The first Summit we hosted was the National Geography Youth Summit – 2014. However, we did have at least one foreign participant. So, retro-actively, we are calling it IGYS-2014.



Envisioning Geography Education for 21st Century India

Bangalore, 09 – 11 June 2014

Summary Report

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Table of Contents

Organizational history
National Geography Youth Summit – 2014
Summit theme
Some guiding principles of the Summit
Organization of NGYS-2014
Content of the sessions
Broad learnings
Outcomes: The way forward
ANNEXE 1: Daily summary
ANNEX 2: NGYS-2014 at a glance


Geography education in India needs to cater to the 21st century needs and aspirations of its youth. Of particular concern is the state of geography education in the K-12 (Primary, Middle, High, and Secondary) system.

The curriculum relies on outmoded content and pedagogy that restricts learners to rote memorization of “laundry lists” of points that are then regurgitated in exams. There is scant regard for, and emphasis on, the need to empower and equip young learners through the power of geography education for the needs, aspirations, and challenges of the 21st century.

Geography education needs to provide criticality at three levels: knowledge, understanding, and skills. This requires a radical shift in the system of education in India.

In response to these concerns, a project called “The Indian Institute of Geographical Studies” (TIIGS) was started under the aegis of The Dharani Trust, in 2000. Over the years, this project engaged itself with creating non-formal spaces for meaningful geography education that the formal curriculum (still) fails to deliver. These efforts were aimed at promoting and popularizing alternative and innovative geography education.

TIIGS worked with students, teachers, professional geographers, institutions, care-givers, and others to promote a new kind of engagement with geography education.

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Organizational history

The Dharani Trust, and its project TIIGS, were founded in 1999 by Dr Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, a geographer. With a team of other geographers in India and the USA, friends, well-wishers, and geography enthusiasts, the organization’s work has progressed and has been providing non-formal alternative spaces for innovative geography education.

Over the years, the organization has continued to gain increasing visibility in geography education, at least in parts of southern India.

In late 2014, it was decided that we should register TIIGS in its own right and continue its work as an independent charitable organization. Due to Government of India regulations, we had to drop the word “Indian” from the name.

Thus, in March 2015, the organization was registered as The Institute of Geographical Studies (TIGS) in Bangalore. With the new name, the organization continues to work towards providing alternative geography education. Our work continues to attract interest from diverse quarters.

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National Geography Youth Summit – 2014

As one of its efforts, in 2013, there was a decision to conduct a different kind of national level conference specifically aimed at bringing youth to a forum where they would be able to engage with the discipline, professional geographers, peers, and others in well-structured ways that provided a space for rigor, discipline, and respect for the work they presented. This led to the organization of the National Geography Youth Summit (NGYS-2014), 9-11 June 2014, at the campus of the Army Public School, Bangalore.

NGYS-2014 started a new conference culture in the study and praxis of geography in India. In addition to the traditional presentation of research papers, NGYS-2014 incorporated workshops and panel discussions. The main thrust of the Summit was non-heirarchical spaces for all participants be it students (school to PhD), teachers (school to university), and others interested in geography to converse and share their ideas and works in progress. NGYS-2014 aimed to provide more of an interactive process than a unidirectional flow of information from podium to audience.

NGYS-2014 also aimed to make the Summit an inclusive space to both formally trained geographers and others.

This document provides a summary description of NGYS-2014 and the results of the discussions and deliberations there.

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Summit theme

The theme for the Summit was: Envisioning Geography education for 21st century India.

Based on the work of TIGS over the past 14 years, we identified the overarching theme of the Summit to be the dire need to make geography education in India relevant to the 21st century aspirations, opportunities, and challenges. This led us to consider the existing deficiencies of geography education and how we could address them in the Summit. We also decided that this is best achieved by an interactive approach where all conference participants get to have contribute to the deliberations.

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Some guiding principles of the Summit

From the outset, we planned the NGYS-2014 to be fundamentally different. As part of this, we adopted certain some guiding principles:

  • Very short ceremonial activities. The inaugural was about an hour long and the valedictory about two hours long. The latter was very interactive with a lot of fun, reflective activities that fostered collective ownership of the Summit among all the participants. This practice also left much more time for the other important parts of the Summit.
  • The purpose of any conference is to get people to interact as much as possible. Therefore, we provided maximum uninhibited space, time, and opportunity for interaction among participants in all sessions. Several sessions were all-conference sessions.
  • Punctuality. The participants’ time is valuable and the Summit respected this. Sessions began and ended punctually for the most part.

