What is Social Science?
Scholars have defined social sciences as "those mental and cultural sciences which deal with the activities of the individual as a member of a group- "They consider all those subjects" which deal with human behaviour in its social and cultural aspects" as social sciences. It is a general lebel to the study of society and human relationships, and any discipline that studies social interaction, society or culture is a social science. However, discipline boundaries are by no means always clear, and there is no agreement upon the disciplines which should be included in the field of social sciences.
The Encyclopedia Americana has included History (man's story), Geography (man and his environment), Political Science (how man governs himself), Economics (how man makes a living), Sociology (man and his relationships with his institutions and other men), Psychology (how man learns and thinks), Anthropology (how man lives and behaves), Criminology (prevention and treatment of social disease), Jurisprudence (man's laws), Philosophy (what man believes), and Religion (sometimes considered as a quasi-social science) in the category of social sciences. On the other hand, the New Encyclopedia Britannica is more specific in including subjects in the category of social science. It considers Sociology, Political Science, and Economics as purely social sciences, whereas in the case of other subjects such as Anthropology, Psychology, Geography, and History, only parts of them are considered as social science. However, the social scientists reject this view, and argue that the horizon of social science has become so wide that it can not be kept restricted only to some traditional subjects. All disciplines related to the social activity of human being are social sciences, including even Law, Statistics and Psychiatry.
History and Present Status
Study of social sciences started in Nepal with the introduction of higher education in 1918. The only social science disciplines taught at the newly opened Tri Chandra College were History and Economics, the other subjects being English, Sanskrit, Mathematics, and Logic. Started with the intermediate level, the college was upgraded to the bachelor's level within five years, but the number of subjects did not increase for many years. It was only in the 1940s, Geography and Political Science (civics in intermediate) were included in the list, to be followed by Psychology and Culture in the 1950s.With the foundation of Tribhuvan University in 1959, the social science disciplines came under the Faculty of Arts, and many new subjects such as Sociology, Population, Journalism, etc. were introduced. In 1972 the faculty was named as the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, as a part of New Education System Plan. The plan gave more emphases on the technical subjects, and the social science disciplines, along with language and literature, were largely neglected. One single institute was created with the responsibility to handle more than two dozen subjects dealing with language and literature, humanities, fine arts, and social sciences, and the budget allocation to this biggest (in terms of students, teachers, number of subjects and campuses) institute was far less than any other technical institute. The subjects were classified into four main streams, and the students were allowed to take not more than one subject from each stream. The classification was made as follows:
In 1987 the Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences, along with other general Institutes (except the technical institutes), is degraded by converting it into a faculty. Unlike the institute deans, the faculty deans were nominated from among the heads of the department to work on part time basis, and they were to look after the academic matters only without any administrative and financial authority. Huge amount of money were/are sanctioned for the technical institutes through the Nepal government and foreign agencies, but the general faculties suffered a lot in the lack of adequate budget. From 1994 the faculty deans are nominated on full time basis, but their power and functions remained almost the same.From 1985 onwards, new universities are opened with an objective to lessen the burden of the only university of the country i.e. Tribhuvan University; and within ten years, four new universities- Nepal Sanskrit (formerly Mahendra), Kathmandu, Purvanchal, and Pokhara- are established. Nepal Sanskrit University has introduced some disciplines on social sciences, but only as a supplement to its main subject i.e. Sanskrit. Purvanchal and Pokhara Universities have become merely affiliating institutions giving affiliation only to the technical subjects, mostly inside the Kathmandu Valley. Kathmandu University is also mainly related to technical and professional subjects, though it has introduced subjects like development studies and social work in one or two campuses. By 2005, one more university is added in the list and that is Lumbini Buddhist University. But nobody knows what it is doing since its inception. Instead, the Tribhuvan University is successfully launching Buddhist Studies program at bachelor's, master's, and post graduate diploma levels, with a number of research students working for Ph.D. on Buddhist culture, philosophy, and religion.
Since Tribhuvan University is the only academic institution having all the social science disciplines from intermediate to doctorate level, there is mounted pressure on it to introduce new subjects or components partly to meet the competitive academic standard, and also to provide better job opportunities to the degree holders. Under such a situation, the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences has become such a big faculty with numerous subjects but with very limited fund that it has to limit the choice of subjects under a strict grouping system, which led to the great inconvenience to the students on the one hand, and the virtual collapse of many social science disciplines at the cost of one or two subjects on the other.
Problem and Solution
The main problem confronting the social science disciplines today is the considerable decrease in the number of students in these subjects. Many campuses have no students or very few students in subjects like History, Culture (NeHCA), Geography, Psychology, and Political Science, and only few subjects notably Economics, Sociology/Anthropology, and Journalism are popular in those campuses. Students complain that most of the social science disciplines are practically of no use in governmental and non-governmental sectors, since they are based mainly on traditional theories and practices. The concerned governmental and non-governmental organisations also argue that most of the social science graduates have not been able to cope with modern techniques and methodology. Hence, the main responsibility to make social science disciplines popular and useful lies on Tribhuvan University which produces numerous manpower on social science every year to be absorbed in administrative, educational and social sectors of governmental and non-governmental organisations.Tribhuvan University has organised three comprehensive seminars on social sciences in 1973, 1983 and 1995, and numerous workshops and inter-action programs in the past covering almost all the subjects relating to social sciences. A number of recommendations are made through these seminars and workshops, and one vital point raised is the lack of fund. A demand is always made for sufficient funding to provide Ph.D. fellowships, conduct research projects, purchase international journals, develop interactions with the concerned departments of foreign universities, and initiate the preparation of standard text books and reference materials. It is true that most of the social science disciplines are suffering a lot because of the lack of adequate fund. But, things can be improved by other means too, and I want to concentrate myself in offering some "practical" suggestions.
The above mentioned suggestions are purely my personal views. One may differ with me on several points, and I may be wrong on those points. I admit, I am not a specialist on social science, nor have I studied social science as a separate discipline. I am a history teacher, and all I know about social science is in relation with the historical studies. But my experience as the dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences for more than eight years, and my involvement in a number of academic organs within the university system has provoked me to offer a few "practical" suggestions, which I did in the foregoing pages. I welcome and appreciate valuable criticism, comments, or suggestions.