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Young Minds of C3S- Event report: Creative Palette: Comparison of Talent and Innovation in India and

C3S Report No: 0014/2017

“We need people who think with the creative side of their brains—people who have played in a band, who have painted…it enhances symbiotic thinking capabilities, not always thinking in the same paradigm, learning how to kick-start a new idea, or how to get a job done better, less expensively.”

–Annette Byrd

A series of lecture-demonstrations was jointly organized by the Young Minds of C3S- the youth forum of Chennai Centre for China Studies, the Department of Communication and Media Studies – M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women (Autonomous) and Exchange Visitors Alumni Association, South India, Chennai. The event took place on the 15th of July, 2017, at M.O.P Vaishnav College, Chennai.

Inaugural session

Ms. Asma Masood, Research Officer at C3S and President, Young Minds of C3S welcomed the gathering. Commodore R. S. Vasan IN (Retd.), Director, C3S delivered the inaugural address. Both speakers touched upon creativity and how it aids in the balance of facts and fancy, that is, in the expression of ideas through unique channels of communication that makes comprehension better. In the Chinese scenario, according to Ms. Asma, creativity is a largely uncharted territory because it is a country that fears failure, criticism and mistakes—the very stepping stones upon which experimental creativity are contingent. In recent times however, they are coming to understand the role of innovation in sustaining and boosting a nation’s progress.

The reason for studying these changing paradigms lies in the scope for better bilateral Indo-Sino relations because to respond aptly to a country, one needs to understand it thoroughly first. India has a large trade deficit with China and studies like this help zero in on where we are lacking and what rectifying measures are to be taken, such as the three-dimensional Disney model of innovation linking creativity, reality and critique, that Commodore Vasan referenced.

The Theme Address was given by Dr. Lalitha Balakrishnan, Principal, M.O.P Vaishnav College for Women (Autonomous), Chennai and President, Exchange Visitors Alumni Association, South India, Chennai.

Ms. Preethi Amaresh, Research Officer, C3S & Secretary, YMC3S, presented the vote of thanks.

SESSION I:

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY IN COMPARISON BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA

India

The podium was then taken over by four representatives from Space Kidz India, an organisation started in 2011 by Dr. Srimathy Kesan, to encourage aerospace research and space education. The group gained fame after their latest project, the KALAM SAT, which landed them a mention in the Limca Book of World Records as the world’s smallest satellite. It is a 3.8 cm FEMTO cube satellite weighing 64 grams, whose structure was fully 3D printed. The group from Space Kidz delivered an electrifying talk and demo that gave the audience an insight into the much-talked about invention of a cube satellite that catapulted Rifath Shaarook, the youngest member of the team, into endless fame.

The down-to-earth approach of the scientists sprinkled with blatant honesty helped them strike a chord with the audience. So much so that, despite the fact that majority of the audience came from a non-science background, this talk remained close to the hearts of many. The bunch of energetic scientists took turns to explain the various steps involved in the creation of their maiden project KALAMSAT which was a 2.8 cubic cm satellite. The group members also did not shy away from talking about the indifference shown by various media organizations as well as some of the government agencies.

Through an initiative by NASA, the young scientists met at Kennedy Space Center where they quickly learned the differences between Indian and American aerospace study. The former focused overly on theory that left the students minimally experienced in the practical application of the same, while the latter ensured that students were able to experiment, build, create, innovate and take part in field work. The boys joined Space Kidz India to pursue their passion for science unfettered by the limiting structure of Indian education.

The group got their big break when NASA hosted a contest, Cubes in Space, a STEM-based education program where participants designed projects and the winners got the opportunity to launch their experiment into space. The group had already created a working satellite but were unable to find support despite trying several avenues like the Meteorological department, ISRO, ACT, and their own college administration. Thus deciding to use the contest, they redesigned a fully-functional cube with eleven onboard sensors to collect data and its own motherboard, small enough to fit into the stipulated dimensions of the protective cube each experiment was encased in. The satellite was made in India with primarily Indian components, only a few parts were outsourced. One of the goals of the organisation is to make affordable products for space exploration and research.

