Dr. Chithra Madhavan
India has a wonderful history going back several millennia. This is brought to us time and gain via our literature (prose and poetry), sculpture, inscriptions, and outstanding monuments. It is through a thorough study of all these that pioneering historians have written books on the ancient and medieval history of India. Every facet of this history – political, economic, social, and cultural is indeed fascinating. This is more so when we realize that much of what we see and do today is only a continuation of what was done in the past. What we have in India, is therefore, a continuing tradition –something very few countries in the world today can be proud of.
However, there has been a tendency, over the years, in the teaching of history in schools and colleges, to emphasize, or perhaps even to over-emphasize the political aspect of history. It is indeed very important for students to have a correct idea of dates, ruling dynasties, and kings, as these form a strong foundation for the learning of other aspects in history. However, a strong focus only on this aspect is probably the reason for most students finding history a boring subject. A result of this is that, most students drop this subject at the very first opportunity, which is immediately after the 10th standard examinations, till which time it remains compulsory.
Field trips: In a country like India, there is absolutely no reason for this interesting subject to be boring and to be confined only to classrooms. If the syllabus could be a bit flexible and include an element of local history, it could make a huge change in the way students perceive this subject. Reading about, or being taught about what is around them will certainly kindle students’ interest, especially at the school level. For example, there are many pre-historic sites in various parts of India, and if school students are taught pre-history in the classroom and then taken to a nearby pre-historic site on a field-trip they will be thrilled to know how people lived in ages bygone. If such a field-trip is out of the question due to reasons of long distances, the alternative would be to show them many of the stone-age artifacts found in the region and housed in museums via a PowerPoint presentation. While schools know that it is mandatory to have laboratories for science subjects (which is one of the reasons that science becomes a more interesting option), the fact that technology can be used to make history interesting had not been exploited even by well-endowed schools.
The author has a Ph.D. in Ancient History and Archaeology from the University of Mysore. She is the recipient of two post-doctoral fellowships and is the author of five books. She can be reached at [email protected].