JOURNALISM EDUCATION AND TEXTBOOKS IN SAARC COUNTRIES (July 1991)

K.E. Eapen*

 

 

This is the 50th year of journalism training in India. Among its many educational problems, one is of books for class room uses. Instead of examining a country in isolation on this issue, we might attempt the task in the context of the SAARC region. SAARC countries consist of Bengladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with a combined population exceeding 1,100 million. India being the bigger among these nations, and educationally better equipped, we could begin looking at it in some detail.

The first training effort in the Indian Sub-continent was by Prof. P.P. Singh at the University of Punjab, Lahore (now in Pakistan), during 1941-42. With the partition of India in 1947, he moved to Delhi and, in 1962, to Chandigarh, where the new campus of the Punjab University (India) is located.

Prof. Singh had his Master's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and was influenced by the curricula and textbooks of his alma mater. So, he brought those ideas to Lahore from which neither Indian nor Pakistani programmes in journalism have been liberated. Many of the later teachers in these countries and their neighbours had similar U.S. orientations.

In free India it was at Hislop Christian College, Nagpur University, that a full-fledged Journalism Department was organised, 1952-53. A Fulbright scholar, Dr. Roland E. Wolseley, was in charge, followed by Prof. Floyd Baskette, better known among American textbook writers of their times in reporting and editing respectively. Wolseley's Journalism in Modern India of his Nagpur days, and the Indian Reporter's Guide (1962, by another American Professor at Hislop) still continue to be valued texts at many of the Indian programmes.

The U.S. thrust has continued into the 1990s. The Indian educational level has risen to graduate programmes and Indian scholars settled in the States also now come under the Fulbright umbrella, with no radical departures from the Singh and Wolseley days. Even the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi, established in 1965, was conceptualised by the Wilbur Schramm Team of American experts. Despite its 25 years, the Institute has not been able to enrich indigenous scholarship very much.

India has strongly articulated during the 1970s for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO), but had taken little follow-up action in the academic aspects of education in communication. Arguments for a new order had to be accompanied by efforts at the grassroots level of professional instruction. University approaches still remain rather frozen at the pre-NWICO stage. Course contents have not substantially changed, nor the books used in support of undergraduate and graduate courses. This is not a specifically Indian lacuna. The SAARC region, of which India is an important component, suffers from the same malodies. The need for books to reflect national realities has not been met. Most books in use are in English, and the American orientation persists. It is not argued here that there is anything intrinsically wrong with them but the point is that foreign books are produced for foreign purposes and not for India or Pakistan.

An IPDC-aided survey looked into the books in use among the SAARC countries, in the area of studies under communication during 1989-90. Twenty-three institutions covering 34 programmes were examined (see Table-1). Some universities offer programmes at more than one level. The student enrolment was nearly 2,000 and full-time teachers numbered over 100.

 

Table 1.

Number and Nature of Institutions Surveyed

 

Number of

UNDERGRADUATE

POST-GRADUATE

Country

Institutions

Diploma

Bachelor's

Diploma

Master's

Ph.D.

Bangladesh

1

-

1

-

2

-

India

19

1

1

9

11

1

Nepal

1

1

1

-

-

-

Sri Lanka

1

-

2

-

1

-

Pakistan

1

-

2

-

-

1

Total:

23

2

7

9

14

2

 

It may be mentioned here that neither Bhutan nor Maldives has any university programme in journalism/communication. Also, both Bengladesh and Sri Lanka have only an university programme each. India, in this Golden Jubilee Year, has turned out to harbour the largest number, of over 50 efforts, and Pakistan some eight. About a thousand books in journalism/communication are in use by them. The titles are primarily Western, mostly American. These are books not only on how-to-do and skill-oriented type but also about the methods of evaluation of media performance, embracing the totality of academic endeavours. American situations, however, do not prevail in SAARC societies. The long range purpose of the study was to improve the dissemination of culturally relevant educational materials.

It is only in recent years that the evils of software transfer, including literature surrounding it, came to be recognised and faltering steps taken to slowly remedy the onslaught via instructional material. The University Grants Commission (India) has a programme in textbook writing for various subjects. Nonetheless, no journalism/communication title has yet come out under this scheme. A 1988-89 study of journalism/communication alumni from 14 universities working with the media in India's national capital. Delhi, pointed out the need for Indian instructional materials for Indian situations. This is echoed elsewhere also, be it Bengladesh or Sri Lanka, as a matter of cultural emancipation.

The SAARC countries have been mainly part of the British Empire. The laws of the press there, for example, have little bearing with those of the U.S.A. Also, their press management systems vary from those of America, and American books on it are of little relevance. Because of the increasing price factor, many of those foreign books available are dated and some of them of no more use in the countries of their origin. Almost nine out of ten books in use belong to the pre-1980 period. In a relatively new field of knowledge, this is a major lacuna.

The indigenous books on writing, editing and production aspects are limited and those available tend to be imitative of the West. These are facets needing liberation from alien concepts, if someday the NWICO approach is to be meaningfully operationalised.

In this fiftieth year of India-Pakistan education, India has a wide spectrum of courses, varying from the Diploma in Journalism to the Ph.D. in Communication. Nearly in half of the 50 Indian institutions libraries of their own exist, some though with only skeleton collections. At every university some titles are available in the central university library, but they show a wide variance in numbers.

