Wow. A lot has happened since I last wrote in this ‘blog’-site. Most significantly, I’ve been teaching “Models of Contextual Theology” to SAIACS MA 2nd year students.  I taught this course last year, and because of the transitions at SAIACS, had to teach it again this year… despite the fact that I should be researching for my PhD proposal.  But I was looking forward to the opportunity, and I must say at the onset that I enjoyed the experience thoroughly, I felt I improved as a teacher, though there is a long way to go before I “win all”.

The course, like last year, was structured in four sections. The first week we did theory; on the need of contextual theology and the models of contextual theology. The main goal was to get a methodological foundation to understanding Contextual Theology. In the second week we focussed on listening skills… where a lot of attention was paid to learning to ‘read’ contextual theology… and just listening to what many ‘contextual’ theologians were saying, especially Gutierrez and Chenchiah (and some other Indian theologians). In the third week we looked at types of contextual theology, and say not only their methods but how we (as evangelicals) can critique and learn from them. We mainly looked at liberation theology, feminist theologies and ‘theology of religions’. Finally, in the last week, we focussed mainly on our own expression; where if we define contextual theology loosely as our own theology response to and for our context, their 20-page research paper on ANY topic that is relevant to their church was geared to facilitate that.

As expected, the course was extremely difficult for many students. I know that the reading wasn’t much, but as soon as we expect students to UNDERSTAND what they read, especially being able to identify the main point and argument of an article, you can see how many students struggle. Considering I believe this to be a basic MA level skill, I really pushed the students to get it right… some did, many didn’t.

I was critiqued however for being too pushy on this regard, and some students felt this was like MTh level work. Sadly, the state of general education in India that is geared towards rote learning rather than research and understanding,  does not prepare students for this skill, which should be normal for even for school children. Thankfully, my students trusted me, that I had their best interests at heart, and so they didn’t revolt!

In my view, there is a long way to go for our students in India. We are struggling on many levels; understanding the language and then the concepts. Then, have and honing the skills of critical reading/thinking. And finally, being able to write in a way alien to most; academic writing. As students struggle with each of these areas in varying degrees, it’s not hard to see why we continue to struggle to rise to the excellence that is needed in the Masters and higher level. Too often, we’re having to catch up on basic skills to adapt to another context… while having to maintain the demands of our context.

Anyway, regardless of this problem, I think… actually, I am sure… that all of my MA students learned something and grew in a significant way… even if it was in an understanding of themselves and their own learning and capacity.

I think in the future I want to be more encouraging… but I can’t see myself bringing the standards any lower. I do believe, in time, Indian students will rise to the challenge of ‘western’ academia… while at the same time… we may in the process discover a voice and method of our own.

Still a long way to go… but that’s the hope.