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Organization of NGYS-2014

  • Seven students from the Geography Department of S P College, Pune worked online from late 2013 to organize the conference, including mobilizing funding, online marketing, and so on.
  • Two volunteers in Pune designed and implemented the website and associated online facilities.
  • During May-June 2014, the entire team set up camp in Bengaluru to devise the frameworks and contents of the Summit in collaboration with the TIGS’s Associates.
  • A Class 12 student joined the team in Bengaluru. With many discussions that covered a wide range of issues relevant to geography education for the 21st century, they framed the topics for the discussion panels, and the general logistical conduct of the Summit.

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Content of the sessions

Here we summarize the content of each type of session. For more details, refer to Appendix 1. There were several kinds of interactive sessions at the Summit:

  • All-conference (plenaries)
    • Workshops
    • Selected important core concepts in geography and geography education.
      • Our opening workshop provided a brain-storming session on the relevance of geographical understanding to 21st century education. This was the foundational session for the entire Summit. This was followed by other workshops that addressed a few other specific concerns that we had identified as fundamental to building capacity in both student and teacher communities.
        The workshop on reading landscapes provided participants with critical thinking skills in human and environmental geography. This session also demonstrated to participants that the geographic approach is accessible to all, regardless of formal training in geography.
      • We firmly believe that 21st century skills cannot be practiced without adequate engagement with appropriate communication tools. The workshop on communication skills introduced a basis framework on the effective use of writing, reading, thinking, and speaking skills with specific reference to the domain of geography. This session helped the formally trained geographers to understand the processes of communicating geographic knowledge. To the others, it provided an opportunity to learn to understand what geographers are attempting to communicate.
      • Two other workshops allowed participants to explore, hands-on, the application of ditigal tools (GIS, and OpenStreet Mapping) in geographical analysis. In these workshops, each participant was provided with a workstation.
    • Panel discussions
      • The topics for each panel were arrived at through discussions over a one-month period, amongst the undergraduate student organizers and TIGS Associates.
      • The various topics covered the existing deficiencies in the formal geography education setting including the classroom and curriculum (content and pedagogy).
      • It is equally important to provide both geography teachers and learners with contemporary tools for geographical enquiry and analysis.
      • Likewise, youth need exposure to career options in geography through concrete ideas and examples.
      • Each panel was led by one of the undergraduate student organizers as Chair and one of the professional geographers from TIGS as Co-Chair, to assist when needed.
    • Paper sessions
      • We proposed the following sub-themes pertaining to:
        • Human-environment interactions.
        • Physical geography.
        • Human geography.
        • ICT-enabled geography.
      • In the conference announcement, we invited participants to submit abstracts for their presentations. The format for undergraduate and high school students was poster presentation. The format for university students and professional geographers was paper presentation. Detailed information about the content and presentation requirements (including formating, preparation of powerpoint slides, preparation for oral presentations, etc.) was provided on a dedicated website.
      • Abstracts were solicited from interested participants online. All submissions were received online through an online blog which was linked to the conference webpage. On this blog, submitted abstracts were visible for other participants to read and provide feedback. A team of five professional geographers from TIGS provided feedback to each abstract submitted on the blog. The feedback was focused on the strengths and areas in need of work in each abstract. Several suggestions were also offered to authors.
      • The entire website was designed and implemented in a way that would reduce any uncomfortable surprises to the barest minimum possible. It also made the process of review and revision open and transparent to all participants.
      • Paper sesions were modeled after the sessions at the annual meetings of the Association of American Geographers, with a slight modification. Each session was 100 minutes long. Each session had four papers of 20 minutes each. The last 20-minute slot was reserved for discussions and questions-and-answers.
  • Poster session
    • This was devised for younger geography students. Two high school students presented original research in this session. Since they were the only two in this category, we organized a plenary session for them. They were the most enthusiastic presenters and were extremely well received by the entire audience.

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Broad learnings

From the NGYS-2014, there arose a broad vision of where geography education needs to head. The main needs are listed below.

