ago, Andoer launched Educators for Teaching India in conjunction with the Windsor School of Boston. The program is committed to integrating Indian and South Asian studies into many aspects of school curriculums. Peter Drench, Chair of the History Department, said, “Mr. Mundra is working [on] establishing video conferencing with a school in Mumbai.” Mundra wrote in an e-mail, “I am currently on sabbatical in Mumbai, India also considering ways in which connections/partnerships can be formed which will enhance student learning both in and outside the PA classroom.” In 2005, Mundra organized the first student group from PA to visit India and participate in a service-learning program. Mundra said, “Since then, there have been 4 groups of students and teachers who have worked with schools and organizations in Mumbai, India on varied topics ranging from child labor to water sanitation.” “There are a few goals to these projects: help the community to appreciate the complexity of issues within India (some similar to the US and many different) and their importance in a global context,” he added. “[The goals also include to] engage with real community issues on the ground to better understand social structures, provide an opportunity for students to learn about how to assess community needs, and give students a chance to partner with a local school and community organization on a sustainable project,” he said. “Through this, participants have learned a lot about themselves and we discuss issues like what it means to move from “goodness and knowledge” to action,” Mundra continued. Shaw said, “[Mundra] was instrumental in forming Educators for Teaching India.” “He and Alana Rush talked directly with others from the Windsor School in Boston. Together they dreamed up [the Why Teach India] conference, that took place for the first time last year,” he continued. “[This conference] has been part of a process by which we are trying to integrate India and China into our school curriculum.” This year’s conference will be focused on the Indian caste system. The conference will play host to teachers from both private and public schools. Harvard University will be hosting the conference on April 30. Phillips Academy and the Windsor School will be sponsoring the event. “[India and China] have been increasingly present in the Global economy. “This presence represents much more than just outsourcing. Students need to see that some very important business decisions will be made in that part of the world,” Shaw said. “We need to make an effort to understand the world’s largest democracy,” he continued. Drench said, “Historically speaking, the curriculum has been becoming more and more global. This reflects the changes in the U.S. as well as the changes occurring in educators,” he continued. “Classes do talk a lot about [class in India and China], but Andover does not offer any specific classes about it,” Shaw said. “[Not having such a class] is a glaring hole in our curriculum, and its absence is notable,” Shaw continued. “[The conference] should spark a conversation we as a school need to have about creating a course on South Asia,” he added. Drench said, “We don’t ignore [South Asian Studies altogether]. They are a part of History 100 and History 200, History 533-The Greater Middle East, as well as our Economics course.” Drench said that Phillips Academy’s main limitation in acquiring a South Asian Studies course is the crowded curriculum the History department already has. “There is only so much room in our curriculum. We cannot add a section unless we subtract a section,” said Drench. Drench explained that the History department is in the midst of reviewing its elective program. “It is unimaginable that India won’t come up,” Drench continued. Drench said that it is likely that the History department will offer a course in South Asian studies in the future. “[The curriculum] is always changing, because history is always changing,” he added. Shaw taught a conference focused specifically on South Asia this past February. The conference worked with 40 teachers on a five day intensive look at South Asia. It introduced many subjects such as religion, history, economics, music and arts. Shaw said he plans on participating in a global economy conference at Boston College this July. “This year I have been doing a lot of work with Primary Source, a non-profit whose goal is to educate teachers and develop their curriculums,” said Shaw. Shaw said that there are many schools that have expressed strong interest in joining the effort to develop South Asian studies in schools. “We hope that we all interact and try to grow [our efforts] to accomplish our objective. I have been lucky enough to travel back and forth between India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” said Shaw. Shaw said that he has been able to reconstruct his thinking for a world that is going to be dominated by non-western countries. Shaw said that India is a complicated mix of new and ancient. “It’s a new country, which has really only existed for 70 years, however it has cultures that go back thousands of years,” he said. “Interestingly, their new country will be more than one of the world’s major players. They will be calling the shots,” Shaw added. Shaw said, “We have an obligation to the students to show [them] all this side of the world.”