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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 45, New Delhi, October 23, 2021

Reviving Social sciences in Karnataka to implement the NEP 2020 | P S Jayaramu

Saturday 23 October 2021

by P. S . Jayaramu

(11th, October, 2021)

Karnataka Government has embarked on implementing the New Education Policy 2020 in a mission mode from the academic year 2021-22, by starting the introduction of four years UG programmes, along with Certificate and Diploma Courses, with provision for exit and re-entry options, credit transfer facilities, etc, without adequate preparations. My focus here is on the initiatives to be taken to revive Social Sciences in the State..

Social Sciences comprise of disciplines like Sociology and Anthropology, Political Science, Economics and History. For academic and professional convenience, we are teaching them as independent disciplines, in the process, imparting fragmented knowledge to students which results in limited learning, not enough in terms of either knowledge acquisition or the required skills to be employable. Hence, to supplement their capabilities, add-on courses drawn from allied disciplines along with emphasis on learning new skills are to be offered to help students to acquire deeper domain knowledge and to become employable. For example, if a student of Political Science takes up a couple of add-on Courses like a Diploma in Management of Enterprises, Media Studies, Social Anthropology, it helps her to successfully compete for jobs. Likewise, a course on Indian Society would be helpful to students desiring to work in non-governmental organisations (NGOs,) where it will be a value addition.

Students of History enrolling for an an add-on course on Indian Politics and Geography will benefit if they take to jobs in tourism industry. Students of Economics doing one or two add-on courses in Inernational Political Economy, Indian Political Institutions and foreign trade policy will be successful in jobs, in public and private international organisations and business journalism. Students of Journalism will benefit by taking a course on Voting Behavior Studies to effectively cover elections.

Social work is an important discipline falling in the category of Social Sciences which has theoretical and practical aspects. Students of Social Sciences should be compulsorily made to opt for an add-course in Social Work as it enables them to take up jobs in the NGO sector and other areas to serve the society. This would be in keeping with the objectives of the NEP 2020 to help students to go beyond narrow disciplinary barriers. Language teaching in universities and colleges also need to be brought in line to interact with Social science disciplines to enhance each other’s horizons for mutual benefit.

While taking the decision to introduce the four years programmes from the current academic hear itself, the Government has not taken care to provide adequate time to the teachers to make detailed preparations regarding Curriculum design. No doubt, an omnibus Committee was created headed by a Vice Chancellor of a University, with representation to senior faculty from universities and colleges in respective disciplines to prepare the curriculum for the first year. It is reported that the task has been completed in a hurry by mostly dividing the existing syllabus into two and choosing the first half for the first year. Credible information is not available about the substance of the curriculum for the one-year Certificate Course and the follow-up for the two years Diploma Courses in various disciplines. It is also reported that in an enthusiasm to introduce a paper or two from other disciplines, important constituents of the parent discipline have been sacrificed with many senior teachers expressing their reservations about the domain knowledge in their own subjects being imparted to the students. If this is so, to what extent will it genuinely help the students who will pass out in subsequent years will have to be watched.

Exit and are-entry provisions, have been borrowed from the American experience where students support their own education resulting in provisions to ‘earn and learn’ scheme there. Such schemes may not be sought after in India, where parents support their ward’s education generally from the school level to that of higher education. As such, it remains to be seen whether Certificate and Diploma Courses are going to be in demand in our milieu.

There is no doubt about the urgent need to introduce and nurture interdisciplinary culture in our higher educational institutions ( HEIs) for teaching-learning purposes. Such initiatives are neccessary to promote holistic learning as well as to enable institutions to connect with the global higher educational ecosystem. To facilitate that, interdisciplinary courses need to be promoted to ensure mobility among faculty and students for academic purposes. Students studying in State-owned colleges should have the opportunity to take courses in private institutions. Such courses are already offered by some private institutions in the State which may not be willing to accommodate students from government colleges to take courses in their institutions. Government may have to bring in necessary legislation/ statutes to promote academic cooperation between public and private educational institutions.

Trans-disciplinary courses and teaching are yet to be introduced in Social Sciences, as they involve bringing in hard sciences into the picture. As a first step, inter-disciplinary Social Science subjects should be taught across State-owned Colleges. Based on the progress achieved, trans-disciplinary Courses can be started. Research at such levels also needs to be initiated, which calls for faculty collaboration. However, promoting that would be a way of helping Social Sciences to stay relevant and arrest declining admissions to some of their programmes.

Additionally, the much-needed teaching material in the form of good quality books and journals in Social Sciences are to be brought out in English and Kannada, as more and more students are opting for learning in the vernacular medium. As for teaching, it should be a mix of online and offline, coupled with case-study and project-based learning, with emphasis on seminars and colloquium. Premium should be on creative thinking-based learning, not rote learning!

Universities in Karnataka have introduced Open Electives under the choice based credit system,(CBCS) at the PG level. The same, along with credit transfer facilities, need to be introduced in Colleges. Under the Open electives system, papers like Climate Change, Environmental Protection, Disaster Management, Data Protection and Privacy can be offered.

The Karnataka State Higher Education Council may set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of an experienced recognised Social Scientist to assess the level of preparedness of institutions teaching Social Sciences in the State. The Committee’s recommendations can serve as a guide to revive Social Sciences in Karnataka.

Finally, the above ideas can be implemented if only our public HEIs are led by visionary leaders( Vice-Chancellors and Principals), to motivate teachers. On their part, teachers, including senior faculty, should undergo refresher courses/ recharge programmes to keep pace with latest developments in their disciplines. Adequate budgetary support by the Government and filling up of vacant teaching posts on a priority basis should be done to help meaningful implementation of the vision enshrined in the NEP 2020.

(Author: Prof. P. S. Jayaramu is former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Bangalore University and former Senior Fellow, ICSSR, New Delhi.)

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