University Education: Failing to be Human?


Himalayan News Service

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A university is the mirror of a society’s development and change. But it can reflect the status of change and progress of a nation only if the education it imparts engages its products effectively. If it cannot deliver what is expected and delivers what is not, the progressive curve heads down.
Back in 1972, Nepal introduced a modified, west-influenced and a new education plan trying to focus on demand and supply of the educated manpower. Because it was allegedly ‘of the Panchayat, by the Panchayat, and for the Panchayat,’ an unsuccessful but highly acclaimed pro-democratic movement devoured it up because it did not fit in the traditional mindset of the pro-democratic forces. Political forces miscalculated it and alleged that it was going to do good only to the partyless political system introduced by the king.
Lack of coordination between the manpower producer, the university, and the government, more particularly the National Planning Commission, has caused a state of confusion and has cost the nation dearly. General (non-technical) faculties of our university produced thousands of graduates over the decades and this performance has done one good service to the nation: raising the literacy rate of the country. Besides this, a small portion of these graduates filled in the administrative positions there is nothing much to be proud of. Yet, universities such as the Tribhuvan, experienced a large number of enrolment in Humanities and Social Sciences. Until recently, that is.
Today, the trend at TU and other universities is totally different. There is a very disturbing tendency in the faculty of Humanities and some Social Sciences. It is more so in the Humanities. Is the TU, the nation’s first higher education institution aware of this trend and its long-term consequences? This is a very serious question.
Faculty Trend
This country, and any country and culture for that matter, needs educated manpower to work in the field of administration, academia such as language, literature, history, culture, among others. But the latest enrolment data at TU and other universities show that there is growing trend to ignore these areas and go for other faculties such as Management. Even Law is getting more popular now than in the past. These two areas are equally important; there is no doubt about that. This country is suffering from bad management culture. Also, we need our younger generation well versed in the country’s law its need in society. But, again, why is there so much indifferent attitude towards Humanities?
There was a time when the departments of Nepalese History, Culture and Archaeology in few campuses outside Kathmandu such as Pokhara, Bhairahawa, Biratnagar, Dharan, Palpa, Butwal, and Bhadrapur used to have several sections amounting to even ten in some of them. Even in graduate level there were sections. Four campuses in Kathmandu used to have thousands of students at the certificate level and hundreds at graduate level. History departments were also had large numbers. The growing number of students outside Kathmandu forced TU to upgrade the graduate programs of some campuses to post-graduate levels in History as well as Culture. Today, though, these programs are suffering from the indifference syndrome.
At TU Kirtipur, some Humanities faculties such as history and languages are virtually at the verge of collapse. This is because the enrolment at the lower level is highly decreased in history, culture and languages. The enrolment records in the last five years or so show that the situation in these areas is serious. Obviously, students today want their graduate papers in areas that can bring them job and satisfaction. Thinking from that angle, they are not to blame. But long-term effect of this indifference towards Humanities will be devastating, to say the least.
Once out from the university, the graduate need to sell their paper and enter the practical life. Humanities have not been very favorite cakes in the job market. Thus looking from the surface the distraction in these areas of study could be called logical. But in reality the country is always in need of scholars, researchers, and committed scholars to give the society a humanitarian face, a national face. Our history, our culture and traditions, our languages and literary traditions are our valuable assets. If the younger generation is guided and motivated to study these areas, we will lose many of these assets to time. Nepali culture and civilization at this time in history is the result of our glorious past. Our younger generation needs constant awareness of this fact. And this can happen only through our higher education institutions such colleges and universities.
However, our colleges, private and public, are now enjoying satisfaction with increasing interest in Science and Management. They are now forgetting and ignoring Humanities dubbing them ‘infertile’ in terms of job and wages. Life, from this perspective, has only one face, the ‘economic’ and there is nothing behind and beyond this.
To change this indifferent scenario in our campuses there is an urgent need of revising our syllabi and creating awareness among our young generation. The bottom line understanding is – ‘if you forget your history, you forget everything.’
Urgent Need
Graduates from Humanities faculty are equally important manpower for the development of a nation. There universities must plan to revamp the untimely dying faculties for the interest of the nation. The country is heading towards the federal structure the need of universities focusing on humanities is urgent. There are hundreds of languages that need documentation, promotion and research to create literature. There are cultures and traditions that need empowering to strengthen the status of a tribe or a people. The cultural heritages need preservation, study and research. Qualified graduates in Humanities have a responsibility they need to shoulder in the days to come. Job and wage or employment status is what a graduate would think of at the first place. But the national task that is waiting for them is more serious than a ‘job’ at a bank counter or a restaurant at a foreign land. It is prestigious, civilized and, on the top of all, an urgent national need.
(Source: The Rising Nepal)