Their submission was chosen among heavy competition from 57 countries and 11,000 designs, and on June 22nd 2017 they made history when the rocket carrying the KALAM SAT was launched. It took a parabolic course and landed in the Pacific Ocean from where it has been recovered. The SKI team is waiting for their satellite to be returned so they can study the data accumulated. The team has been invited to speak across the country and are also leaving for Russia shortly.

After the launch many Indians, instead of lauding their victory, criticised the team for selecting NASA and not ISRO, without understanding that when they approached Indian organisations and media their efforts were trivialised and met with disinterest. It was the University of Florida that saw the value in their operation and financed it.

As Mr. Tanishq Dwiwedi, the KALAM SAT’s Flight Engineer revealed, “We were an Indian organisation, we represent Space Kidz India and we named the satellite as a tribute to Dr. Kalam, one of our finest presidents. Yet we were not encouraged”. This attitude brings up the question of progress if, as a country, we are unable to identify our weaknesses with the same gusto we reserve for triumphs. Mr. Dwiwedi added that despite facing such scenarios, the team has no reservations about collaborating with ISRO in the future, if an opportunity were to present itself.

Dr. Srimathy Kesan is the group’s backbone as well as a huge pillar of support that helped translate the budding group’s vision into a concrete reality. This one-of-a-kind organization which calls itself ‘Space Kidz India’ hopes to develop into a full-fledged space research organization that will always keep its doors open to budding talent across the country. The talk was indeed inspiring and the group’s success stood testimony to the fact that patience and hard work gets rewarded in the long run.

China

The next speaker was Dr. Lalitha Sundaresan, a visiting professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru. She has carried out a detailed analysis of the Chinese strategy to attain global domination in the rare earth eco-system. The need for India to play a greater role in building a complete Rare Earth value chain has been emphasised through a separate study on the Indian situation.

The presentation was focused on creativity in science and technology in China. “The difference between creativity and innovation,” explained Dr. Lalitha, “is that the former is the vision while the latter is the action-oriented follow-through taken to convert it to reality.” Both India and China are striving to “catch up” with the developed countries, particularly the US, in the field of science. “China has a clear goal and when they do,” she added, “they’re willing to go all-out—something we should take inspiration from.”

China’s strength lies in re-engineering, wherein they take pre-existing goods and reinvent them uniquely. The ASBM venture is a good example of the same. It was an innovative solution to tackle the problem of moving targets. China created manoeuvrable missiles that track the progress and movement of the targets in question, thus increasing accuracy.

China also has great foresight as seen in the matter of rare earths. Rare Earths are a group of seventeen elements in the periodic table that are extremely important in this age of smartphones and advanced technology. They are used in permanent magnets, batteries, glass, etc. China’s rare earths value chain has documented that 97% of mining, 97% of milling, 100% of Hydro-metallurgy, 97% of Separation and 90% of Refining takes place there.

When Rare Earths first started becoming popular, China expended much effort in creating an atmosphere conducive to such technology—they encouraged venture capital invested in industries producing rare earth intermediate products and introduced appropriate courses in university education to familiarise the next generation of engineers and technologists. This foresight and preparation is another area where China beats India.

“The impediment in Chinese education however,” concluded Dr. Lalitha, “is that it is too rigid and offers little room for creativity.” This is a weakness shared by the Indian system and something both countries will have to work on in the future.

Dr. Lalitha explained how the creative field varies greatly in the two countries despite compelling similarities. Both countries have showcased an increase in the money spent on research and development, but the fact remains that China often improves on already existing innovations.

