Rethinking Geography Education in India

New Delhi, 21 August 2014: Geography teaching and research in India has been facing innumerable internal and external challenges. Internal challenges pertains to feeble response and preparedness to incorporate appropriate changes in the teaching curriculum at the school, college and university levels in the light of the changing nature of the discipline globally and its relevance in addressing the contemporary issues both at the global and local levels. It is too well-known that the school and university curricula of geography have at best incorporated superficial changes in the last few decades. It is thus outmoded and perhaps unattractive to the discerning and creative young minds in schools and colleges.

The content of geographical research has found little place in the contemporary intellectual discourse in environmental and social sciences. Perched as it has been on the frontiers of environmental (physical/natural) and social sciences, notwithstanding sporadic sparks of brilliance of geographical studies, is generally seen as a subject that contributes little towards generation of specialized knowledge and skill. It is worthy only of satisfying the needs of persons appearing for competitive examinations.

The historical schisms between the systematic and regional approaches and between the physical and human geographies have resurfaced in geography curricula, research and among the practitioners in the various geography departments. The time tested disciplinary vision of bringing about a synthesis of diverse phenomena in their causal interrelationships and outcomes around specific problem(s) with reference to the temporal and spatial framework seems to have been delegated to the trash cans.

Riding the wave of epochal change and development in the field of technology, particularly the information technology, reconfiguration of global finance and capital and neo-liberal state policies have allowed unrestricted penetration of transnational corporations in global extraction industry. This has opened a new profile to the processes of primitive accumulation of multiple kinds. Land and resource grabs have become even more sinister than those recorded during the hey-days of imperialism. Sustainability and survival of communities living in large parts of the world today is underlined by geographies of exploitation, deprivation and inequality.

Despite the fact that majority of the world population faces multitudes of deprivations, the subject that can provide answer remains at best sidelined. It is time to raise questions on why geography remained at the margin in analysis of processes that create and recreate such geographies of deprivation. What institutional and informal hindrances the discipline faces? What kind of changes in curricula and pedagogy would result in making the discipline more meaningful to the miseries of the world? Should discipline of geography respond to market or to the people? Thinking through the questions, we see immense prospect of engaging geography with a definitive theoretical orientation in contemporary framework and processes of change.

Prof. Sachidanand Sinha, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Colloquium Report : Rethinking Geography Education and Research in India

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