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Opinion

Broadening the Concept of History

Prof Himanshu Chaturvedi

Prof Himanshu ChaturvediAug 31, 2021, 04:36 PM IST

Broadening the Concept of History

 

In a nation like Bharat, the region plays a dominant  role in shaping Its history. This certainly will provide  a wider canvass of understanding and knowledge to  the student at the graduate level as well as scope  for further enquiry at A higher level

 

The LOCF syllabus for an undergraduate degree in History aims at offering a general framework within which History teaching may be organised. It serves twin goals of responding to the needs of students to grow as competent, self-reflective learners with relevant academic and professional skills and to prepare them as contributors to the growing discipline of History. Today, more than ever before, the challenges of globalisation obligate historians and researchers to go beyond the local, national, and even continental frontiers of their knowledge. However, competing and keeping pace with the ever expanding horizon of history, one has to be sensitive in understanding the issues of nations, history on a larger canvas, absorbing polemics and not only create a belief of continuity of our civilization but to redeem the facts on evidences of civilization’s continuity by exploring nation’s past, which lie in abundance. This certainly will further encourage a dialogue between past and present and a new narrative may emerge. Further, a good number of historians now believe that it is not desirable to adopt any general law  in history.

Making Youth Knowledge Seekers   

At the outset, it may well be stated that this draft document owes its origin to meet the fundamental challenges of ever changing academic scales at Global level. Thus, a high priority task in the context of future education development agenda in India is fostering quality higher education. The idea is to involve young minds in knowledge production and of greater participation of knowledge itself. Participation in knowledge, by young minds, is an important departure from the existing structure at undergraduate level. Implementation of the new structure is based on guiding principles of LOCF. To clarify the issue, it’s vital to quote a prudent part of LOCF  “it should be taken as a guiding framework only in context to the Learning Outcome based Curriculum Framework (LOCF) for undergraduate education. The fundamental premise underlying the learning outcome-based approach to curriculum planning and development is that higher education qualifications such as Bachelor’s Degree Programmes are awarded on the basis of demonstrated achievement of outcomes (expressed in terms of knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values) and academic standards expected of graduates of a programme of study.”

 


A key ingredient of curriculum emphasises upon introducing the student with the fundamental concept of Bharat and its continuity thus far


 

In Sync With Global Needs 

Empiricism suggests that mere reproduction of knowledge in a classroom has lost its relevance in the rapidly changing global requirements. A young mind at the graduate level cannot be treated like an empty vessel. Instead the object in the classroom shall be encouraged to participate in the exchange of ideas leading to develop the cognitive functioning rather than still with corny. It is with this assumption, the curriculum under LOCF is designed, to reiterate, as a guiding principle only, as justice to the glorious past and vast canvas of Indian History can only be done by providing the much needed space at micro and macro levels.

History is fragmentary by nature. It focuses on aspects or parts of an event, but not entirely. Despite the incessant efforts of an historian, it is impossible for him to capture everything about his choice of study. Availability of evidence, its reliability and consistency, available time and the objectives of the study shape his selection and utilisation of sources and evidence. This may be a defining line for a historian, but cannot be a defining line for the history of a nation, specifically like ours, which  needs to be presented in totality rather than in any ‘centric’ form.

Challenges in Designing Curriculum 

The problems and issues pertaining to historical knowledge is one of the core challenges in designing a curriculum of history. The problems of knowledge in history are basically epistemological. To be sure, epistemology or the theory of knowledge is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with nature and scope of knowledge, its presuppositions and basis, and the general reliability of claim to knowledge. A major challenge for the curriculum designing is how to deal with the problems surrounding historical knowledge and its justified presentation. Issues in context to the history of a nation when measured on the scale of  bias  and  scientific enquiry are core essentials of debate for a student of the discipline. This can only be justified  when young minds are ignited to  understand, enquire, interpret and above all shift the narrative to larger issues of a nation’s history. Guidelines of this curriculum are an objective shift on above lines.