SESSION II:

ROLE OF EDUCATION ON SYSTEMS

Dr. Alagu Perumal Rama Swamy, Assistant Professor (International Business), LIBA and Dr. Ramu Manivannan, Professor and Head, Department of Politics Administration, University of Madras, threw light on the role of education systems of China and India respectively.

Dr. Alagu Perumal gave an insight about creative civilizations. History of innovation in China involves the production of gun powders, paper, printing press, silk etc. and Indian history of intellectual and material contribution range from Vedas, Upanishads and Buddhism to missiles etc. He says creativity is a “Phenomenon whereby something new and somehow valuable is formed.” According to him creativity should move to entrepreneurship and it should lead to economic prosperity.

He quoted Mao Zedong’s “No longer study behind closed doors” and spoke about the way China is getting its hands-on experience. He spoke about shifting the Chinese phenomena of an Agricultural University near the farmlands and the Engineering Universities near the construction sites, and so on for practical learning. Mao’s ideology believed that students and faculty should participate in production, discover its needs and conceptualize new ways of overcoming them. Conversely, factory workers should participate in education. These have changed issues that construct growth in China.

Liberalization and reforms that took place in Chine brought in changes like Deregulation, Privatization, Globalization, and Ecosystem for entrepreneurship development and strengthening industry connect. He spoke about the way factory workers taking part in education. Universities in China have industry linkages.

The number of application for patents across the world by China is a significant number: 2.9 million patent applications among which 1,010,406 are from china, an increase of 18.7% is witnessed. Application of patents across border by China is 42.154 (seen increasing). Performance in the intellectual environment shows their creativity and innovation.

He also spoke about China’s performance in international competitions such as IMO and the rise of Chinese Multinationals, and the way reforms have helped in creativity.

Prof. Ramu Manivannan was the next speaker and he spoke about the rigorous system of scholarship, the Gurukul system of education and the element of discipline between teacher and students.

India is still in the oral tradition of sharing knowledge. For example, the fields of Ayurveda and Siddha. Knowledge is the spreading of wisdom and creativity and innovation create technology that is momentum based. (Social momentum.)

Colonialism ushered in the renaissance era of reformation and establishment of system democracy. The ultimate ploy of the British in defeating India, according to Dr. Ramu Manivannan, was the change in the educational system. We try so hard to emulate western culture and tradition that we have stopped talking in our mother tongue. “Talk English but don’t forget own language,” he said.

The system is run by ineffective and corrupt politicians, and the major crisis in education is the different schools for different groups such as government, private, etc, which segregation and imbalance in quality of education received.

Dr. Ramu Mannivan stressed on the importance of teachers reading what they teach thoroughly before prescribing it to students. Only then will methodology flow along in process. He also spoke about the blackboard operation (1984) which introduced blackboard in schools.

“Education cannot come without compassion,” he said, detailing its importance in the process of learning and understanding. He also called education a life-long process and urged the listeners to never stop learning.

He spoke about Gandhi’s and Tagore’s role as renovators of the education system and mentioned Gandhi’s quote, “Breeze can flow but I choose to stand where I’m.”

He also spoke about the lack of communication and the highest percentage of dropouts in India. Every year nearly 40% of students drop out in semi urban, rural and economically weaker urban areas.

He spoke about the correlation of politics and education. He says, “There is no education without politics.” He also threw light on the different sectors of schooling like private, government, etc. “Read before you prescribe” was a quote Gandhi used to emphasise the necessity for teachers to read the material before preaching. Dr. Ramu Manivannan referenced this quote and said that this methodology is very important in framing curriculum as many universities do not upgrade their syllabus.

He spoke about the rural urban divide which impacts the education system. He admitted that memorization is important but also said that the student should understand the meaning before memorizing. He said we should be analytical through these words, “There are many truths; we should question the way we study and the subject that is thought.”

He concluded with a debunking of the reward system prevalent today: everyone works for a reward but one must work for realization and understanding. Quoting the example of Gauthama Buddha, he praised the ability to indulge in self-realization with others.

