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Monday, December 22, 2014

Can I study History in 11th class?

My daughter is in 10th class, and a few months ago, we asked her what she would like to study in the 11th class. And she replied with the question that is the title of this blog.

It seems a simple enough question with a simple, obvious answer. Of course, you should study what interests you. And we have seen her interest in history. I can sit with her and watch history videos on Khan Academy. She had attended all lectures given by the famous historian and indologist, Michel Danino, who visited IIT Kanpur for the previous semester. She had gone on a trip to Dholavira last year to see the largest Harappan site in India.

But there was one small issue. We wanted her to study in a school where it is not assumed that only those students who did not get admission to science or commerce streams study arts and humanities. So the search for the school started, and it wasn't an easy search. Other than perhaps in Delhi, there are hardly any places where this condition would hold. So eventually, we dropped this condition, and said that any school which has a CBSE affiliation (since she has been in CBSE schools for the first 10 years), and has history in 11th class, and is considered a good school overall would do, and of course, we will search for the school only in cities where rest of the family would be willing to shift as well.

And, this is when it became frustrating. The number of schools which offer arts and humanities subjects in 11th class is abysmally small. I had heard all along that we have a serious shortage of students interested in science, and that is why DST spends a huge amount of money on the INSPIRE program, that is why we opened so many IISERs at huge cost. I guess I wanted to believe the propaganda of my colleagues. It has turned out to be completely different. Everyone wants to study science, and no one really wants to study subjects such as history, psychology, etc.

I tried to ask around. We still have a very large number of students doing Bachelors of Arts. Why is this not getting reflected in the enrollments in 11th and 12th classes. And that is when I heard the following explanation.

OK. So you are interested in history. You should study history at the college level, why would you want to study history at the school level. You are interested, that is not good enough reason. You first have to secure admission at a good history program at the college level, and remember to secure that admission, they will not look at whether you have studied history at the 12th class level. Your total marks will get counted. So the best thing would be to study subjects that are hugely scoring, and over a period of time, science subjects have become hugely scoring. And since in that history class at the college level, 90% of the students would not have done history in the 11th and 12th class levels, the college and the university have no option but to follow a curriculum that assumes that you have done no history in school. So, if you study history in school, you get no benefit (like being able to do more advanced courses) at all at the college level. You just repeat everything there.

So unlike science and engineering programs which require one to study science subjects at the 12th class level, history programs do not have any such requirement, and smart kids and parents have figured that one should not study subjects based on interest but based on their scoring potential.

Of course, my daughter wants to study history just because she likes it and has not yet decided that she really would take up history at the college level, and hence the above suggestion that she just takes up scoring subjects (read, science) and delay her interests by two years is not entirely satisfactory.

Now that I am getting more interested in school education, I am realizing that the problems of school education are worse than the problems of technical education that I have so far been writing about.