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Science, Commerce or Humanities?’ — every teenager is asked this question by a nosy, judgmental relative upon entering high school. But not for long. The next generation of school students may finally be spared this traumatic rite of passage of choosing their subject stream in Class 11.

The Narendra Modi-led government’s ambitious National Education Policy (NEP 2020), which completely overhauls the current education system in India, was approved earlier this week. One of the major decisions it takes is to eliminate the ‘rigid’ separation of streams. You can pick and choose the subjects you want — learning history and physics at the same time.

The holy trinity of subject streams in Class 11, with one stream always deemed more divine than the others, have been considered an important step in any Indian student’s life. So much so, that everyone from your great-aunt to your neighbour’s uncle will be interested in the ‘life path’ you choose — because the subjects you choose to study as a 16-year-old ultimately decides the course of your life, obviously. But what they really want to know is whether you were smart enough to get accepted into science, and how many tuition or coaching classes you required, if you did.

At the heart of it, NEP may be considered a bold move to reform a beleaguered education system, but the Ministry of Human Resource Development, or rather the Ministry of Education, missed out a rather crucial detail: Indian parents and their love affair with the science stream.

Is it finally time for this affair to end? Or will this decades-old relationship persevere against all odds?


Also read: NEP finally gives regional language its due. I suffered English-medium school snobbery


A tale of emotional blackmail

It always starts young. You hear about that distant cousin who got into IIT, or that neighbour’s daughter who is trying to crack the AIIMS entrance exam, and by the time you’re 10-years-old, you realise that the gold medal is the science stream that you HAVE to achieve when you get to Class 11 — for your parents. At this point, it is prudent to note that what you want doesn’t really matter.

And the other streams? God no, Commerce or Humanities are not viable options at all. They are what people who don’t score enough in the board exams ‘settle’ for. But who will tell them, ‘MFA (Master of Fine Arts) is the new MBA’.

This may all seem quite dramatic, but one should never undermine Indian parents and their dedication to emotionally blackmail their children to accept one fundamental principle — ‘they know best’. And this is proved when the time comes for choosing your stream.

‘Choosing’ is putting it very kindly. So many children are bullied into the science stream, regardless of whether they have the aptitude for it. If you did not at least try to be an engineer or doctor in India, then you were most definitely not a smart student. Not that teachers, schools, or parents in the country should ever get to decide who is smart or not.

For some like me, who were fortunate enough to convince their parents of the joys of Humanities and the empty promises of Science, life was a tad easier. But the next two years in school were then spent trying to prove to every Tom, Dick and Harry that Humanities was, in fact, not a ‘useless’ stream. This also involved having to endure sympathetic murmurs from other parents, blatant outrage from offended relatives, and the aforementioned emotional blackmail by parents.

Once, a decidedly Tamilian uncle of mine asked me about my future plans and very benevolently gave me two options — “So, what will you study? Computer science or medical?” Sorry, not engineering, that’s a masculine profession.

Could NEP 2020 truly bring an end to this wild rollercoaster that every student has to invariably undergo as part of the ‘Indian high school experience’?


Also read: NEP 2020 is a good document but its real job will be to weed civil servants out of academia


Hope for change

It took 34 years for a change in the education system. So, the rechristened education ministry needs to overhaul at least 34 years, if not more, of the science-stream raga that parents have been dutifully chanting.

It definitely won’t be easy, but it needs to be done. Science, as a stream, has for years encouraged rote learning of supremely complicated concepts, without an emphasis on actual understanding. For most teachers of the stream, it’s an opportunity to mentally harass students so that they, in turn, can prepare for the mental harassment of engineering and medical entrance exams.

The science stream does not offer an understanding of the social world we live in (like in Sociology), the politics of the land we inhabit (that we study in Political Science), discover the wrongs and rights of our past (like in History), and the entire quagmire of the economic system that we study in Economics. These are all extremely important lessons and develop critical thinking skills — something intolerant India really needs.