SESSION III:

THE ARTS—CREATIVITY IN EXPRESSION IN INDIA AND CHINA

Eric Miller is originally from New York but settled in India fifteen years go. He came here in 1989 to do his Master’s in Tribal Folklore at Kamarajar University and eventually fell in love with the country and its history. Miller had a very creative dimension to every story he had heard or read about.

He read about the Silapathikaaram and various other mythological stories and developed a keen interest in southern historical folklore which was told in the form of poems.

Similarly, Miller had a deep connection with the Chinese citizen Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize. He had contributed in the shaping of Miller’s career into this profession of Storytelling. Liu had been in prison for questioning the norms of the law and how it didn’t apply equally for the masses; he passed away in prison without receiving proper medical care.

In a moment of retrospection Miller stated that those who actually questioned the laws and norms got themselves killed in the process; giving examples of the famous Greek philosophers, Galileo and Socrates. He (Miller) said, “Being creative and innovative is joyous and wonderful, but at the same time one should also be very cautious to protect oneself because the world is dangerous and isn’t very open to those who are different in nature and think differently from the rest.”

Miller had always been fascinated with the imagination of India’s maharajas and their courts. He believes that since the olden days India has had a notch for creativity that they shouldn’t lose in the coming years.

According to Miller, group thinkers are those who think along with the group and not with their own minds. But creativity is such a thing that would actually land the person out of the group for thinking out of the box. Creativity is diverse in nature and isn’t confined to one particular thing; creativity can help one in various things both personally and mentally. Creativity helps one see the world-view and also develop empathy and compassion because creativity in itself is about appreciating each other in everything that we do. It comes from within and can never be enforced upon us by any external force. Fear is natural when we are being creative; creativity in education is when we can formulate our own questions and substantiate them with answers.

He said that three hundred years ago in China the art of storytelling, now called ‘Shuo-Shu’ (meaning ‘telling books’), had started and was enormously popular.

He concluded his session by playing a few videos of traditional Chinese folklore from the olden days where they used to sing about their history and livelihood. The singing helped strengthen their memory and also kept their tradition alive in the new age of modernity where people had started losing their touch with such cultural values.

This session helped us know the value of art and the significance of storytelling and how important it is to acknowledge both in modern days.

The event was concluded with a lively and interactive panel discussion, moderated by Mr. Eric Miller.  The panelists were Vishwesh Sundar, Member, YMC3S, Shruthi Rajkumar, Member, YMC3S, Roshni Kalyanakumar , IInd year M.A Mass Communication, M.O.P Vaishnav College for Women and Mohammed Abdul Kashif –Lead Engineer, SKI- Hindustan University, Aerospace Engineering – 3rd Year. Vishwesh spoke on the comparison of education systems in India and China. He elaborated on how the Indian education system needs to be improved to allow room for creativity to flourish. Shruthi touched upon how the creative arts are used for therapeutic purposes, especially in India. Roshni spoke of her experiences as a media student in an environment that demands creativity. She also emphasized on how creativity is used at the grassroots level in India. Kashif described how it is imperative to have room for creativity, while remembering that one first needs a solid foundation of facts to build one’s creativity upon.

Dr. Indira Ravindran, Asst. Professor, School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Shanghai International Studies University, China, and Member, C3S, comprehensively summed up the event. She added value to the proceedings by describing her own experiences of using creative methods to teach her students in China. She recalled how Chinese persons would approach her saying that she as an Indian represents a “living culture”.

These perspectives set the tone for the audience to ponder on at the conclusion of the event.

Shruthi Rajkumar, member, Young Minds of C3S, gave the vote of thanks.

(Reporting done by G. Shakthi Bharathi, Fidha Shah, Rashme Madhavan, Vinisha. M, Swarna Surya and Jaishree, students of M.A. Communication, M.O.P Vaishnav College for Women, Chennai.)

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