Global Trends Impacting Campuses

In 2019, IFES started a listening and discerning process that sought to help determine the fellowship’s strategic priorities for the coming decade. During this process, IFES engaged with representatives of the different stakeholders of National Movements, and particularly with students both before and during the World Assembly 2019, to identify global trends that are likely to impact student ministry in their contexts. Additionally, IFES conducted desk research and analysis of external data to verify these results and to identify trends relevant to different regions.
Through these efforts, we identified 12 Global Trends. National Movements were then asked to prioritize the top three trends that they felt would most impact student ministry in their national context.

Unsurprisingly, in these surveys, Corruption, Poverty and Persecution were the top three trends identified by the South Asian participants. However, it is pertinent to note that there are other significant global trends that are experienced in South Asia and are relevant to the shape of what student ministry will look like in the coming decade, notably mental health, violence against women, and a connected (digital) generation.

Mental Health:

Every 45 seconds – someone, somewhere in the world ends his/her own life. The WHO reports that there are close to 800,000 people who die by suicide each year. Every suicide is a call to grieve, to lament. It is also a marker of the state of our mental health as a community. Analysis on the data in the Global Burden of Disease study indicates that in 2017, India had 15.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 people; only exceeded in South Asia by Sri Lanka with 19.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

It is also believed that suicide is the leading cause of death in India amongst the 15–39-year age group. Surely, students on Indian campuses are not immune to this trend!

Violence Against women

“Women in India accounted for 36% of global female suicide deaths in 2016, despite making up less than 18% of the world’s female population, according to a study in the October 2018 issue of the Lancet Public Health. Suicide is India’s leading cause of death among women ages 15 to 29…”

The ‘fact & figures: Ending violence against women’ section in the site makes for ugly reading –
Globally one in three women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence or both at least once in their lives; Calls to helplines have increased five-fold in some countries over the pandemic year; Less than four women in 10 who experience violence seek help.

Yet, it was interesting to note that, in the IFES study violence against women did not feature in any region as a top priority of concern! Are Christian communities immune or do we simply not see, hear, or speak of this evil? At the very least, students in colleges come from homes and communities where they have witnessed or experienced violence against themselves and/or other women and at the worst, their college spaces are unsafe spaces for female students.

The Connected (digital) Generation

Connected but alone; Open to spirituality; Often worried and insecure; Many concerned about the state of the world around them and yet feeling personally uncared for – This is how the ‘The Connected Generation Report’ describes the 18–35-year-olds in the study commissioned by the Barna Group and World Vision in 2019.

Students attending colleges and universities in the coming decade is this connected generation. They can be described as Digital Natives. The digital world and its language are their ‘@home’ language. Born between the years of 1995 and 2012/2015, they are also known as Gen Z. The Gen Z generation in India is said to be the largest in the world – around 400 million. The way they process information is perhaps fundamentally different to the generations that have gone before them. The reality by way of the education system both within the Church and the formal education sector of South Asia, including India, remain the structures of yesteryear with increasing layers of surveillance and control by the State. A review of the extensiveness of digital connectivity of this generation in India and an understanding of the aspirations and challenges of this generation including the impact of the digital gap would be of critical strategic value to those engaged in student ministry.

Digital Connectivity The reality of India

Internet connectivity globally stands at 60%. India stands at less than 50%. Nevertheless, the number of smart phone users in India stands at 760 million in 2021 and expected to grow to just under a billion by the year 2025.

Gen Z – The reality of India

“The primary concern among Indian Generation Z youth was more job creation and employment. They are willing to vote for the political party that would solve this unemployment crisis (Beniwal & Pradhan, 2018). It has often been noted that the Indian youth is a mix of conservatism and liberal attitudes. Generation Z in India is highly interested in politics (Nigam, 2013) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is the most preferred single party.”

This then is the generation that is at home on the internet. It informs them, educates them, and forms them; it also robs them of time to reflect, time to rest. It opens the world up to them, expands their aspirations, and yet makes them vulnerable to the weight of comparison with an online persona. Engaging with this generation will also mean addressing issues of identity, financial security, vocation, and other issues that confront them. How equipped are we to empathize with the aspirations and anxieties of this generation? How sensitive are we to the influences, inequalities and injustices that shape our younger generation?

In conclusion, as we consider trends that impact campuses, we need to consider the changing Education Landscape in India as elsewhere. The primary change is that education is changing to adapt to the information age and to the labour market of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Others include the fact that education is becoming more accessible and that many more countries than before, including India, are hosting international students. In India, like in many countries, the space for intellectual independence and integrity is increasingly under threat. In the interests of seeking truth and the common good – We can agree with the Radhakrishnan Committee Report (1948) that “Intellectual progress demands the maintenance of the spirit of free inquiry.” Given these global trends, particularly those that impact the tertiary education space in India, the following are some questions to reflect on as we consider our calling to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God in the University space.

In the context of a changing education landscape and increasing control of the education space by the State – Can we encourage academic pursuits as a calling that equips & shapes men and women to seek the common good?

In the context of a ‘Connected Generation’, being educated likely in a hybrid model of in-person/online learning – Can we be intentional about engaging with them in their spaces and in ways that they internalize information?

In an age of significant mental health challenges within the student body –- Can we strive to build communities of belonging, purpose, and grace?

In the realities of violence (Against women, and other vulnerable groups), poverty, and corruption – Can we nurture student fellowships to be prophetic voices that speak truth within their campuses, and be agents of reconciliation and change?

In the context of persecution – Can we encourage our student fellowships to be agents of hope, beauty, and blessing?

S**** ******n,

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