More importantly, no teenager should have to undergo the whole ‘Sharmaji ka beta in engineering and beti in medical’ argument. It’s irritating, regressive and purely traumatic.

If nothing, the NEP could at least give Indian parents an opportunity to grow up. Or is that wishful thinking?

Views are personal.


Also read: Even China dropped English phobia for economic future. NEP policy needs to learn this


 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Arts maybe not so useful career wise… But it helps our logical thinking and character building which is really important too. But the point of the article is that students shouldn’t be forced… Parents should tell what all r the benefits of certain streams, the subjects in them and then let them choose… After all those who r forced to study science, won’t help our nation… They have to learn with passion and interest. And this thought should be removed that students who study arts gained bad marks in board. Even kids bully each other for taking arts and not science, which is really bad. Everyone has a different potential. (personal thoughts)
    God is great and I m not not an arts student, still in 10th 🙂
    Thanks.

  2. In India we have more Arts colleges than science and commerce. Around 99% of Indian political leaders are from Arts stream. Look into their contribution for India except for corruption and stupid illogical speeches and hate politics what are they doing. They talk about competing with China first make india a. Commerce and science hub country before talking about China. CHINA have large number of business school in their place and here in India our govt wants everyone to depend upon marwaris and gujratis for business sector and expansion of Indian companies abroad. This is not fair.
    Indian politicians hardly knows how to create jobs in India they only can talk senseless thing and no development.

  3. Science and commerce are best. And they contribute in logical thinking and also they help in development of the society unlike the arts is all about illogical thinking. In China they have more business colleges than arts colleges that’s why they are developing so fast. We need science and commerce for development of our society. Chinese President is an engineer passed and look in India Arts degree holders become PM and most of the politicians are also from arts stream . So we have so much stupidity in our country and no development. There are certain subjects like anthropology and other social subjects which are not useful in gaining a proper. If majority of students take arts there won’t be any development in our country like most of the politicians are from arts stream and what they do is only corruption. Engineers in India are now not getting jobs because leaders are all from arts stream who have no idea how to create jobs for students who studied in science or commerce. Politicians only have contributed in govt jobs where mostly arts stream students are required. It is necessary that India develop more science and commerce colleges than arts. Average Arts students end up where they began from or might end up joining politics and talking stupid. We need to develop forward not backward so we need science and commerce students more than Arts. Even ancient religions are popular for their contribution in science and commerce matters not for their radical thoughts of Arts. So we need to have more logical thinking than illogical arts.

  4. Really Indian parents need to grow i am also tried to explain my parents that i don’t want to study from science stream but the most irritating answer comes to me that “you don’t know enough than me” still trying to explain them☹️☹️☹️

  5. Well, I don’t think science stream doesn’t offer an understanding of the social world we live in. I have seen enough science students who have admirable knowledge in politics, political science, history, government policy, economy,…etc these subjects can be learn without a formal education in that specific subject (eg: our politicians)
    But there are post graduates in arts who don’t even have a basic understanding of science and sex education. Ignorance in science may prompt pseudo science and inhibit the rational thinking of generations which in turn results in the poor condition of country.
    I admit that there are pupil compelled to choose science. And that should be change. Let them learn with passion.

  6. The article completely misses the point. Indian parents push their children to learn what has the best chance of livelihood. Ofcourse social sciences are important but it is a privilege of the rich. If you look back in history only and only societies that are rich have been able to do anything meaningful in humanities. Sciences are almost impossible to learn without formal education. Humanities can be “learnt” through experience.
    Let the current generation study sciences so that the future can whatever they want.

  7. It is said that the New Education Policy takes into account RSS’s suggestion to teach children of Indian culture. One may be tempted to ask ‘ Is Indian culture homogeneous rather than heterogeneous.’

  8. Yes its true…those who studied science and medicine are reading this article and are glad that they did not take arts. Otherwise they too would have been writing such useless article instead of doing something economically viable

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