“Man, the molecule of society, is the subject of social science.” — Henry Charles Carey
Children of royalty in ancient Greece were taught history, philosophy, logic, rhetoric and war science while the children of gladiators were trained to become good slaves. This educational practice and philosophy was aimed at preparing good warriors and politicians from the royal breed and raising good slaves from the ghettos of slaves. Similarly, in the late 18th century, when Industrial Revolution began in the Western world, technical content and manual practice for students were especially emphasized in the schools. The educational history of other parts of the world in that age narrates the same story of teaching and learning processes in the classroom. However, the 21st century has brought with it new challenges and problems at the national and international levels to be faced by the human race. To tackle these challenges, we need to promote the faculty of social sciences.
The scope of social sciences amongst the youth of our country has been on a declining trend since long. There has been a complete absence of social scientists in our society and this is one of the causes of the perilous circumstances we are facing today. Social ills like poverty, unemployment, use of drugs, social disintegration, etc. are taking heavy toll on our lives yet our youth, at large, has been kept deprived of the education that may impart to them the skills to resolve all these issues. Although, during the Ayub regime, federal and provincial education departments launched a scheme of imparting technical and agricultural education in Pakistani schools to promote carpentry, electric work and agriculture at the secondary level and to fulfil the needs of industry and agriculture, yet it is saddening that many in our country even today do not know that besides natural sciences and commerce, a third academic discipline called social sciences does also exist.
The faculty of social sciences has long been absent from the realm of professional studies for the students. The social sciences cover diverse aspects of society and have a wide range of content studied under the different disciplines such as Anthropology, Economics, Education, History, International Relations, Gender Studies, Law, Media, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology, to name a few. The state of affairs in this regard is so precarious in our country that those pursuing a career in the fields of Literature, History and Philosophy have become a rarity and subjects such as Sociology, Psychology, Economics and Education are in a continuous downfall. Bright students do not want to venture on such subjects professionally and only those, who cannot get admissions in science or business studies — as a last resort — choose this faculty. And the reason why those students who study these subjects are not able to prosper is that they have not been oriented to understand the importance of these disciplines. It is despite the fact that in Western countries, social scientists are consulted at the highest level of policymaking but in Pakistan they are considered lesser beings.
One major reason for this lack of giving due consideration to the importance of social sciences is the low level of job opportunities for these fields. Secondly, our education system does not highlight the importance of these subjects as vital to our society. In our schools and colleges, these subjects are taught at matriculation or intermediate levels but only as secondary subjects; usually for students who are not bright in their studies.
The third biggest reason is parents’ pressure on their kids to opt only some specific subjects. Considering this domain a social taboo, parents are more inclined to send their children to business, engineering or medical schools rather than having their children study arts or humanities. This is a short-sighted thinking as many of us do not realise the importance of social thinkers. That’s why our society faces a fundamental lack of ideology.
Moreover, research in social sciences in Pakistan is also far behind other disciplines. Lack of financial resources, social and cultural constraints, transportation and sometimes faculty’s own handicaps hold back the students from undertaking even small research projects. However, in general, lack of interest and less encouraging environment for research in social sciences, as evident from a meagre output of research papers published in professional journals in the country or abroad, discourage the academicians from aggressively pursuing even those research projects that can bring external resources to the universities. Career of a researcher is less attractive for many reasons; for example, lack of incentives and alternatives coupled with the low value attached to the social sciences. Another explanation given by social scientists for the current state of research in social sciences in the country is the absence of a culture that promotes sharing and discussing the themes of common interest through frequent academic and research interactions through substantive seminars and conferences. This lack of research culture has been associated with the intolerance prevailing in society, as well as lack of exchange of ideas, freedom of expression and indigenous research. To bring social sciences at par with other disciplines, social scientists have to work on new ideas, concepts and methodologies. Moreover, the academia should participate in the task of liberating their society from inhuman and enslaving presuppositions and reconstruct the discipline of Philosophy within a broad religio-humanistic framework.
Ignoring the significance of social sciences in the field of academia have had disastrous consequences, and the state and society of Pakistan, by and large, have paid dearly for the neglect of the social sciences. The cumulative impact of this neglect is felt in terms of the declining quality of the state apparatus and diminishing social values. Without a vibrant rational tradition in the social sciences, the theoretical perspectives and empirical research upon which sound national and regional level policymaking ought to rest is inadequate. A regular and meaningful discourse among scholars of various disciplines of the social sciences is essential to forge an intellectually coherent and action-oriented research agenda.
Promotion of research in the field of social sciences could play a major role in the social and economic development of the country while also contributing to peace and harmony. The social sciences discipline has long remained an extremely neglected and mistreated subject area in Pakistan. Our present complex policy, security, societal, local and regional challenges demand a great deal of scientific investigation through high quality and cutting-edge research and it is possible only through the promotion of social sciences.