In Bangladesh, the Dhaka University offers, since 1962, a three-year B.A. (Honours) course in journalism, and after taking this degree one can go straight into M.A. (Final) with a duration of one year. The programme is significant in terms of faculty strength (21 full-timers) which is the highest in any university of the SAARC region. Its departmental library has 650 books and the university library 1200.

As for Nepal, the Tribhuvan University provides for Proficiency Level Certificate course in the first two years of the B.A. degree programme, followed by another two years leading to the B.A. degree. Here, there is no department library but the university library has some 250 books.

In Sri Lanka the impetus for journalism training came from the Government's desire to start job related courses. Thus a Department of Mass Communication was established in 1973 at the University of Kelaniya. It has provision for three courses: B.A. (General) of three years with journalism as one of the subjects, B.A. (Honours) of three years, and the Master's of two years. "Only a few books" are available and they are in the university library, and its listing has not been forthcoming.

With regard to Pakistan, though a beginning was made in 1941, the Lahore effort began functioning in a systematic way only in the 1950s. Later departments were set up in Karachi and Sind. Initially they all offered a Diploma in Journalism which have since been upgraded to a Master's. There are altogether eight university courses at present, some giving a diploma and others a degree. No book listing has been forthcoming from Pakistan. As in Sri Lanka, syllabi and course outline from Pakistan are not of much help in identifying books in use.

The books prescribed or recommended for study in the universities of Bengladesh, India and Nepal could be collapsed into 10 broad categories: Print Media, Electronic Media, Advertising & PR, Management & Economics, Media History, Law, Ethics & Policies, Theory & Research, Development, Society & International, and Readers & others. A fairly large number of them seems to repeat among various institutions under differing subjects. As for their availability for students, it varies from 60 per cent to almost 100 per cent.

The distribution of books suggested reveals that Broadcasting (including film medium) and Introduction to Communication, are well covered. Areas such as Development Communication, Communication Research, and Mass Media Management do not have many books. There is some paucity in such technical subjects as Photography and Graphic Arts. On the whole, print media seem to be the best covered.

A little less than a third of the books (32 per cent) have been published in the SAARC region and almost double that number (62 per cent) in North America. The rest are from Europe or are the publications of international organisations such as UNESCO. Surprisingly, there was none from countries of the less developed nations outside the SAARC zone.

In terms of course areas, a high proportion of books on Media History (84 per cent), and Media Law, Ethics and Policies (74 per cent) are regional publications. Except for these two areas, the dependence on North American literature is heavy in all the course areas; it is heaviest in respect of Communication Theory and Research (91 per cent), with just two books on them published in the region.

The urgently needed indigenous books are in such areas as Audio-Visual Communication or Radio-TV Production, Advertising, Public Relations, Editing, Communication Theory, and Research. Next to them are such subjects as Rural/Development Communication, Media Management, News Reporting, Photo Journalism, and Graphic Arts.

For preparing relevant literature, many suggestions were forthcoming from teachers in the region. "Books with local examples," "books in the regional context", "quality material in regional languages", "speedy translation of books from the region", etc. were among them. The urge for books in local languages was stronger in Bengladesh (Bengali), Nepal (Nepali) and Sri Lanka (Sinhalese). Exchange possibility of material among SAARC countries was another suggestion, but they have to be in English: one way of circumventing this is to translate some of the most useful books. Sabbatical leave for teachers and financial support for the book writing endeavour were also mentioned in this connection.

A few teachers have made some attempts in adopting critical approaches to the study of media. These efforts are handicapped because of hurdles in access to information from many sources where there is an accent on developments in the region. Faculty members interviewed for the study did recognise the problem. They have indicated that they depend on current literature and analyses of their own media situation to formulate points for instruction.

When queried of possible contributions by local, some 54 proposals were made: Print Media 14, Electronic Media 9, Advertising and PR 5, Media Management and Economics 1, Media History 2, Communication Theory and Research 12, Communication for Development 7, and General Readers and others 4 (see Table 2).

 

 

Table 2.

Possible Textbook Contributions

Sl. No.

Subject Area

Number of proposed books

1.

Print Media

14

2.

Electronic Media

9

3.

Advertising and Public Relations

5

4.

Media Management and Economics

1

5.

Media History

2

6.

Media Law, Ethics and Policies

-

7.

Communication Theory and Research

12

8.

Communication for Development

7

9.

Communication and Society, International Communication, etc.

-

10.

General. Readers and others

5

 

Total:

54

 

Beginning with the assumption that it might be possible to commission the writing of about 15 books in English or local languages on a priority, the following break-up among five countries appeared the best: Bengladesh 2, India 8, Nepal 2, Pakistan 2, and Sri Lanka 2. Since India is a Union of (linguistic) States and Union Territories, 15 principal languages are involved; in Pakistan Urdu dominates.

In the light of potential for book writing and taking into account the number of institutions offering communication courses, a beginning could be made, provided funding could be located for the task.






*The basis of this paper is an IPDC-supported survey conducted by Prof. K.E. Eapen, Prof. B.S. Thakur and Dr. B.P. Sanjay during 1989-90 under the auspices of the Professional Section of the IAMCR




Back to Main Page