Wednesday, 19 October 2016

What kind of Social Sciences is worth teaching?

We have a subject called social science taught in some form or the other in schools across the world. Sometimes it goes by the name of Environment Studies (like in the present primary schools in India), sometimes as separate subjects – History, Geography, Civics (or the more Contemporary Citizenship Education in many countries today or social and political Life as in India) until middle school and then as History, Geography, Economics, Political Science and Sociology in high school. In some countries and at sometimes there has been a subject called Social Studies and some kinds of thinking excludes History and Geography from the Social Sciences and treats them as separate subjects while including Economics, Political Science and Sociology in the social sciences. For the purpose of this type of writing (Blogs), I will not enter into that discourse, however relevant. By social sciences, I mean all subjects dealing with the analysis of some or all aspects of society and social life seen through some lens or the other. Thus History is part of social science as it analyses continuity and change in different aspects of society and their interrelationships over time, Geography as it does the same across regions, Economics as it develops and applies the concepts and method to analyse economic aspects, Sociology as it does the same for the social aspects and Political Science for political aspects. Till the elementary level of schooling, the latter three are not taught as separate subjects, but are in some way integrated through the subject of civics, citizenship education or social and political life as the case may be.

At MANTRA, we have been striving hard to provide subject-content support to our teachers in whichever we can. We are looking for extending support to our partner schools in this discipline because this is the most commonly feared among the teachers and students.
How do I make it interesting? The content is just so dry! What is the content aiming — remembering dates?!”
These are some of the common statements that I have received and trust me, as a student of Social sciences I feel different now. However, I felt the same way when I was in school. So what kind of Social Sciences is worth teaching?

Irrespective of how we understand the social sciences, there is often a question in the minds of parents and society in general as to whether the social sciences are relevant at all to the lives of people in today’s technocratic world. The first question people ask is what will a child do if s/he takes up the study of any of the social sciences at the college level? What kind of ‘job prospects’ does s/he have- become a teacher in a school or college, a researcher or academic; join one of the services through the entrance exams? Take up a management field particularly Human Resource Management. All these options are open to a graduate of engineering or a medical student as well; so why take up social sciences if the option of the so called technical fields is open?
This attitude percolates to the primary and high school level as well where students (and parents) have the attitude of just wanting to pass in the social sciences. Seldom is it asked as to how the social sciences can contribute to make students better human beings or make them capable of contributing to the betterment of society or in fact, how can the teaching and learning of social sciences at school sustain and develop a democracy. Specialising in a social science at the college level needs to be looked at differently from the essential education in the social sciences at the school level.
Getting too much for one blog?
Stay tuned for the second part wherein I will write what according to me the aims of History and Social Science Education should be. You can agree and disagree, add or subtract, maybe implement it in your classrooms! For that, you have to read the second part :)
The blog piece has been written by Ms. Vasundhara, who works as the School Transformation lead at Mantra4Change. 

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