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Always underrated, social sciences and humanities need attention, funding


While science and tech get attention, social sciences and humanities are neglected when it comes to fellowships, skills training, new job avenues

Always underrated, social sciences and humanities need attention, funding


Humanities, social sciences need more funds, a larger share of the union budget (Representational Image: Shutterstock)

By Anna Nath Ganguly

The social sciences and humanities have been receiving unparalleled attention after long being neglected and deprived of need-based learnings. The discipline has been focused towards normative empirical studies but limited to certain courses. With the advent of digitisation, the discipline is demanding more employability, entrepreneurship training and lifelong learning.

Universities in India have been confining students to theoretical, Euro-centric, ideological and patriarchal walls and model course structures have been more confusing than defined or lucid.

The twenty-first century has served a reality-check to the people and youths in particular with job loss, shrinking employment opportunities, low-paying jobs, disconnect between learning and job requirements. Hence, there has been significant pressure from academia on additional funding for multidisciplinary research, knowledge, focus on study of human behaviour and attitudes, big data, education and training, and interconnectivity between academia and industry. Innovation through research and development would enrich, inform, develop the mindset of innovation and enterprise.

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In Assam, very recently, students of prominent universities complained about the archaic programme structure, outmoded syllabi and commonplace questions in exam papers, even for competition or entrances.

With changing times, courses and syllabi need alteration, an attempt to blow away the dust and a fresh breath of learning. Adaptation, accommodation and exchange of information along with revision is the only way universities can still move ahead, and humanities can surge ahead, not as an optional subject in technical, management, commerce streams, but as a mandatory paper. It has been witnessed that many humanities courses have been central to innovations and insights in digital humanities, public policy, conflict studies, art and history, social stratification and communication.

NEP 2020

The National Education Policy 2020 discusses major problems that higher education faces, most significantly, on how low cognitive skills and learning outcomes, lesser emphasis on research at most universities and colleges, and lack of competitive research and development are witnessed in social sciences. The focus should be to nurture students, instil commercial awareness, identifying their role in innovation, creativity and policy-making, besides community outreach.

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In the changing scenario of global politics, creation of more job opportunities and skilling of youth must be achieved by upgrading mentoring, peer-group training, community collective engagements, equipping students with new apps, tools and instruments of design and development beyond classroom teaching, textbooks and conventional methods.

With improvement in technology, social scientists are needed to move into the field of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is no longer restricted to just business and technology institutions, but in the last few years it has been imperative for more youths from humanities to venture into start-ups and community projects.

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With Industry 4.0, there is greater emphasis on redesigning courses to include value-based life skills, entrepreneurship, and professional upgradation. Learning only methods and instruments will not suffice for those aspiring to high standards and commercial awareness. Open and digital education should be further extended with emphasis on alternative theories, ideation, creation, bridging gaps, channelising energies of young minds, championing, advocating and promoting causes with enhanced technology and proficiency.

Budget and social scientists

The future for social scientists and humanities scholars is to explore new and sustainable avenues, and for universities and institutes to provide skill-based learning for engagement in jobs that would foster more connection between people and the environment. These include digital history- a branch of digital humanities – political communication and new media, election studies, legislative apprenticeship opportunities, content writing in digital space, training as development associates, researchers and knowledge consultants, curators for foundations, risk analysts and managers who would assess harm and conflict, social media managers, concept developers, political writers, sustainability experts, digital artists, design thinking, trainers and moderators, solicitors of peace and strategy and more.

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The Union Budget 2022 saw an increase in allocation to education, accentuating the significance of these new avenues through its announcement of a digital university, and the launch of the Digital Ecosystem for Skilling and Livelihood (DESH). However, fund allocation and grants in many areas were reduced and wide gaps still remain.

Despite the demands of students and scholars from humanities and social sciences for support, the students enrolled in these courses are still waiting to be noticed and selected – by the administration, university authorities and the country – in matters of fellowships, grants, skills-training and alternative jobs offered by local, state and union governments.

Those enrolled in sciences and technology programmes have been receiving undivided attention from all quarters, while humanities and social sciences are always underrated. However, they need to be given priority and interdisciplinary education of commercial value and interlaced with many different aspects and with varied impact. Placement cells in universities should explore more opportunities and scope for training and getting undergraduates and postgraduates jobs in their specialisation.

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Universities need to have professional and business mentoring sessions for the humanities and social sciences. Value-added courses, insisted upon by the University Grants Commission (UGC) have definitely helped to build curiosity and provide access to new trends and opportunities, but the next step is to engage the students in new domains, cross-functional jobs, and collaborative opportunities.

Moreover, the Government of India and universities should focus on more grants or fellowships for social science students and joint trainings with the best institutes rather than simply engaging in desk-work internships. Digital education and learning should be diligently offered to youths. The essentials should be intense and constructive experiential learning that can identify in students the passions, the faculties of thought and experiences, and aptitudes to nurture. To have a skilled nation it is important to coach youth in the proper direction.

Dr Anna Nath Ganguly is senior assistant professor, political science and international studies, at the Amity Institute of Social Sciences (AISS), Amity University.


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