A crucible of ideas

It’s no exaggeration to say that the home is in many ways a microcosm of the world. It offers lessons – and experience – in a variety of domains, from human relationships to nutrition to economics to chemistry to health and biology to politics. There’s science in the home and there’s a science of the home. Imaginative extrapolations can take us from sensitive interactions between generations to strategic communication in corporations. Or from monthly budgeting to microeconomics. Not to speak of planning a family meal to concepts in community nutrition.

Yet home science or home economics, the discipline within which all these ideas are explored, tends to be sidelined both in the imagination and practice of school education. While it exists as an option in most boards across India, it tends to be thought of as quite low in the hierarchy of subjects, at any rate far below the sciences, English and social studies. Yet home science/economics (terms I use interchangeably here, fully appreciating that there is a nuanced difference between them) is the crucible for a diverse range of opportunities both in higher education and the job market.

When the editorial team was brainstorming around possible subjects to feature in our annual summer special, we realized that we had over the years given relatively little space to this subject. A significant number of students opt for home science in high school, but there is little pedagogic or curricular attention given to the subject in teaching discourse. There are teacher development programmes focused on the sciences, social sciences and language, but very few that focus on the teaching of home science, other than a handful of refresher courses at the college level.

It seemed that it was time for us to take a closer look at the rich tapestry of concepts, methods, tools and practices that could inform the teaching of home science at the school level. In doing so, it was important that we first consider the myths and misconceptions that serve to relegate home science to the basement of education. So we have several articles in this issue that attempt to unpack the politics that have contributed to this unfair treatment of a subject that is core to life and living. There are issues of gender, social class, caste and regional difference that play a role in all of this. There is the somewhat egregious value distinction made of work done within the home and outside it. There are social and cultural hierarchies that serve to marginalize certain kinds of work and the knowledges associated with them. As Kavitha Anand so eloquently argues in the framing piece in this issue, home science is fundamental to ideas of human ecology that we need to re-centre as we plan for the future of our world – and this is something that the past year has underscored so keenly for us.

But this issue is not just for teachers of home science. There are elements that can just as easily find their way into science or history or math classes, and ideas that can make for great discussion in assembly or in the staff room. No matter what kind of teaching you do, you should be able to find something that piques your interest, and can be applied to your practice.

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