  1. Geography education needs to be strengthened at K-12 level in the following ways:
    1. It needs to be made interactive and field-based.
    2. We need to collectively evolve meaningful and demonstrable standards applicable across curricula throughout the country.
    3. Geography education needs to adopt a meaningful vertical and horizontal integration. Vertical integration aligns the learning of geography from year to year in incremental progression. Horizontal integration connects geography with all other subjects of each class level. These, together, need to be integrated with the life experiences of students so that they engage with geography as a discipline, not just a subject to be studied in order to pass examinations.
  2. Contemporary developments in the discipline need to be brought to the classroom. For far too long the content that has informed textbooks in schools and colleges have stayed with archaic theories and modes of teaching in geography. We need to break the hierarchies between education and academic research, and be able to introduce live and robust research as a practice of learning into the school and college classrooms so that each student feels empowered to participate in the continuous making of the discipline.
  3. Contemporary digital technologies must be part of our geography education. This should aim to address two kinds of digital divides:
    1. That between geography students and students of other “technical” disciplines. At present, it is the “technically qualified” students are able to garner the jobs in the GIS industry despite the lack of training in methods of geographical analysis. Hence a meaningful integration between and geography “technical” training is imperative particularly in higher education.
    2. That between different socio-economic groups within the geography student population. Many of the technological developments offer opportunities to very effectively visualize many geographic phenomena in a way that complements field-based learning. Hence we should strive to extend such interventions to underserved students in all areas.
  4. Students need to be given inputs, from an early stage, on what geographers do and the career possibilities that a sound geography education can open up. Rarely do students get an opportunity to interact with professions who are geographers or those who use geography in their work. There is also precious little in the popular media where students get to learn about the power of geography in diverse professions. These gaps need to be bridged so that geography also becomes something students aspire to study. Awareness of these avenues also needs to be shared with parents so that they can be supportive participants in the students’ search for career options via geography.

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Outcomes: The way forward

While the above-mentioned lacunae occur all across the country and at different levels, and were collectively identified and discussed by all conference participants. We at TIGS have used these insights to inform our continuing engagement with geography education.

  1. Biennial conferences. TIGS will conduct biannual Summits (conferences) to bring together the geographic community to share knowledge and ideas towards innovative geography education that can better meet the needs of the 21st century world in which our youth live. We believe that such an interactive space of sharing goes a long way in fostering a spirit of collective change-making. We consider that simply meeting as a support group to share experiences and knowledge in a convivial atmosphere is also a vital component of building a community and ushering in a new culture of geography education. The next Summit will be International Geography Youth Summit (IGYS-2016) to be held in Bangalore in September 2016.
  2. “GeoCapabilities approach” [1] for school and college teachers. This innovative approach that has been developed by Association of American Geographers, and implemented in various countries, will be adapted for our needs in India. We will share the materials and methods arising from these efforts with teachers over wide areas across the country.
  3. Teaching innovations. TIGS will facilitate the development and implementation of innovative teaching materials for K-12 geography and environmental science (EVS) classes in English, Kannada, and other languages.
  4. Establishment of GeoVidyaa Geography Centres. TIGS has established four GeoVidyaa Geography Centres (GVGCs) in Bangalore, Mysore, Chennai, and Coimbatore in collaboration with educational institutions in each of those cities. These are hubs of innovative geography education design and implementation where workshops and other interactive programs are conducted at regular intervals for students and teachers. In response to the needs listed earlier, these Centres will be furthere strengthened and more Centres will be started in other places, in collaboration with various educational institutions.
  5. Continuous programs. Through these GVGCs, TIGS will develop ongoing programs to help schools and colleges implement innovative geography education. We will help to develop the GeoCapabilities of teachers and institutions so that the innovations travel from the GVGCs to the classroom and back.
  6. Network development. TIGS will develop a nationwide network of geography teachers to enable them to share knowledge and resources to innovate geography education in the classroom.
  7. Online resources development. TIGS will also develop an online resource for students all over the country to explore careers in geography. As part of this, we will be facilitating interactions between students and professionals who are either trained geographers or are using geography in their professions.

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ANNEX 1: Daily summary

Day 1 – 09 June 2014

  • Workshop: “What do we mean by geography education for the 21st century?”
    • Presenter: Ms Charu Doshi, TIGS
    • Précis: Envisioning a benign, environmentally friendly framework.The “21st Century Skills”, or the ‘4 Cs’, namely: (a) collaboration, (b) communication, (c) critical thinking, and (d) creative thinking. The necessity for these skills was linked to the ‘skills’ crisis; a situation in which the lack of problem-solving skills and the inability to collaborate and communicate that plagues many graduates also renders them unemployable.
  • Workshop: “Introduction to Open-Source GIS”
    • Presenter: Mr. Bharat Settur, OS-GEO India
    • Précis: Mr Settur began with a description of the various components of GIS. Following this, he took the participants through a set of exercises to illustrate the kinds of things that could be done using GIS as a tool.
  • Paper session: Human Geography (Part 1)
  • Panel Discussion: “C’mon Geographers, let us move beyond Capital Cities!” – Interactive Learning and Critical Thinking Skills
    • Précis: Participants identified the many ills plaguing geography education at present: rote memorization, exam-oriented teaching, lack of practical experience, lack of exposure to what geographers do, etc. The call was for remedying this situation with innovative teaching practice that engages learners with geography by making geography education relevant to their lives and their concerns.
  • Panel Discussion: “A Wise Ascent to the Summit – Geography Education Standards and Syllabus
    • Précis: Participants stressed the need for delivering a geography education that helped learners make connections among humans and between humans and the environment. The need for rigorously arrived-at standards for geography education was strongly emphasized. The example of the USA National Geography Standards was cited as a possible model. Participants cited the power of the teacher to make a difference. Concern was also drawn to the need to reach all socioeconomic groups with this kind of geography education.

