India’s students are said to be some of the cleverest in the world. They win accolades in science, computers, and IT. However, the percentage of India’s students studying humanities abroad is much less than that of students studying the sciences. None of those students can make much of an impact among their peers from other countries, mainly because they are not adequately prepared to study at the same level. The study of languages, literature, history and other humanities is given woefully little attention in this country.
What does it say about a country when it is known for its IITs more than for the study of its rich and vibrant history and culture?
This is not to say that science doesn’t have its place. Without the developments in science and technology so far, mankind would probably still be making flames from two pieces of stone and would be dying of the common cold. People on different continents would not even know that others like them existed.
In science, everything is clear cut, based on definite results. Subjects in the humanities, like the Languages or Philosophy, however, require a certain flexibility of mind, an ability to think beyond set conventions and theories.
Studying a subject as ambiguous and unclear as philosophy requires a definite area in the gray areas of life, a desire to explore the thoughts, motives and emotions that make human beings behave the way they do. Chemistry works on certain set formulae, where two or more elements combine to form a third compound; a result which is predictable. In an area of the humanities, the result can never completely be foreseen.
Science makes certain things like cloning, a reality. Philosophy, Religion Studies, subjects related to ethics and morality, questions whether cloning is right, or wrong.
In this world, there must always be a balance. Good and bad, Right and Wrong, Black and White, God and Satan. Even a slight tilt of the scales can overturn the entire equation. Science must be balanced by the arts.
India wants to grow. It is growing at a rapid pace already. Most of this growth is due the IT sector and Management. The IITs figure in the list of the world’s best educational institutions. There are plenty of colleges dedicated to science and commerce, springing up everywhere. At the same time, the number of language institutes, museums and art galleries is very small.
The humanities are an important aspect of a person’s education. One learns, along with how to do something, the ethical worth of that action; whether it is morally right to perform that action. The humanities go beyond the scientific facts and, true to their name, explore the human aspect.
One way to ensure that the humanities are not neglected would be to revise the current curriculum of arts in educational institutions around the country. Teachers who believe in their subject, who like it and are interested in it can be hired. If a teacher does not love her subject, her students will not like it either. The syllabus should be brought up to the standards of education outside India. Simply having world class institutions dedicated to science and engineering is not fair. Institutions dedicated to the study of languages, performing and fine arts should be further established
There are some institutions which are already taking a step forward, e.g., IIT Powai has a large humanities department. It’s a welcome change. Maybe, hopefully, more will follow.