Social Sciences in Nepal

By Hachhethu, Krishna | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, January 2002 | Go to article overview
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Social Sciences in Nepal

Hachhethu, Krishna, Contributions to Nepalese Studies


The "decline of history" in Nepal was the focus of an article in one daily paper (Nepal Samachar Patra) on August 29, 2001. Six months earlier, another daily carried a piece on an "empty in history class and history teacher turn[ing] into student of sociology" (Kantipur 2001, February 15). Both reports highlighted four specific problems: the unavailability of jobs for history post-graduates, the decline in the number of history students in Tribhuvan University (TU), an outdated curriculum, and the attraction of sociology/anthropology for students in higher education. The state of some other social science disciplines is not much different. The opinions expressed in a seminar on Social Science in Nepal illustrate the problems. It was claimed that "Political Science ... has progressively lost its erstwhile charm and appeal" (Jaisawal and Amatya, 1997: 57) and that "research (economics) in Nepal is confined to feasibility studies and evaluation of projects and a few empirical analysis.... Academic research [is] confined to Ph.D. (and some times Master's) dissertation (Sharma 1997: 69), though the economics department still enrols large numbers of students. While sociology/anthropology is an emerging discipline, most experts prefer acting as consultants of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) than. as serious academics. "For some, research is done for career or professional interests and for many others for making a living (Bhattachan 1997: 13). The above statements clearly show the erosion in the quality of social sciences in TU.

The monopoly of TU in higher education and research has recently been broken with the establishment of three new universities, but it has hardly improved the Situation because none of these newly established institutions have introduced social sciences faculty. The mushrooming of private research centres and NGOs due to availability of foreign funds has certainly opened up new avenues and broadened the scope of social sciences research. However, research work has largely been downgraded into report writing, creating an adverse impact on the academic environment of TU since most NGOs and private research centers rely heavily on its teachers and researchers.

The above brief sketch of the academic environment within and outside the university indicates that the state of social sciences research in Nepal is far from satisfactory. Why is it so? This paper will try to make a comprehensive assessment of research in the history, political science, economics, and sociology/anthropology of Nepal, considering these disciplines as the core of social science.

The paper consists of five sections. It begins with a brief review of the history of social sciences in Nepal. The second section identifies some major institutions in government, university, private research institutions and NGOs, which have produced social science knowledge, and analyses their research activities. Section three deals with a case study of two leading research Centres in Nepal. The fourth section focuses on resources i.e. books, journals, libraries and funds of research. Finally, there are some recommendations for the improvement of social sciences research in the country.

Before I enter into the main subject, it will be relevant here to recall three major political events of Nepal, which have had a profound impact on, the overall educational environment, particularly as regards social science subjects. The first is the advent of democracy in February 1951, which opened up an opportunity of education-for the people. In the past during the oligarchic Rana regime (1846-1950), education was virtually prohibited except for the members of ruling family and other privileged groups. The open educational environment in the post-Rana period was stalled by a royal coup against democracy in December 1960. Though the newly established regimented partyless panchayat system expedited development in education, the regime, by its New Education.

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