Why study and teach ‘Humanities’?

My thoughts on the relevance of pursuing HUMANITIES at the Senior Secondary level, given that it must be mandatory till the Secondary level in any case...

As a teacher of Social Sciences, I have always been intrigued by the expected outcome of teaching and learning the subjects under the spectrum of Social Sciences. I have often asked myself, what is the quintessence of education in the larger framework?  Is it for skill development, is it for knowledge acquisition, is it for a living, or is it for a good life, is it for the self, is it for the society?

However, over the last 2 decades as a teacher of Geography & the Head of Department of Humanities,  when I have tried to push the case for ‘Humanities’,  it has been a battle, it has been an uphill task, it has been upstream, it has been tough, but it has been  worth, every bit of it. 

Introducing students in the country to the idea of Social Sciences in the Primary years is exciting and now with the introduction of curricula which have a wider appreciation in the world , Humanities have got a boost. Through the Middle years too, we wonder if we should ‘integrate’ Humanities or get into ‘specialisation’.  But somewhere, in the Senior Secondary level, Humanities, loses, and it loses big time. We do not have the passion to push these subjects as core academic subjects which are needed to build a strong base for each and every student of the country, irrespective of the curriculum they undertake. I am now talking about the subjects of Geography, History, Psychology, World Religions, Environmental Systems and Societies and Global Politics, in particular. Of these, some have become fashionable of late, thanks to the unpredictable nature of the environment and the economy at large. Strife in leading our lives in different parts of the world is now the new leveler, disasters unite Humanity and that is when studying the essence of such subjects come to the fore. When we pride on our individual identity, yet are ready to sacrifice that, for a larger cause which is beyond our geography, race, gender, ability, caste, creed, language, socio-economic class, education and quality of life.

I strongly urge parents, students and teachers to encourage a platform for the study of Social Sciences, as it is the need of the hour. We need young global citizens who appreciate diversity, pluralism and economic systems which are not geographical anymore but perhap  led by MNCs who have no boundaries. The  world map which we studied as young students ourselves  is a thing of the past! It is changing, it is dynamic, distances are decaying, boundaries are blurring, associations are forming yet we are formidable with our boundaries and our affiliations to supra-national associations, we are displaced by a natural disaster, only to be aided by a nation/people who come forward in the hour of need.  Eventually,  multi-cultural teams and disparity is the daily reality of our lives. The Generation Gap is as wide as the successive version of the phone you possess!

The youth is our hope, our dream and our investment for building a sustainable future. And to this effect, we need to encourage our children to be grounded in ‘Humanities’ as it will give wings to their imagination, sensitivity to their aspiration, for an effective yet equitable world in the near future.

- Bhagirathy Jhingran
Email  jhingran@gmail.com

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