IN THE EIGHTH AND NINTH GRADES, Sajan Duwal was fascinated by history, especially the Rana era that shaped modern Nepal and World War II that shaped the world.
Friday as he waited outside the office of the controller of
examinations at Bhaktapur for his school leaving certificate results, he
was thinking about leaving history behind and pursuing business studies
in Plus Two.
"Because a degree in history will get me nowhere," Duwal said.
is not alone in thinking that. The number of students studying history
in the intermediate and higher levels has been on a steady decline for
the past few years.
believe the reason lies in history being a non-lucrative degree. Others
suggest that it is the non-reflective nature of the history departments
Some historians are worried that this dearth of |academic historians will hurt critical historiography on Nepal.
Others do not find it as disconcerting, as historical works continue to be produced from beyond history departments.
to the Higher Secondary Education Board (HSEB), only 270 Grade XI
students, out of a total of 263,491 students, appeared for history exams
last year. Three years ago, the number was almost four-fold.
to the State of History Education and Research in Nepal published by
Martin Chautari in early 2014, 17 students were enrolled in MA in
History in the first year at Tribhuvan University. A year before the
number was 92.
number of PhD dissertations in history submitted to the university has
also remained comparatively low. In its 44 years, the TU Central
Department of History has received only 63 PhD dissertations - less than
two per year on an average.
Then, there are allegations that most of these theses are written by someone else for a small fee.
the book, the head of the Central Department of History, Bijaya Kumar
Manandhar, said that the declining number of history graduates and
post-graduates was linked to the decreasing number of students in the
higher secondary level.
Plus Two system, he believes, does not promote history and other
humanities and arts degrees as it does science and management.
HSEB member secretary Bhim Lal Gurung disagrees, saying that the board cannot thrust history on students.
the students and their parents do not see market prospects in history
studies, the students will not enroll in the subject," Gurung said.
historians disagree with both of these arguments, and view the decline
as an inevitable consequence of "decades of systemic assault on arts,
humanities and social sciences".
career prospects for graduates of arts, humanities and social sciences
have always been dire, as the stated objective of education in the
country has been to produce skilled human resources. The system, they
say, has been discriminating between what it considers skilled and
we've failed both in producing globally competitive technical manpower
and in understanding ourselves and our country," said Ramesh Dhungel, a
history researcher and professor at TU. "And when we fail to write our
own history, outsiders will write it for us."
few of the famous books written by foreigners include "Nepal: Strategy
for Survival" by Leo E Rose, which was published in 1971, "Dangerous
Wives and Sacred Sisters" by Lynn Bennet (1983), and "Fluid Boundaries:
Forming and transforming identity in Nepal" by William F Fisher (2001).
writers from backgrounds other than history have also been publishing
books on the country ’s history, especially on its contemporary
political accounts. Examples are Manjushree Thapa's "Forget Kathmandu"
(2005), Sudheer Sharma's "Prayogshala" (2013) and Prashant Jha's debut
"Battles of the New Republic" (2014).
is fine, but we still need people who can define and critically analyse
our history. Someone trained. Someone willing to study historical
variables behind an event," Dhungel said.