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Sidelined and unloved Social Science

Ayesha Habib,

In recent years STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) sciences
have received the most attention, investment and support from government,
universities etc, while these subjects are no doubt important, the importance of
social sciences should not be ignored. In fact in areas the justice system,
political system and development, social sciences is extremely important and
necessary. While for many people the words “social sciences” may conjure up
images of social workers or teachers, this is a gross misunderstanding of the
range of roles available within this discipline, as well as impact that it can have on the wider state. In general, social sciences focus on the study of society and the relationships among individuals within society. Social sciences covers a wide spectrum of subjects, including economic, political science, sociology, history, archaeology, anthropology and law. But the policy makers and state are never interested in any examinations other than what provides tactical solutions for economic policies. Hence we ignore all other social sciences disciplines except the economic, which is given more attention in education sector, in Universities or colleges.
Our youth and government has taken a view that education is about generating a
short time profit. For years, tertiary education policy has sought to create and
expand a market place where the learning opportunities necessary to deliver
such profits are supplied and purchased. One of the consequences of this is that
subjects such as social sciences are judged by what contribution they made to
increasing productivity and employ-ability. When students and government/state
focus on economic impact as the measure of what a good education looks like,
they risks looking past what social sciences and humanities offer. Social
sciences have come under a great pressure both from funding cuts and
expansion of the education market place. Being a social scientist and an
educationist I have surveyed the views of some social scientists in Azad Jammu
and Kashmir, they believe that the main problem is that while government is
ignoring or undervaluing the social sciences, it is also controlling what social scientists do. They also said that Higher Education Commission, since its inception had always allocated the lion’s share in the funding for the natural science whereas sidelined the social sciences. The dramatic increase of PhDs and postdoctoral fellowships in the natural science disciplines could possibly be due to this support.
One of the reason the pressure on social sciences has been brought to bear is
that government of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir tend to ignore the fact we only
learn to do the things well when we learn to do them critically. Education is not about rote learning. It is about developing the ability to think critically, reason and question. To be successful, a broad awareness and understanding of humanity is essential. Teaching people to assess evidence critically and engage
in debate about our future direction is the lifeblood of democracy. It requires
knowledge of history, an understanding of our place in the world and as a part
of the conflict region, to other cultures, the ability to imagine the kind of future we want especially when we are concerned about the future of our state
Kashmir. In other words, its value is not in generating profit, but its subjectivity, as understanding of other cultures, other people and other times.
But with preponderance of misinformation from governments and other
industries, the ability to think and question has never been more important. One
of the hallmarks of the societal progress is the ability to stop and critically
analysis what is happening around. Education is not about learning to be right,
but learning by thinking through idea, and testing them in debate. STEM
subjects do of course have a vital role to play in providing evidence for such
debate. However where they fails is its narrowing of thought and tendency to
desirable problems as somehow separate from complex social systems. As such
scientific analysis is not made to answer the kind of questions a humanities and
social sciences graduates and professionals with knowledge of society, history
or religion might ask.
Promoting natural sciences and engineering subjects has been the prime focus
of not only the government and policy makers, but also the parents’ a0nd the
wider society. All the relevant authorities, who are deciding the future of the
general public and the students, be it the Vice Chancellors, Secretaries
Education of Kashmir or the Chairman H.E.C, should be well aware that the
choice between the STEM and the social sciences is really a false one; society
needs people trained in both. In order to formulate effective solutions for
society and to understand the implications of the suggested solutions, a mix of
both STEM and social sciences will be required. This is not the time when a
single discipline can stand alone, walled off from the outside.
The President/ the Chancellor of University of Azad Jammu & Kashmir, has
always seen emphasizing and making vows at many forums on the development
of the state by promoting tourism but honorable President should know the fact
that without any findings and any use ethnographic research the process of
development can be at risk. Kashmir due to its political issues has already
remained an undermine research area in Pakistan. After 2005 catastrophic earth
quake the structure of the society changed very vastly. The marriage practices,
kinship, cultural and religious practices, political structure and the overall
behavior of the people of the state changed immensely. No scientific study has
been carried out on these segments. Social sciences are expected to help
governments by addressing these important social and political challenges
armed with the knowledge on the behavior, needs, attitudes, opinions and
motivations of a population.
Government should also encourage students to adopt social sciences at school
level, and also provide incentives to scholars to do research on the above
mentioned issues in a collaboration with tourism, health and education
industries. Social science research Council should be established for funding
projects and research support. And for this I don’t blame the government alone,
the social scientists should realize that at least some of the responsibility for achieving general government support and specific funding rests on them. They cannot expect support just to come to them as of right. Members of government and higher civil servants are mostly non-scientists and it is necessary for social scientists to go out and explain the significance of their work and field by building up a climate of support. In general H.E.C should stop playing a Step mother role towards social sciences by allocating equal budget to both the sciences. Natural sciences are important but cannot and should not be nurtured at the cost of the social sciences. A society that loses the capacity of introspection eventually weakens from within. In such situations, material gains and popularity of liberal policies may bring some economic development for
time being but will only produce a weak society.

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