With subjects like Math and science often taking centre stage in educational discussions these days, the role and significance of social studies has taken a back seat. Social Studies, as defined by the National Council for Social Studies, involves the integrated study of multiple fields of human knowledge, including but not limited to geography, history, political science, religion, and economics (NCSS, 1992). The importance of these subjects cannot be overemphasised in the development and shaping of a child’s holistic personality.
Social studies prepare young learners to become better citizens by enhancing their understanding of the world around them. However, our current educational trend seems to place more emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) subjects as opposed to engaging children in subjects about their society and global community.
In this blog we will delve deeper into the importance of Social Studies for children and why it is perceived as secondary and frequently underestimated in today’s society, despite its significance.
Definition of Social Studies
Social Studies involves the study of various aspects of human society. Subjects such as history, geography, civics, and economics allow students to delve deeper into the world they live in, exploring the past, present and future of societies, cultures and civilizations.
5 Importance of Social Studies
-History gives children the facts of the past and insights into the consequences of historical events. This lets them develop an understanding of events, movements and individuals that have shaped societies.
-Geography helps students learn about different regions across the world, climates, and landforms, fostering a global understanding of different cultures that shape mankind.
-Civics is a study of the democratic principles, rights, responsibilities and duties of citizens. This encourages students to understand the value of civic participation making them engaged and involved citizens.
-Economics equips students with an understanding of the global economy and the economic systems of buying, selling, production, distribution and consumption.
2. 21st century Life Skills development
A holistic learning process fosters critical thinking and analytical skills in students. Social Studies, through its diverse topics, helps stimulate their thinking ability. It helps students in questioning, investigating, analysing, evaluating and deducing relevant issues, thereby enhancing their critical thinking skills.
In analysing a situation from multiple perspectives, students learn to solve problems and take effective decisions. Social science allows them to engage in debates, discussions, and research developing their ability to think critically, weigh their options and make sound judgements.
Through project-based learning and inquiry-based methodologies, students learn to tackle societal challenges, foster creativity and collaboration and encourage them to develop an innovative mindset.
3. Develops informed citizens
Social sciences provide children with a deeper understanding of their responsibilities and rights as citizens. The knowledge of our historical movements, heritage, government structures, law and rights, enhances their appreciation for their land and country. Children become more aware of their role in society and how to contribute positively to our growth.
4. Nurtures cultural diversity
Social studies expose children to different cultures, traditions and perspectives across the globe. This exposure helps break down barriers of stereotypes, prejudices and biases for them.
It encourages empathy. They foster the ability to accept and respect the diversity that exists for people across diverse backgrounds.
5. Prepares for a Global Economy
The modern globalised world requires individuals with a global perspective. Social studies equip students with an understanding of different cultures, economic systems and different political structures. Through Social studies, they learn to appreciate and navigate the globally interconnected world. They are better prepared for the global economic landscape.
Why is Social Studies underestimated?
1) Overemphasis on STEM subjects: The world today is driven by technology and STEM education subjects receive more emphasis for their directly applicable skills and potential job prospects, Social studies is seen as having fewer career paths. Hence, in comparison to STEM subjects, social studies and its less tangible outputs lead to its underestimation in education.
2) Lacks practicality: The stereotype associated with “facts and dates” has created a misconception about social studies that it lacks in practicality. It is seen as a regurgitation of past events rather than a tool to analyse and understand the present and make a better future. The political nature of social studies often makes it a target of criticism. In a polarised climate, the teaching of Social Studies can become a controversial issue.
3) Standardised testing: Standardised testing has become a prominent feature in educational institutes today. As a result, a subject such as Social studies which cannot be assessed directly in these tests, receives less attention in school.
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Encouraging students to take up Social studies
1) Highlight the importance: Emphasise the relevance of studying Social studies for their career. Help them understand the different career paths one can take and how the knowledge and skills acquired through social studies are applicable in the field of law, journalism, politics, social work, international relations, etc.
2) Relate the concepts to their real-life: Use real-life examples to discuss the application of concepts they study in social studies. Demonstrate how they can build their problem-solving and decision-making skills which will help them make informed decisions. Organise field trips to historical sites, expert talks and encourage project-based learning on various concepts in social studies. Incorporate discussions, debates, role-plays, and simulations within the classroom, allowing them to engage with different concepts interactively and collaboratively.
3) Showcase role models: Invite experts, veterans, social activists, change-makers and other individuals who have contributed significantly to the social studies field for short talks or sessions with students about their career path. This will enable students to see the potential of pursuing social studies even as a career. Organise parent sessions or workshops to discuss the benefits of social studies education.
Social Studies plays a significant role in child education, despite its underestimated status. The knowledge and skills acquired through this field remain useful throughout their lifespan. Therefore, it is vital to elevate the status of Social Studies within our education system and ensure children do not miss out on the wealth of knowledge and skills it offers.