The Downward Spiral Of Humanities Discipline

Posted on June 19, 2012 in Education

By Sanjay Dudani:

Indian society and the method of governance have continuously evolved through a number of changes in the last 4-5 decades and this change is likely to be inevitable in the coming years. Now, what becomes increasingly important in this context is to hark back to some of the turning points that we have seen till this date. We were a socialistic state (a term coined by Nehru and still remains fuzzy to many) accompanied by a welfare state till 1980s but later we opened ourselves only because the achievements of this system was not commensurate with the expectations. With the opening up of our economy by the historic reforms of 1991 under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh almost brought about a complete reversal and renouncement of the then prevalent systems of governance and humongous changes in the methods of a highly “risk averse bureaucracy”. The immediate repercussion of this policy saw something which was much more significant. India progressed exponentially in the field of technology and consequently changed their image from slaves to mathematical geniuses, software gurus and computer wizards. The point which I’m trying to make is that the focus of our government shifted to incentivise “technology based education”. The increase in the number of engineering colleges from 158 in 1980 to 3575 in 2009 merely underpins this argument. But with these changes something went “unnoticed”.

“The mission of education is to give all of us the chance to effect change and alleviate poverty in any way possible. Our task your task…….is to make that change real for those in need, wherever they may be.” Although, technology has provided us the necessary tools to achieve these goals and empowered us to compete globally, but what went unnoticed is our failure to inculcate the code of ethics, our failure in helping the educated to acknowledge the real problems of this nation, our failure to entrench the real motto of education in the hearts of people and our failure to bind the masses to the rich heritage of this country and somehow, I feel that these failures can be attributed to the negligence of “Humanities” discipline in our curriculum. Although, humanities department has been incorporated in each of the then 7 IITs since their very inception but these courses haven’t gained much popularity and enough talk.

There are some other universities which have their respective “Schools of Social Sciences” and confer degrees in diversified fields ranging from Health Administration to Women’s Studies. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) alone runs masters degree program in 15 different fields and maintains a distinguished placement record and alumni network. The contribution of Jawahar Lal Nehru University (JNU) and Delhi University (DU) in this discipline is worth noting. All these universities have done pioneering research work in their respective fields and influenced our policy makers to furnish their policies so that the real beneficiaries of these schemes are the destitute, the marginalised and all those who desperately need us.

Though, one question still remains unanswered. How can the government reincarnate these disciplines and bring back the legacy of these courses which they enjoyed 4-5 decades ago? Below is one possible solution.

With an increase in the range of demands on government arising from decentralisation and outsourcing there is actually likely to be an increase, not reduction in government size. This is borne out by simple statistics which will stamp to the fact that the US, a more open government than ours has more government servants per 1000 inhabitants than does India. Downsizing is therefore not the answer. The remedy rather lies in rightsizing, and in allowing the people, with all humanities skills that have been invested in them as a part of the “socialist” legacy of Independent India, to take responsibility in governance. This is a need arising from the fact that many government services in India like the vital sectors of disaster management and health care, with no public oversight, regrettably remains understaffed while staffing at the clerical levels of the Secretariats is overweight. This is what we precisely call the restructuring of the infrastructure that will buttress the expectations of the masses pursuing these disciplines.

I believe that there is nothing more noble and rejuvenating in the race of mankind than the idea of selfless service supported with a strong motivation of inclusive growth andI’m profoundly of the view that inclusive growth, keeping in mind the diversity and aspirations of the various ethnic groups that coexist simultaneously in this country, can only be achieved by the sound knowledge of our past, our culture and our constitution. Its high time that we say a highly qualified “ yes” to “Humanities and Social Science” education.

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