Promising prospects in applied sociology

Promising prospects in applied sociology

Sociology as a discipline has to give up its rigidity, both in terms of theoretical and pedagogical aspects to take a step ahead to make it more applied, suggests Sudhansubala Sahu . 

Sociology as a discipline emerged with a promise to provide scientific explanations to the social upheavals in the eighteenth century Europe. Under the influence of positivism, it claimed to be accurate and scientific like its sister disciplines. Its empirical nature and importance made it to be referred as the ‘Queen of Social Sciences’. During the late 20th century, the focus of the discipline shifted towards conducting research which could be applied directly for the benefit of society, while keeping intact its primary focus on theory building.

The introduction of Sociology in the Indian academia had a close connection to her colonial past. It was used by the Britishers to understand the unique features of the country. After independence Sociology gained a highly self-conscious nationalist orientation. Indian sociologists started explaining institutions and issues specific to the Indian social reality. But most of those explanations were not able to identify the direction of future developments in the society and provide any viable solutions to the social problems. 
Emerging changes: Certain developments in the policy and governance further pulled down the significance of Sociology along with many other social sciences. For instance, the Nehruvian model of nation-building demanded a technically skilled workforce for rapid industrialization. 

Thus higher education and research were molded to enhance the potential of this changing labor force. This contributed to the rise in the status of natural sciences. With little attention from the policy makers, sociology along with other social science disciplines lost its theoretical and critical vigor and attained the status of a commonsensical subject in India. 

This was followed by another threat like low funding. But more than these, what made sociology a less sought after subject in India was its low applicability in the changing socio-economic scenario and lack of employability of its students. As employability of sociologist was restricted mainly to teaching, it failed to attract students opting for other careers. 

Sociology’s status as soft and commonsensical subject is responsible to drive away intelligent and academically sound scholars even today. This is not only affecting the quality of graduates and post-graduates passing out from different institutions across India but also affecting the process of knowledge sharing in the class room. Students with weak academic inclination are unable to get into theoretical and analytical depth of the subject and in the process of simplifying critical theories for such students, the subject is getting trivialized. This is creating a mismatch between the expectations of the students and the true potential of the discipline which is giving rise to a lot of pedagogical issues. The new generation students’ over-dependence on internet and technology is causing a clash with the traditional ‘chalk & talk’ class room lectures.      
Pedagogical changes

The status of disciplines like political science, history, philosophy and a few pure sciences like physics, chemistry and biology is also no different from Sociology when it comes to the pedagogical issues. But the lesson to be learnt from the pure sciences is the need to adapt to the changing demands of the society by introducing applied branches. Electronics, bio-chemistry, biotechnology are a few examples. 

The only social science discipline which has survived all the similar challenges is ‘Economics’ and the reason is very similar to that of the survival of pure sciences’; firstly applicability of the subject and secondly employability of the students.

Thus the need of the day for Sociology as a discipline is to give up its rigidity, both in terms of theoretical and pedagogical aspects and take a step ahead to make it more applied. Most important steps in this direction could be: 

1. Replace the traditional class room lectures with technologically updated tools like usage of PPTs and Video lessons which can match to the imagination of the new generation students.

2. Enhancing the employability of students. This not only requires a complete revamping of the syllabi but also updating the teaching-learning methods with mandatory skill based training. 

This will not only help the students to learn with more interest and efficiency but also to find ample opportunities of employment in diverse fields like NGOs, Social Welfare Agencies,  Research Centres, Labour Welfare Offices, Civil Services, HRM, Social Development, Planning Boards, Public Relation Offices, Market Research (Consultants), Media and UN Agencies etc.

The best thing that needs to be mentioned here is that the process has already begun. Such a blend of knowledge and skills will allow the students of sociology to apply the subject in various fields and nation building. This will also make the study of sociology an intensive and enjoyable one and ensure employment for its aspirants. 

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