Day 2: 10 June 2014

  • Workshop: “Landscape analysis through a geographer’s eye”
    • Presenter: Dr Muthatha Ramanathan, TIGS.
    • Précis : Dr Ramanathan set up the framework of geography questions: questions of location and their relationships to causes and consequences. Landscapes are a form of ‘writing’ of cultures and through these, she drew the attention of the audiences to the kinds of questions they could ask. She set her entire workshop in the context of the history of geographic thought.
  • Workshop: “Communication skills for geographers”
    • Presenter: Mr Sunil Ganu, TIGS.
    • Précis : Mr Ganu introduced the participants to the importance of communication and the role that language plays in it. This particular session dealt with English language communication skills. Participants were taken through several exercises on reading, writing, and comprehension skills. These exercises drew the participants’ attention to common errors and pitfalls and how communication may be improved. The entire workshop used the domain knowledge of geography to show how communication skills and geography are intricately connected.
  • Paper session: “ICT-enabled geography” and “Physical geography (part 2)”
  • Panel Discussion: “Finding your true north – careers in geography”
    • Précis: Dr Ramanathan summarized the entire crux of the session thus: “… a career [is] a combined source of one’s livelihood and the source of sustenance for one’s soul …” The discussion was abundantly illustrated with ideas of the careers that the youth at the Summit planned to pursue after they graduated with their geography degrees. Participants in diverse disciplines also highlighted how vitally a good geography education is needed in their own fields. The need for a geography education that caters to 21st century careers was discussed.
  • Interactive session: “Leveraging geography education for a successful career”
    • Presenter: Dr Praveen Saptarshi, Geographer, Indian Institute of Cost and Management Studies and Research, Pune
    • Précis : Dr Saptarshi spoke about how geographers should be aware of their own strengths, and should project them well to raise awareness of others about these. His session dovetailed with the previous panel discussion on careers in geography and built on some of the discussions that occurred in that session. Interactively, this session emphasized the strengths of the discipline including how geography is inter-disciplinary, observation-based, and fun. Mention was also made for a robust organization to advocate for the discipline at all levels.

Day 3: 11 June 2014

  • Workshop: “Introduction to Open Street Mapping”
    • Presenter: Mr Sajjad Anwar, OSM specialist
    • Précis : Mr Anwar covered three areas: what is OSM, its capabilities, alternatives to OSM and why they are not generally used. He built the entire session on the fundamental ideas that “Geography is about relationships”, and our methods of representing these relationships. Participants were guided through some exercises that demonstrated how OSM is useful.
  • School students’ presentations
    • Raghav Jalan, “The impacts of tourism on the local culture in Ajanta and Ellora.” Field-work-based presentation on how various aspects of tourism impact the local culture in the tourist places, Ajanta and Ellora. A version of this paper has now been published as the first of TIGS’s Occasional Publications. A PDF copy of this paper is available here for download.
    • Isheeta Singh, “Changing trends in the great Indian desert.” Based on secondary research, she showed that dominant changes in the area had included changes in agricultural patterns, the leveling of sand dunes, and de-desertification, resulting in a decrease in the area spanned by the desert.
  • Panel discussion: “It’s time to bite the byte, geographers!” ICT-enabled geography education.
    • Précis : This session discussed the under-utilized power of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) tools in the study and practice of geography. Vast amounts of primary and secondary data, analytical tools (e.g.: GIS, statistical and qualitative data analytical software), interactivity (across geographical scales), and so on were mentioned. There was also concern expressed that vast areas of the country lacked access to the internet, resulting in a digital divide that is vast.
  • Panel discussion: “Creating citizen geographers.”
    • Précis : The students of the Organizing committee were the panelists in this session. Each talked about how they came to study geography. The routes were very varied and very personal. The point was made that young people’s interest geography needs to be nurtured and encouraged in very personal ways.
  • Concluding session: Valedictory
    • Précis : Participants shared their learnings and impressions of the Summit. The hope was expressed that this would be a recurring event. Several participated in a challenge that was set on Day 1: identify a song in any Indian language (including English) that has geography in it. Everyone who identifies a song will receive a prize. Some also went a step further and sang their selections. Certificates were distributed and the Summit ended.

