The importance of Social Studies in the School curriculum
The answers to the above questions can be found when we understand what exactly is Social Studies – Social Science is a branch of study which deals with Human Beings – their behaviour, growth and development, relationships, resources they use and the various institutions they require to function and carry on their life smoothly. For example – family, school, workplace, government, judiciary, recreation clubs, etc. All these aspects of life are inter-related and interdependent on one another. So whether one wants to become a doctor or an engineer or a chartered accountant, an artist or a teacher, we all have to live in a society, interact with individuals belonging to different cultural and socio- economic backgrounds, adapt to various situations and circumstances, and also adhere to certain societal norms in order to lead a peaceful and productive life.
The inclusion of Social Studies in the curriculum right from primary to secondary classes signifies the importance of the subject and the role it plays in a student’s life. Social Studies is incorporated in the school curriculum through a combination of subjects like – History, Geography, Cultural Studies, Economics, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, etc.
These subjects help children to develop-
Awareness of The World and Environment: Lessons in Social Studies related to topics like – My Family, My Neighbourhood, Community Helpers, Early Man, Indus Valley Civilization, Modern Period in Indian History, The French Revolution, Great World Leaders, etc teach students about the various civilizations, movements and renaissances that occurred over the years. This knowledge enables the students to understand how the world and different societies have evolved, the important events that have occurred in the past, enduring ideas and eminent personalities that have created an impact and affected the lives of people both locally and globally. It also helps students to understand how different societies are structured, managed and governed. This in turn helps students to understand their place in the world.
Lessons such as – Our Earth, Solar System, Major Landforms, Water Resources, Natural Vegetation and Wildlife Resources, Natural Disasters, Disaster Management, Pollution, enable students to learn about – outer space, formation of different landforms; evolution of animals, flora, fauna and man, water bodies, available resources, importance of conservation and preservation, environmental impact on present life and future generations. This information helps students to eventually develop a holistic understanding of their environment and the interrelationship which exists between the natural and human habitats.
Helps to Develop Critical Thinking Abilities: Social Studies inculcate higher order thinking abilities and skills like – Comprehension, Application, Analysis, Evaluation and Synthesis, Creativity in students. Learning a variety of topics such as – Natural Resources, Water Resources, Transport, Communication, Caste System, Political Ideologies, Social Reformers, Our Cultures, United Nations, etc give students a chance to gain appropriate information and data in various contexts. The information gained allows students to make relevant observations, identify similarities and differences, make connections between related concepts, ideas and resources. Appropriate experiences further enhance the students’ understanding about how different things and people affect their day to day lives. For example – in order to investigate poverty in the society, students require knowledge of subjects like – History, Economics and Politics. Students first have to gain information and comprehend ideas such as discrimination, resource allocation and political priorities. They then need to understand, analyze and evaluate the existing connections between those ideas and theories to make sense of how poverty affects certain populations in the country. This knowledge can be further put to use to foster creativity, if students are asked to think about ways or come up with new solutions and policies which they think can help reduce poverty. They could be given a chance to present their ideas in the form of debates, essays, role plays or class projects.
Helps to Enhance the Social Understanding Of Students: Different topics included in the Social Studies curriculum for various age groups like – Festivals of India, Different types of Families, Clothes We Wear, Food We Eat, Our Country, States of India, My Community, Socio-Religious Reforms, Challenging the Caste System – help students to observe, learn and understand human behaviour, values and attitudes and the interrelationships which exist among different people. They come to know about the different religions and cultures which exist in the world other than their own. They also learn about the societal strata and norms of society and the need of various governing bodies and other institutions. This in turn helps the students to develop a wider perspective of society and the human condition.
Furthermore, learning about the different religions, social and cultural beliefs, castes and creed, nationalities and ethnicity, values, languages, festivals, food and clothing, types of families, etc makes students aware that the society they live in, is diverse and multicultural and yet there is interdependence and inter-relatedness between different people, families, cultures, religions and countries. This helps students to recognize the benefits and challenges of living in a world with multiple cultures and ideologies. This awareness helps them to understand the importance of democracy, rights and freedoms and the fact that in order to live and coexist peacefully each and everyone needs to respect, trust and balance the various opinions, values and attitudes, lifestyles, cultures and practices and ideologies existing in society.
Helps Students To Become Better Citizens: Subjects in Social Studies like Economics, Political Science and History educate students on Political Ideologies, Constitutional Laws, Citizenship, Rights and Duties, Morals and Virtues, Social Code of Conduct, thus making children aware of their roles and responsibilities particularly in relation to social and civic affairs. By providing relevant information and knowledge, skills and attitudes, the study of Social Science prepares students to grow up as active, responsible, and reflective members of society. It also teaches them to address societal and global concerns using literature, technology and other identifiable community resources.
Thus, we can conclude that incorporating Social Studies in the school curriculum ensures wellrounded education of the students.
Tanushree Dhandhania completed her Master of Science (M.Sc) in Human Development from Jadavpur University in 2004 and was awarded the University Gold Medal. She began her career in the education field as a lecturer in J.D.Birla Institute and then worked as a preschool teacher with Kangaroo Kids in Kolkata. She started working as an independent education consultant in 2008 taking up various projects related to research, monitoring and evaluation and content development with organisations like – Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy (Kolkata, W.B); Educomp Solutions Ltd (India); Jingle Bell School (Faizabad, U. P.) and Vikramshila Education Resource Society (Kolkata, W.B). She is also associated as a freelance resource person with Pearson Education (India) to conduct teachers’ training programs.