The Bengal Chamber of Commerce recently organised the “Annual Education Conference 2019” which dealt with the topic “21st century realities and learning — Creating more polymaths”.

Education aims to help tackle real life problems through innovative solutions. Specialisation in just one discipline limits the ability to approach problems differently.

Hence, reconstructing the education system to keep up with new challenges and creating polymaths becomes important.

According to Indrajit Sen, president, Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the managing director of International Combustion (India) Limited, the conference aims to focus on the impact of multi-disciplinary immersive learning and its prodigious significance in sustaining mankind in the coming years.

Amitabha Dutta, director, Calcutta Media Institute, mentioned in his theme address that an age old institution like BCCI have been continuously working towards the progress of education and at the end of the day, their main aim is to bring education to all.

Suborno Bose highlighted that a new-age education should aim to amalgamate various disciplines creating pathways for career opportunities of tomorrow.

IAS Alapan Bandhopadhyay in his keynote address, said, “Deep generalisation, encyclopaedic humanism, broad based appreciation of arts, literature and culture sensitive studies of state and society are important.”

Satyam Roy Choudhury, co-chairperson, education committee, The Bengal Chamber, said that polymaths try to detect a common thread between different concepts and then integrate many disciplines around this core idea and educators should create innovators and not just consumers of technology.

Bikash Sinha, INSA honorary scientist stated that a real interaction in a class, not virtual, is important for a wholesome education.

Saikat Mitra, vice chancellor, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad University of Technology, said that the pedagogy by technology will take over the classroom system and polymath-centric approach is needed to solve problems.

Keshari Nath Tripathi, Governor of West Bengal, gave the keynote address. He said, “The true aim of education is to restore the human mind in diverse dimensions and develop the ability to deal with problems and arrive at creative solutions.”

He also said that confining education only in one direction may hamper the growth of the society. The discussions were moderated by Bose. Among the panellists were Ajay Kumar Roy, professor, IIT Kharagpur; Paul Welsh, MBE, managing trustee, founder of Jungle Crow; and Suman Kumar Mukherjee, director general, The Bhawanipur Education Society College, among others.

Speaking on creating polymaths, they discussed how the relationship between a teacher and a student has changed to more of an exchange.

Swami Sekar, CEO and co-founder of Winimy Al, Singapore, spoke on “Immersive Learning- Let’s dive into the deep end”. He highlighted on the point of making something new, elaborated on learning and unlearning and stressed on the value of empathy.

Arindam Sil, chairman, Music & Films Forum, The Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told how he got into the film industry and the struggles he faced. Through this, he tried to covey that nothing is impossible.

The second panel discussion was on the topic, “Rebooting education — Time to ctrl+ alt+ del”. The discussion, moderated by Rupkatha Sarkar, principal, La Martiniere For Girls included senior panellists Bratati Bhattacharyya, secretary general, Shri Shikshayatan School; Ashok Ranjan Thakur, vice chancellor, Sister Nivedita University; Pradip Chopra, chairman, iLeads, Kolkata and Mimi Joseph, senior english teacher, St Xavier’s Collegiate School and students Rick Mukherjee, Divyanshi Sharda, Sreshtha Basu Roy Choudhury and Purushottam Choudhury who discussed how education can be improved to benefit each student equally.

The panel on “Living your dreams” with Irfan Ahmed, celebrity mixologist and bar consultant; Jimmy Tangree, RJ, Head- Friends 91.9 FM; and Soumitra Dutta, paediatrician and photographer. Each highlighted how they are living their dreams, the challenge they had to face and what they learnt in the process.

Anupam Dutta spoke on the topic “Real intelligence in the time of artificial intelligence”. He stated that we need to incorporate technologies in our education because today’s generation is more comfortable with technologies.

The event also felicitated personalities such as dancer Alokananda Roy and Sudha Kaul, vice chairperson, Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy, with Lifetime Achievement Award. Author Ruskin Bond was bestowed with the Hall of Fame Award and was interviewed by Tangree.

In the interview, Bond opened up on what inspired him to write. On being asked what he would have been if not a writer, he said that he would love to be a librarian or a forest guard.