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Science, Commerce, Or Something Completely Different?

Science, Commerce, Or Something Completely Different?

October 06, 2011

When will India begin to realize the benefits of the Arts?

There used to be a time when the Arts was the haunt of the awe-inspiring. Being a Bachelor of Arts was a wonderful thing. R.K. Narayan wrote books about you. But today if you commit the sacrilege of snubbing Science and Commerce, this is what most of your interactions sound like:

You: I’m taking Arts.

Random person: Since when do you draw?

Y: I’m taking Arts.

RP: You like History! (Notice that it is an accusation).

Y: I’m taking Arts.

RP: Oh, I’m so sorry. Did you fail?

I’m glad India invented meditation. All you can do after going through the above is take a deep breath, tell yourself it doesn’t matter, and meditate. Although for the last conversation counting to ten is a better option, considering that most sane people do not want murder on their hands.

If I am not mistaken, there was a proposal a few years ago to do away with Humanities altogether. The Times of India ran a View-Counterview piece on it (which in itself says a lot) and the counterview suggested that Arts classrooms across the country were lying vacant (which is not true), and that as a nation looking to reduce unemployment, we must scrap courses that do not guarantee jobs. Sure, why does India need psychologists and lawyers and economists and historians? We should create an entire country full of doctors and engineers (and possibly call centre people) and rule the world.

It’s high time we stopped getting unnerved at the mention of Arts.
Encouraging Arts education will go a long way in helping India cope with her ever-changing needs. For example, there is a severe shortage of trained psychologists while depression levels keep rising. I would also say that there is a severe shortage of good journalists, but that is a matter of opinion.

It’s still relatively easier for people opting for courses like Economics and Law. Worse off than them are people who opt for languages, and I wonder how the brave souls who go for Fine Arts survive. They’re almost outcasts. Aunties wrinkle their noses and lament about how the kid’s family would get by after the father retired.

A broader outlook towards education as an end in itself, and not just a means to get a job, could help. I understand that this is easier said than done, unemployment and poverty levels being what they are, but subjects in Arts do not only educate and entertain: they provide many opportunities to earn. What is required is a willingness to take risks, more favorable conditions for entrepreneurship, and most importantly, a change in attitudes.

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  • Rajpriya
    04.12.11 11:06 AM
    @Jai, just to take this up matter purely as a subject for discussion, I quote two sentences penned down by you, – {that the choice of subjects for education is based on the worries of Aunties’ of how the kid’s family would get by after Daddy retires} – is one that starts looking into the economic aspect of a family.

    A kid starts his life in school forced constantly by parents which way to go to be successful in life. I know of many parents who dream of their children going abroad to earn good money - to be doctors, engineers or many other professions that would provide stable employment with of lots of money.

    The dream come true signifies and has created the new class of people the NRIs.

    {“A broader outlook towards education as an end in itself, and not just a means to get a job, could help.”}

    Why then would the Aunty wrinkle her nose if her broader outlook were not about a job? To follow any line of education is something based on aptitudes? How early can aptitudes be detected in a kid’s formation years into an adult?

    A child is not only spanked for jumping around, they are spanked with dreams of parents too. I know of families who boast they have all their children in the United States or other parts of this earth.

    The broader outlook towards education as an end in itself would not work in an over populated India. The cause of unemployment and the escalating poverty level is a by-product of over population. Getting a job is everything for survival and that alone can reduce poverty levels.
    Failing is taboo in India. I am certain you have read enough news about suicides after someone failed exams or could not find employment.
    We need to create avenues for good employment and dignity of labour. Most NRIs need Ayahs in India, what they could not dream of in foreign countries. Then again countries Like China and India enjoy at least for the time being, an economic success because of cheap labour and economic woes of western countries having to deal with ever rising cost of labour.

    Do not brush a side that India’s cheap labour is its greatest asset at the moment. It is important to remember this could and would change in the future.

    If everyone in India graduated and seek to go abroad to work, the production lines of industries in India would come to a standstill.
    Most western countries have growing unemployment problems of their own. You can see why young Australians are starting a row over migrant employees. We start blaming other nations of discrimination of migrants when there are plenty of things that can be put in our own country.

    We need to vote strategists and thinkers into legislation who could infuse new blood into many aspects to keep India to steer it forwards not mere politicians who could lead us to no where.

    Do we NRIs just come back to enjoy good food and living with our dollars, £s and Euros and very concerned in what kind of apartments or houses we live in and make them points for discussion?

    We all say loud, we come back because we love our country but keep complaining what all is wrong in India. We must use our education and our experiences abroad collectively to create a kind of revolution to turn around in India using this very forum.

    Give life to Madame Defarge the fictional character in the tale of two cities that played a decisive role in overthrowing the power of aristocracy in France.