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ANNEX 2: NGYS-2014 at a glance

  • Types of participants: Students (class 9 – PhD), professional geographers, geography educators (K-12 – University levels), activists, general public. Class 12 student, Pune.
  • Duration: 9-11 June 2014
  • Components:
    • Plenary sessions (inaugural, valedictory)
    • Workshops (all-conference)
    • Paper sessions (conducted in parallel, patterned after the Annual Meetings of the Association of American Geographers (AAG)).
    • Panel sessions (discussions on relevant topics; all-conference)

Organizing committee:

  • Students
    • Mr Dhritiraj Sengupta, TIGS Ambassador, Coordinator, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Ms Saloni Deshpande, TIGS Ambassador, Co-Coordinator, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Mr Pratik Chitnis, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Mr Yash Ketkar, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Ms Shruthi Khandare, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Ms Tirtha Kajarekar, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Ms Apurwa Bandal, Department of Geography, S P College, Pune.
    • Ms Sneha Bapat, Class 11 student, Pune.
  • The Institute of Geographical Studies and partners
    • Dr Muthatha Ramanathan, TIGS Research Associate, Bengaluru.
    • Mr Sunil Ganu, TIGS Communications Associate, Pune.
    • Ms Charu Doshi, TIGS Research Associate, Mumbai.
    • Dr Chandra Shekhar Balachandran, TIGS, Director, Bengaluru.
    • Ms Manjula Raman, Principal, Army Public School, Bengaluru.
    • Aniruddh Chand Peters.
    • Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan, (Retd.), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. (Advisory Board, TIGS)
    • Dr Priya Srihari, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburagi. (TIGS Research Associate)
  • Volunteers
    • Mr Ananth Hariharan, Grade 12, Canadian International School, rapporteur
    • Ms Apurwa Bandal, additional rapporteur
    • Mr Ayush Goyal, Student, Dayanand Sagar College of Engineering, logistics
  • Support: There were many who supported the NGYS-2014 in different ways. They are listed below.
  • Financial support:
    • Trustees and donors, Dharani USA, Inc, Chicago, IL, USA
    • Dr Heidi J. Nast, DePaul University, Chicago, IL, USA
    • Mr Devesh Radhakrishnan, University of Delaware, DE, USA
    • Dr Muthatha Ramanathan, Bengaluru
    • Dr Surinder M. Bhardwaj, Emeritus Professor, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA
    • Dr Thomas W. Schmidlin, Professor, Kent State University, Kent, OH, USA
    • Prof. Mumtaz Ali Khan, (Retd.), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. (Advisory Board, TIGS)
    • M/s Aum Builders Group, Pune
    • Mr & Mrs Bandal, Pune
    • Mr & Mrs Deshpande, Pune
    • Mr & Mrs Kajarekar, Pune
    • Mr & Mrs Sengupta, Guwahati
    • Mr Mallikarjun Javali, Bengaluru
    • Mr Pramod M. Naik, Atlanta, GA, USA
    • Mr Sunil Ganu, Pune
    • Wipro Foundation, Bengaluru
  • Venue and logistical support:
    • Ms Manjula Raman (Principal), Capt. Ramanna (Administrative Officer), and Staff, Army Public School, Bengaluru
  • Signage, printing:
    • Mr Nishanth Iyengar
  • Hospitality for organizing team:
    • Dr Dayaprasad G Kulkarni, Aarogya Seva and Mrs Shraddha Kulkarni
  • Materials support:
    • Association of American Geographers, Washington DC, USA
  • Online support:
    • Mr Nishith Poddar, NGYS-2014 online marketing
    • Mr Sachin Sangde, NGYS-2014 web site development
    • Mr Vivek Dhar, Webmaster, TIGS
    • Mr Kiran Subbaraman, Trustee, TIGS
    • Mr Sunil Ganu, microblogging with #NGYS2014 and @NGYS2014

NGYS-2014 Group photograph. (Click on image to see full size version)

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[1] The capabilities approach provides a theoretical framework for understanding the broader aims of geography in education and how these aims may be shared internationally, despite the divergent traditions and policies shaping the content of geography curricula in different countries. More details at:

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