Studying the Scope of STEM and Other Subjects in Our Academia

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 6 Jan 2020

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

Academic institutions —schools, colleges, universities offer various subjects for study and research. These subjects are generally grouped in broad categories such as Arts, Languages, Humanities, Commerce and Economics, Sciences, Mathematics, etc. These categories are broadly self explanatory; however, some subjects such as Geography, Sociology may be taught as parts of Humanities or Arts or even Science.

A new combination that has recently emerged is called STEM — that includes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics subjects. This category is used for students who are studying Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics but also Technology and Engineering subjects. Since technology has gained importance in the contemporary world, efforts by educationists to make these subjects  interesting and relevant continue so that after a formal study  of the subjects, students will become innovative in laboratories  and in their work places and discover newer applications of technology in practice.

A sound and practical approach for the teaching of STEM and other subjects in today’s situation is briefly discussed below.

It is a fact that the above subjects of STEM have technology applications in practice. Mathematics is useful in Economics, Commerce and in everyday life. However modern life is complex and one needs to have at least an elementary idea of other disciplines — be it politics or languages or historical or gender issues. There are migrations of people for religious or political reasons; there is violence in society including on women; terrorism in many parts of the world is increasing. There are social and economic diversities in many parts of the world, and other disturbing situations like agriculture failures, unemployment issues etc. Students need to have some understanding of these issues which cannot be accomplished by the study of only STEM disciplines.

Likewise students who have pursued non technical subjects — history, languages, philosophy etc need to have some awareness of technical, environmental issues that plague mankind. There is the constant threat of nuclear warfare between some nations, there is climate change, global warming, pollution of air and water and other issues that have technical causes as well as behavioral patterns of people around the world. Then digitization of banking, economy, travel related issues etc is taking place in the world. How do students pursuing non technical subjects face the above challenges?

The study of languages is important not only for understanding evolution of civilisations, but also for trade, tourist, cultural issues of the modern world. English language has become the dominant language in several spheres in the contemporary world. Simultaneously many languages are becoming extinct due to well known social, economic causes. This causes anxiety in people especially the tribal people who are losing not only their languages but also their cultures, cuisine and their livelihoods. As a result there is tension and occasional violence among these peoples.

Religious differences are other causes of tensions, instability and violence between groups of people following different faiths.

A well known Indian Muslim poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal (1877—1938) had written that ‘Mazab nahin sikhata aapas mein bair rakhna (Religion does not teach us to have enmity between people) but the fact is otherwise. There are tensions, differences, violence between people due to this factor alone. Violence in this area is not a new phenomenon. This has occurred in other times between Catholics and Protestants, various sects of Islam and between Islam and Zoroastrian faiths etc.

From the above brief notes on the complexities of modern life, we can say that we need to propagate not only STEM subjects in our educational institutions but also broaden the scope of other fields of study. This will help us to retain our sanctity, sanity and harmony in the complex world that governs us today.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 Jan 2020.

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