From 13 April to 15 April, 50 heads of higher education institutions from all over India participated in the Indian Christian Higher Education Leaders Summit organized by the United Board and held at Women’s Christian College (WCC), Chennai.
At the inaugural session, Dr. Wai Ching Wong, Vice President for Programs of the United Board, gave an outline of the United Board’s work and the history of its partnership with Christian colleges and universities in India. For a group this big, with most of the participants meeting each other for the first time, plenty of networking and ice-breaking opportunities were provided, including at the welcoming dinner at WCC.
On the second day, Dr. Wong introduced the study on the impact of Christian higher educational institutions in India commissioned by the United Board and completed by the Singapore Education Consulting Group and ATHENA Infonomics. She highlighted quality of education, access to education, outdated curriculum, faculty shortage, research and innovation and internalization as the challenges for Indian higher education.
Dr. Wong was followed by Dr. N. Varaprasad, a well-respected education consultant and strategist, who led a group discussion on what would happen to Indian institutions if they stayed complacent and took no action. The participants wrote their challenges and plans to meet those challenges on coloured stickers and stuck them on the flipcharts provided.
In the evening, the participants were taken on a tour of the WCC campus, including the Chapel, the Library, and the 300-year-old building.
On the last day of the Summit, the participants were invited to work on an action plan for their institutions, and then presented their plans for immediate actions to be taken in the next three years to prepare their institutions for the National Education Policy (NEP) soon to be implemented.
In his address at the closing ceremony, Dr. Paul Appasamy, Trustee of the United Board, regarded the NEP in a positive light but nonetheless cautioned that details of its implementation were still lacking and that the NEP was also silent on the constitutional rights of minorities and aided institutions.
The grand finale to the Summit was a dinner held at Hotel Radisson Blu, Chennai to celebrate the Centenary of the United Board. The guests included all the Summit participants, 28 former United Board fellows, five Harvard BOK alumni and two trustees of colleges in Chennai.
The Dinner was also a joint celebration with four of the United Board's partners in India, namely, St. Christopher's College and Union Christian College which celebrated their centenaries; and Lady Doak College and Stella Maris College which celebrated their 75th anniversary.
Many guests stopped at the photo booth for a snapshot of their friendship and the happy occasion.
Entertainment came by the eye and by the ear. In additional to the United Board Centennial Anthem, Cherished Moments, the guests were treated to two classical dances performed by WCC students. One was a Baratha Natiyam (a classical Indian Dance; left photo above) and the other was a folk dance popular in Punjab (right photo above).
Dr. Maher Spurgeon, Consultant, Director of South Asia Programs of the United Board, considered the three-day summit a great success. He said, “The plenary sharing sessions enabled the smaller institutions to know what the bigger and better-resourced ones were doing and such sharing could be more regular and institutionalized. Dr. Varaprasad inspired them by giving tips on how to be an effective leader and how to move from manager to administrator and then to a leader. This summit provided opportunities for the principals to share their challenges with one another and create a network and fellowship among them.”