New Delhi, Feb. 23: The government is planning to set up a social science academy that will act as a policy “think tank” to revive interest in the humanities at a time the focus is skewed towards scientific research and management studies.
The human resource development ministry on Thursday held the first consultative meeting on a proposal to launch an Indian Academy of Social Sciences (IASS) which, sources said, would be modelled on the British Academy for Humanities and Social Sciences.
India does not have any academy on the social sciences despite the existence of a funding agency, the Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR), a ministry official said. There are three academies for the sciences.
According to the ministry’s proposal, the IASS will function as an autonomous agency and frame policies on curriculum and research and also advise the government on any social issues, including conflict management.
“It will function as a think tank and will select eminent social scientists as fellows. The academy will review social science studies keeping in view Indian societal problems,” the official said.
Professor Ved Prakash, chairperson of higher education regulator UGC, said the proposed IASS could play a key role in rekindling the interest of students in the humanities. “Humanities are very important from the point of view of a healthy society. You need to study the society and create knowledge for solutions to social issues,” Prakash told The Telegraph.
According to a 2011 UGC report, Higher Education in India, 1.36 crore students had enrolled for higher education in 2008-09. Of them, 43 per cent were studying the humanities. Some 19 per cent had enrolled for science, 18 per cent for commerce and management, 10 per cent for engineering and technology and 3.3 per cent for medical studies.
However, the growth in the number of engineering and management colleges in the past 10 years shows the percentage of students opting for these streams has been increasing.
ICSSR chairperson Sukhadeo Thorat said the council’s role has been limited to funding surveys and research on social issues. “The ICSSR does not involve in policy matters or curriculum. The proposed academy may look at such issues. It has a lot of significance.”
Professor Vivek Kumar, of the Centre for Studies of the Social Systems at the School of Social Sciences in Jawaharlal Nehru University, said no society can ignore the social sciences.
“There has to be a balance between production of knowledge for industry and production of knowledge for society,” he added. “Otherwise, we may have the problems that the US faces today like shootings in schools.”