The National Education Policy-2020 (NEP) and Jesuit Higher Education: Challenges We Face, and Opportunities We Have”, was the theme of the Annual JHEASA Conference that was held in St Aloysius College, Mangaluru, from 26th January evening to 28th January noon, 2023. Ninety Jesuits and collaborators attended the Conference. The objectives of the Conference were: 1. To gain required knowledge and understanding of the National Education Policy; 2. To discern strategic directions for higher education in JCSA to become more apostolically effective; 3. To plan implementation of JHEASA Apostolic Plan; and 4. To finalise activities for zonal networking and collaboration.
The conference started with Ignatian dispositions. That set the tone and dynamics for the conference. On the next day, the conference started with the inaugural ceremony in which Fr. Joe Arun, Secretary-JHEASA welcomed all and introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Valsan Thampu, former Principal of St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and Fr. Stany D’Souza, SJ – President JCSA. In his inaugural address, Fr Stany invited the Jesuits in higher education to make use of the NEP to reorganise and build higher education institutions in ways in which we could protect our service to the marginalized without compromising academic excellence and character formation.
The keynote speaker Dr. Valsan Thampu, spoke on how to respond to challenges, particularly those posed by the NEP 2020. He said, “Our Christian faith impels us to look beyond the night. Work today, keeping the dawn in mind, not the darkness. Life is full of challenges and therefore it is beautiful. Looking at history, everything has been achieved against resistance.” This was followed by Spiritual Conversation in ten groups that considered the 14-Point NEP strategies approved by JCSA, to respond to the challenges of NEP 2020. Later the participants gathered in four zonal groups of the Conference, to evolve plans for collaboration and networking in each zone.
In the next session, Fr Joye James, explained about Implementing JHEASA Conference Apostolic Plan. Later a separate meeting of colleges, centres and business schools, was held to enhance collaboration and networking. Some Jesuits shared ‘Best Practices in their Institutions’, chaired by Fr John Rose. The participants felt that the sharing was inspiring, and, for some, it motivated them to emulate the practices.
The conference came to an end with examen, recognizing graces and gathering fruits conducted by Fr Amar Rao. Finally, Fr. Joe Arun thanked Fr Melwin Pinto – Rector, and the organizing team headed by Fr. Praveen Martis – Principal of St Aloysius, Mangaluru for hosting the conference efficiently, especially the student team for their excellence and commitment in coordinating all the events. St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta was chosen unanimously as the next venue for the Annual JHEASA Conference 2024, thanks to Fr Dominic Savio, Principal of St Xavier’s College, Kolkata, who accepted to host the conference. In the final evaluation, it was felt that the conference in Mangaluru had helped participants to see the scope of our institutions in the current scenario, and instilled a greater desire for excellence with mutual collaboration and networking within the provinces/zones.
The author is a former Director of Goa Institute of Management (GIM) and currently Director of St Joseph’s Institute of Management (JIM), Trichy.