'The Beauty of Social Science' - The New Indian Express

'The Beauty of Social Science'

Published: 06th January 2014 12:00 AM

Last Updated: 05th January 2014 08:40 PM

Getting a PhD is no mean task. Especially if you find yourself in an alien abode with no knowledge of the local language. G Venkat Raman is one amongst those very few to have crossed the tough bridge. An assistant professor in humanities and liberal arts in management at Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode, believes that our education system should strive for a balanced education. Raman is the only Indian to receive a PhD from the prestigious Peking University, Beijing. “I was inspired when I heard that Mao Zedong, the prominent Chinese politician worked with Peking library and this was one of the factors that fuelled him into a revolutionary later,” he says.

Born in Visakhapatnam, AP, Prof Venkat Ram grew up in Jamshedpur, completed his schooling in Odisha, graduated from Sri Satya Sai University, Puttaparthi, AP, and got his MA and MPhil from Centre for East Asian studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. After which he travelled to Beijing and lived there from 2003 to 2010 during which time he received his MPhil and also worked as business development manager with ESSAR Steel Representative Office, Beijing, for two-and-half years. He was also the Visiting faculty in China Youth University of Political Science and Law, Beijing and Fellow in Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, Shanghai.

On the move to China

Speaking about his decision to pursue his studies in China, Raman says “I graduated in political science. China is our most important neighbour. What drove me to choose China as a subject of my studies for my PhD was that the country has a unique socialist market economy. Though it is politically closed, it is economically open.”

 He further adds, “My main aim when I left for China for my PhD was to learn the language to present my thesis. Besides, one of the prerequisites for presenting the thesis, I had to do a course in Chinese language.” Venkat Raman opines that people’s attitude towards the cultures of our neighbours should change. “ Though our physical proximity is to China, we are mentally close to Western countries. People need to come out of this obsession. It is very important to understand China as we both are going to be two of the major competitors of the world,” he says.

IITs, not the only option

He strongly believes that though students are interested in social science, our educational system is crafted in such a way that they are forced to train for to join engineering courses and institutes such as IITs from a very young age. He strongly suggests that students be introduced to the beauty of social science. “Students are under tremendous pressure. Right from Class VI, the purpose of education is narrowed down, which is very disappointing. Students end up forgetting that getting into IIT or getting through for engineering is just a part of the journey and not their destiny,” he adds.

Lending a humane touch

Raman joined IIM-K in 2010, since then he has been instrumental in encouraging courses that brings out the humane side of management studies. “Giving management courses a human touch was the brain child of our director Debashis Chatterjee. Courses such as humanities and liberal arts have been introduced here. These courses help students learn marketing techniques along with an ability to analyse the politics and economics of the society,” he says.

 He expresses his disappointment in the overall decline in interest in social science amongst parents and schools. “We have not been able to generate a section of scholars to inspire youngsters to pursue social science for higher education. Schools too feel that having just one period a day for history and geography is more than enough. But what has surprised me is when students come up to me and admit that they did not know social science is such a beautiful subject,” he says.

No better in China

When asked about Indian subjects taught in China, Raman says that Peking university has a degree course in Hindi. Raman says that children in China too have to face extreme pressure to get into prestigious universities. “Like their Indian counterparts, students in China too are forced to get into the best, especially since they are all single children. Parents expect them to be good at everything whether it be arts education or sports,” he explains.

Professor Raman, to his credit recently co-convened the sixth All India Conference of China Studies organised by Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi and IIM-K at the latter’s campus. He has been given a visiting fellowship by BRICS centre of Fudan University, Shanghai, China, for which he will be leaving in February.

Professor Venkat Raman is currently residing at IIM-K faculty quarters along with his wife Rama Mani, who is a homemaker, son Anant Nachiketa and daughter Anvita.

— deepthi@newindianexpress.com

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