Bringing Back the Absent: Some Reflections

Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterTeaching–Learning Politics in India
Bringing Back the Absent:
Some Reflections
Chaitra Redkar1
Does the social background of a learner affect the learning process? If so, how can instructional design
be sensitive to the sociology of a learner? What would be the starting point for introducing abstract ideas
for those to whom both the experience and the language that constructs the idea are alien? What would
be the takeaway for those students whose social location has recurringly denied them the time to pursue
career in the area in which they are trained? What could be done to make learning more reflexive and
take it beyond the reproduction of the jargon of the discipline? These are some of the questions that have
accompanied me ever since I started teaching political theory and political thought, some 20 years ago.
These questions emerged while observing a variety of learning environments. Classrooms in metropolitan
cities are diverse in terms of language, linguistic skills, social background, financial capabilities and
number of other ways. In smaller cities, classes are comparatively homogeneous in terms of language but
other kind of diversities and hierarchies do exist. Engaging with a diverse classroom creates issues not
merely pertaining to the medium of instruction but also for creating a frame of reference that makes
sense to everyone. Different social locations come with varied political ethos and they also imply diverse
learning environments available to the learner. These locations to a large extent define the facilities
available for students’ schooling, to develop their language skills, to the time they are allowed to claim
every day and in life as their own and number of such factors that may play crucial role in the teaching
and learning process. Bringing together different temporalities and spatiality in one common frame
becomes a big challenge for the instructor. Paradoxically, neither the learner nor the instructor is
necessarily aware of the ethos of the varied location. To teach meta-political narratives to someone who
is ignorant of the politics of her location by someone who is equally indifferent to her location as an
instructor is not just paradoxical but is also self-defeating. It leaves a learner under an impression that
politics lies somewhere else, far away from her own environment. Sadly, training of a professional
political scientist doesn’t necessarily require interrogating the politics that shapes a particular learning or
teaching environment. The thrust is on transmitting the jargon. What is acceptable is familiarizing
oneself with what the celebrated scholarship produced. Learner thereby engages herself in only
reproducing the ‘norm’ even while she tries to achieve the higher learning objectives identified in
Bloom’s taxonomy (Bloom et al., 1956). The evaluative, analytical and creative abilities of the learner if
unleashed, remain shaped in a particular paradigmatic framework that has percolated in her learning
environment. Any contribution in order to be significant has to confirm this framework, else is denounced
as outdated or irrelevant.
1 Humanities & Social Sciecnes, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, Maharashtra, India.
Teaching—Learning Politics in India
Corresponding author:
Chaitra Redkar, Humanities & Social Sciecnes, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune,
Maharashtra 411008, India.
Studies in Indian Politics
9(2) 278–282, 2021
© 2021 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043611

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