Encouraging Youth to Explore Civilization

While designing the structure of the curriculum for the students at undergraduate level, a conscious effort has been made to the need of history from a national and international perspective, especially taking into account the resurgence of Asia, which is supposed to be the cradle of civilizations. Thus, a key ingredient of this curriculum emphasises upon introducing the student with the fundamental concept of ‘Bharat’, and its continuity thus far. Making and re-making of geo-political boundaries is a continuous process in the course of history. Nature of State does affect the cultures, such a list is too exhaustive to be mentioned here, as world history suggests, varying examples of irreparable damages to irreversible conditions have occurred and a lot many cultures vanished due to alien nature of State. The student at the undergraduate level is expected to understand the difference between Nation and State, how the nation survived in its form and content though State may not be its expression! An important view has to be taken into consideration that ‘there cannot be a nation without a past’. This past is deemed to be a necessary element for the continuity, as well as creation of a nation even for a contemporary researcher. Considering this, a compulsory paper to understand the core of ‘Bharat’ has been designed at graduate level which will certainly kindle young minds to explore civilization’s continuity and to understand Indian History with Oriental view, rather than Occidental. It is essential to mention here that the simple objective of this design is to look upon history in its geo-cultural form also, rather than geo-political only. It is certainly a departure from the prevalent practices in drawing a narrative of India’s history. On the problem of historical knowledge, the effort to demonstrate the specific character of historical knowledge and understanding have led to a new method of inquiry in historical research-the analytical or scientific approach. This method established the procedures and categories used by practicing historians in handling and understanding their material. This has led to a discussion of the ways in which historians divide and classify the past, the manner in which they argue for and substantiate their interpretation, and the logical structure of the explanations they offer. Clearly, this new method of inquiry is very useful in finding and building on historical evidence. This will also enable historians to make credible claims to their statements about the past. Thus, understanding the past in its nature and totality is a prime prerequisite for a  future researcher.

In contemporary times, a shift from World History to Global History is at the centre of debate in academic circles. On the other hand, the deconstructionists debates are still on, Oriental-Occidental clash of ideas and construction of history itself have in one way enlarged the scholarly domains, but on the other hand polemics have also surfaced with a purpose. In the midst of such scholarly activities, the future generation needs not only communicative exposure in the classroom but his/her mental faculties require a departure from semantic to self conscious. Issues of self consciousness may have variables, one such is understanding and positioning of self in world order. In this positioning process, colonial and post colonial debates have largely focused upon dialectics of certain angles. Thus, it seems necessary to introduce the resurgence of Asian civilizations at the undergraduate level as a compulsory paper to shape the mental faculty of the student for better understanding of world order.

 


A compulsory paper to understand the core of Bharat has been designed at graduate level which will certainly kindle young minds to explore civilization’s continuity and to understand Indian History with Oriental view, rather than Occidental


 

As per changing times, the other core papers have also been remodeled with introduction of new papers like ‘Cultural Heritage of India’ and ‘History of Communication and Media’ with a view to develop skill at undergraduate level as per spirit and design of LOCF guidelines. Restructuring of the Medieval period has been done and now it covers larger portions of India for a better understanding of Nation’s History. A historian is essentially trained to be objective in his selection, analysis and interpretation of evidence. This curriculum is an attempt to customise the student to larger levels of Indian, Asian and Global History which can broaden the arena of young minds and also bring a mark shift in the pedagogy.

Subtle changes have been introduced to re-align the narrative more focused on the region rather than Delhi-centric only or certain King centric. This leads to omission of mega regions as there cannot be a denial that India’s history in a holistic manner can never be understood or produced without taking account of so many mega regions in the course of Indian history. The idea for the paradigm shift is based upon the principle that in a nation like India, the region plays a dominant role in shaping the history of the nation. This certainly will provide a wider canvass of understanding and knowledge to the student at graduate level as well as scope for further enquiry at higher level. Whereas the Taxonomic learning domain is concerned, it has been categorically taken into account to make a drastic shift from Taxonomic Hierarchy. This will certainly lead to new variants of learning based on the experiments of pedagogy. Lastly, keeping in view the richness of diversities this syllabus leaves enough space for regions too. Above all the merit of the debate lies in the fact that only few stakeholders raised concerns, within the time limit, when the syllabus was published on the UGC website, concerns on merit were taken on record. Now what is the reason behind media debate, needs no explanation. Few have a tendency of not raising the issue on right platforms, but racking the issue with other motives and it is well known in the academic fraternity in particular and conscious gentry at large. 

 

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