Trying to understand why SS couldn’t position itself especially in a place like Kashmir
Does science need philosophy? Or its practicality and pragmatism have outshined social sciences (SSs). The tussle between Social Sciences (SS) and natural sciences (NS) has always been there but the latter has achieved much consideration and success. With scientific and technological advancements, the traditional system of education has undergone a great transformation. This transformation, on one hand, has succeeded in challenging the old age values and on the other hand it has failed to repress the predominance which a few disciplines enjoy over others. In comparison to NS, SS has received a step motherly treatment across societies, Kashmir being no exception. SS has neither matured as an academic discipline nor produced cutting edge research over the decades.
While SS is still considered an oxymoron, it has struggled for reverence. The patriarchal mind set of our society has also accorded inequitable status to SS because societies associate it more with girls than boys. This patriarchal prism of weighing women based on subject selection has resulted in the reduction of “women in science” paradigm. According to a report carried by UNESCO, there is less than 30% of the women population in the world that are in the field of research. UNESCO says, that many studies that have found out women in STEM publish less, if they do, are paid less and are unlikely to progress more than men.
When it comes to SS, the percentage is satisfying supplementing to that fact that we just mentioned above though it varies place to place, there are multiplicity of factors why women in the first place are not sent to schools, be it cultural, financial, patriarchal or even religion. SS are often accused of being predictive, its disciplines are not perceived as marketable and profit oriented in comparison to NS like medicine and engineering. SS disciplines are viewed as mostly containing bookish knowledge with no practical application to life and which can be marketed with note memorization.
State of SS in Kashmir is undervalued. And why is it so?
There are reasons why SS couldn’t position itself especially in a place like Kashmir.
First, in the initial years when students step towards higher education, the first thing they hear, if they’re good at studies, take up medicals otherwise are advised to take up SSs. This hierarchy has bedraggled our educational system and somehow instilled a belief that SS is for incapable students. The screwed sense of weighing people based on the choices they make while opting for SSs has been a challenge especially to those students who are not in the line of so called “bright student category”.The societal response to these students has been underwhelming due to which they not only succumb to pressures but opt for the subjects they don’t want to pursue in. The age old narrative that SS are being opted and meant for not so bright students who either are socially and economically underprivileged and secure less marks/grades in the school education. This norm creates negative thinking and develop inferiority complex among SS students at the very first stage. Likewise NS are considered as domain of bright students who get good grades in exams even if some get through it by cramming certain notes.
Second, the working of state has strongly impacted the evolution of SS in Kashmir. They have not given due consideration towards SS. It has been a victim of government apathy in terms of fund allocation or drafting of the policies. Likewise due to the non-availability of jobs in SS, students are afraid to take up these subjects. As government has failed to allocate ample job opportunities to SS due to which countless men in the vale are looking out for jobs and struggling each day. Recently, an academic (name withheld) posted a stimulating observation on his Facebook timeline: “Every year a few hundred students acquire degrees in social sciences in J&K within the state and also from Indian universities (no to talk of foreign universities). The question is why do these students offer social sciences for their studies? What happens to them after they exit the system with degrees (PhDs & even Post-Doctoral Degrees)? What is the exact use of their degrees in the existing job market? Do we really have a job market? And what kind of orientations do we get from their formal learning of the discipline as we enter the public realm as an unemployed youth? I believe these are some of the crucial, and yet completely neglected questions that the community of social sciences teachers/experts needs to attend on an urgent basis in Kashmir at a more practical level. Only collective reflections on these questions may help us to redesign a few intelligent and better courses in social sciences. Perhaps that would make our students confident entrants in the present job market.”
Third, the kind of research that’s been done in Kashmir has contributed little to the development of political, social, and economical processes. In the state universities the prominence and power is more oriented towards NS. They have always enjoyed an upper hand over all the non-science subjects. The grants and funds are more science-driven. Due to changing patterns in life style and education, pursuing SS is considered as unproductive, and having very less utility in market as compared to other streams like sciences and technology.
The state policymakers have failed to coup up with new realities and the changing archetype in SS and to bring new scientific changes viz SS, like in the developed world. Even if we take the example of India, the institutions like JNU, DU, IITs, and TISS have changed the face of Indian social sciences in the country by giving much importance to the subjects. And this is being done by subject experts, quality research and above all the proper liberal funding to complete the projects.
What needs to be done?
Science, when it comes to practicality, has offered and progressed more. The prestige and power science has proven over non science entities cannot be negated. But it doesn’t mean SS must be fortified to combat non-science entities. We must recognize SS as a subject that’s second to none. Despite of its weaknesses it can be applied wisely because it defines the orders and patterns of the society, human behavior, political and economic crisis. It is important for SSsto position itself not only as successful discipline but also as a means to the development of changing phenomenon.
It is time to facilitate the understanding of SS subjects among students in schools, colleges and universities and provide ample opportunities to those who want to pursue them. Our society is prone to many socio – political and economic challenges. This calls for students to become active social enquiries to combat such challenges.
Besides, government should actively involve social scientist in formulating governmental policies which can provide impetus to discipline of SSs. The educational institutions in Kashmir should go beyond conventional way of teaching and research in SS and must adopt interdisciplinary approach by integrating concepts, techniques, and theories of different disciplines of SS to solve problems in Kashmiri society.
Similarly state should establish guidance and counseling centers to properly guide students pertaining to their educational, vocational and career choices. Though there are some centers in the universities but they are much needed at the school or college level, because we do know how our children are forced into medicals even if they are not interested.
Instead of becoming an asset they end up being a liability both for family and society. Likewise we are in dire need of subject experts, faculties, scholars, and students who can make serious efforts to discuss problems related to SS in Kashmir.
The first success is obviously to recognize the problem only then we can improve our teaching, learning, and research in subjects like SS. Also the state institutions and society at large must come forward to encourage teaching and research in SS so that social scientists can contribute in the respective fields. But at the same time the government must also create job avenues both in the public and private sector for the degree holders so that we can utilize their knowledge and research for a better tomorrow. But when is the only question?
Authors are PhD scholars in Social Sciences