Teaching Political Science in the Margins

Date01 December 2021
Published date01 December 2021
AuthorAbhay Datar
Subject MatterTeaching–Learning Politics in India
Teaching Political Science
in the Margins
Abhay Datar1
The New Education Policy (NEP) grandly talks of among other things of revamping the higher education
system in the country and of creating world-class institutions. This by itself should prompt any concerned
individual to explore how the system actually works, not in the leading well-funded institutions but in
those which are situated in locations which are economically and academically at the margins. It is these
institutions which constitute the overwhelming chunk of the higher education system in the country.
They neither figure significantly in the ranking surveys conducted by the media nor are they higher on
the priority list of the higher education regulators. But it is precisely in these institutions that the bulk of
those enrolled in the higher education system of the country study.
This note discusses the multiple challenges of teaching Political Science in one such margin.
It principally draws on the author’s personal experience of teaching at both the undergraduate and
postgraduate levels for almost a decade in a higher education institution located at a district headquarters
in what is universally acknowledged as an economically backward region of Maharashtra.
The first challenge in the margins is that of the medium of instruction. Political science and indeed all
other social sciences are taught both at the undergraduate and postgraduate level in Marathi, the local
language. The reason is not hard to discover, and that is the students’ limited exposure to English.
Teaching in Marathi by itself does not constitute a challenge but for the fact that there is a lack of reading
material in Marathi of an adequate standard. At the undergraduate level, this does not pose much of a
problem since the courses are largely introductory in character, and hence the available material suffices.
But there are other aspects to the issue. The student body is largely rural in background. It is also socially
diverse. Furthermore, many come from communities whose mother tongue is not Marathi. The bulk of
these students have completed their education up to their higher secondary level in Marathi, a language
which is not their mother tongue. Thus, some of these students are not even comfortable with Marathi.
The real problem begins at the postgraduate level. Here concepts, theories and political thinkers
hitherto largely unfamiliar to the students are introduced to them. The lack of quality reference and
reading material in Marathi becomes more of a serious problem here. This lack ensures that the students
have no chance of familiarizing themselves with these concepts and theories in a language to which they
are accustomed to. More problematic is the students’ command over what is often described as ‘standard’
Marathi. This makes even textbooks written in Marathi by eminent academicians inaccessible to them.
This is an issue which defies a solution. Any discussion of Marxism, Weber, Rawls’ theory of justice,
India’s nuclear policy and many others require a terminology, which is underdeveloped in Marathi.
Teaching—Learning Politics in India
1 People’s College, Snehanagar, Nanded, Maharashtra, India.
Corresponding author:
Abhay Datar, People’s College, Nanded, Snehanagar, Nanded, IN-MH Maharashtra 431605, India.
E-mail: abhaydatar@hotmail.com
Studies in Indian Politics
9(2) 275–277, 2021
© 2021 Lokniti, Centre for the
Study of Developing Societies
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/23210230211043312

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