    A potential for change is the need of the hour and never mind how many times we would fail in our attempts.
  • Jaai
    09.10.11 01:47 PM
    Oh, and this could be considered spamming my own post, but I forgot to thank you. :P
  • Jaai
    09.10.11 01:45 PM
    I agree, there's no point at looking at mass employment with Arts. While mediocrity doesn't reward, and all the 'smart' people want to take science, there really is no hope. If you can't wean them away from Applied Sciences to Pure Sciences, the prospects of asking them to study Humanities are even bleaker. But if you're willing to forgo campus placements, Arts could offer very good opportunities.
    Many people don't study History with Chemistry because then you're on neither side, and an expert in nothing.
    I've said this before, but the syllabus, especially for History, has changed drastically. You could read some of the new CBSE books: they're all everyone's been dreaming of.
    And yeah, I've gone through the whole 'take science till twelfth so you at least have an option' (in relation to Anne John). I don't even have the will to argue with that logic.
  • Joseph James
    Joseph James
    08.10.11 05:20 AM
    @ Jaai Vipra: Being in a hurry to key in my kneejerk reaction to your write up, I forgot to congratulate you on your excellent selection of topics for both the posts so far. ‘Private coaching’ and ‘Loss of interest in Humanities’ are, to use a cliché, both burning topics of the day. Education, in general, could do with some serious thinking. And your efforts in that direction need to be appreciated.
    I do agree with the general tone of your post. However, I would like to clarify a few points:-
    a) You suggest, rather unconvincingly, that a degree in humanities could provide many opportunities to earn. It is pretty hard to agree with that. As you have rightly commented, mediocrity won’t take you anywhere in arts. Not so in Science/commerce stream, where even mediocrity is pretty lucrative.
    b) The whole approach towards humanities needs a drastic overhaul. Take history, for instance. It has to be taught more scientifically, honestly and interestingly. History becomes interesting when one is taught several viewpoints and interpretations. Unfortunately, the course content is often dictated by the government of the day, who impose a line that best suits their ideology.
    c) The separation of humanities from Sciences is artificial and unnecessary. It is based on the false premise that a student can’t cope with both. Today’s generation has a versatile mind. So, why can’t we have a combination of English Literature and Chemistry, Physics and History or Mathematics and Economics? In fact the choice must be left to the students. Incidentally some institutes are already moving in this direction. This will put an end to the whole issue.
    d) Even as you lament the neglect of humanities, there is another pernicious tendency rearing its ugly head. Most students, especially the brilliant ones, prefer the more lucrative Applied Sciences/ Technology to Pure Sciences. What they don’t realize is that there can’t be technology without pure Sciences. While there is a mad rush towards IITs and NITs, the IISERs (which promote research in pure sciences) are unable to woo any serious talent.
    e) You offered some sane advice to Anne John. She can still do her BA in English lit., sitting at home and without breaking into a sweat. But could she have taken an Engineering Degree, if she had done her B.A. first?
  • Jaai Vipra
    Jaai Vipra
    06.10.11 05:34 PM
    Thank you, Vidhya and Neetha!
    @Joseph: I think what you're describing is a broader problem of quality higher education. St. Stephen's and SRCC would then be on the same level: it's a similar trend in all the streams, excellent education being available in only a few top colleges.
    And the syllabus has changed a lot. You can see that a lot of thought has gone into it. Yes, parents wouldn't dare. But like I said, it's about risk taking. Then again Humanities is only an option if you're really interested in it and believe you can do well. Mediocrity doesn't get you anywhere at all. Thank you!

    Anne, you can still do the BA! Then you'll have a rather...versatile resume. :P
  • Anne John
    Anne John
    06.10.11 03:18 PM
    I sooo agree with you Jaai! When I got admission in a prestigious college for BA Eng Lit, no one supported me. All they said was that it's a useless thing to study - doesn't matter if I was interested or not. I was made to join Engineering and regret that till today. Sheesh!
  • Joseph James
    Joseph James
    06.10.11 11:52 AM
    A broader outlook towards education as an end itself and not as a means to get a job is a luxury most 'APL' Indians (those who spend more than Rs.32 per day!) simply can't afford.
    Humanities is the last choice in the educational market. After the introduction of CCE by CBSE, getting a high CGPA in Std. X has become easier. Higher CGPAs mean, greater exodus to the science streams. Earlier, those who failed to make the cutoff for science or commerce had no choice but to opt for humanities. Ironically, there is no cutoff for Arts. In most states, there isn't a decent Arts college. In schools, it has become extremely difficult to get persons to teach languages/ social science, while there is no dearth of excellent science teachers. Even in the flourishing and lucrative coaching market, you wrote about in the previous post, the language/social science teachers are an unwanted lot.
    As far as Humanities are concerned, we've got into a vicious circle. Students refuse to opt for humanities blaming poor faculty for it. And since there are no takers for humanities at the +2/graduation level, there is no hope of getting better faculty. If you conduct a survery among psychologists/journalists, you'll porobably find that the more successful ones among them have a science background.
    Of course, things are better off in the metros; it's far more difficult to get into economics in St.Stphen's than any science stream. This is because of the better ambience and course content in these colleges. An average economics/commerce graduate in India has hardly any knowledge of, say, the share market. The syllabus is hopelessly outdated and an Arts degree can't get you any job.
    In such a dismal scenario, which parent will be foolhardy enough to put their child in the Humanities stream? If they do, it's a decision they will regret their whole life.
  • Neetha
    06.10.11 09:50 AM
    so true...
    good work..
  • Vidhya
    06.10.11 08:12 AM
    This is so true. The whole Engineering or medicine as the only choices for a career is getting frustratingly old and seemingly refuses to just die.

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