The world is in a constant influx of change. The requisites and innovations of today become a part of history, a few years down the line and are replaced by nuanced and advanced technology and ideas. In this constant evolutionary cycle, we seem to have been stuck somewhere when it comes to our education. Psychology, the science of behaviour and mental process, is accessible to only a few when it is of utmost importance to all of us. If our younger generations are taught psychology since their schooling years, society will reap the benefits of understanding mental well-being and health behaviours from younger ages and avoid stigma. This article expands on the topics of the cycle of evolution and a need for psychology as a discipline in schools.
A Journey From Speciality to Requirement
I overheard a few children while they were playing in the park yesterday. Kids, not more than 10 years of age, were talking about how they were given an assignment in their school about a certain computer programming language, which they had to submit in the coming week. I say ‘certain’ here because this is one of the many fields that I have yet to explore fully but kids, only about a decade younger than me, have skills relevant to the current times. My generation, albeit only a decade older, has studied this same depth of knowledge at a much higher level of education than today’s children. As I thought about this more and more there are multiple of these examples that define relevance yesterday and today.
The direction and speed of change in terms of upskilling have progressed rapidly. It is a constant, never-ending cycle. The times have changed for us struggling to find change to our vegetable vendors and grocery stores with the innovation of “GPay” or credit/debit cards. A traditionally female-centric skill of cooking, much like any other household chore has lost its gender bounds and has now become a universal requirement. The once known skill of being a qualified shorthand typist has become redundant now with the replacement of laptops and touchscreen, the knowledge of which is a prerequisite to individuals of all ages. A once known skill of photography in the hands of only a few has become a piece of common knowledge with the advent of social media and has in fact made people accustomed to a wider array of other skills such as editing, dancing, singing, producing and many more.
The first-ever innovation of a wheel was important for the purposes of travel and transport. It showed the ancestors easier and faster ways of travelling. Bullock carts, carriages were the requisites of man for a length of time in history. Locomotives were then innovated and travel seemed easier than ever before. Today, travel has become faster than ever before. It has become faster, easier and cheaper to travel miles. Locomotives and steam engines have now evolved to have faster forms such as metros, express railways and even bullet trains.
Newton once observed an apple fall from a tree. This phenomenon was mundane and nobody thought about the whys and hows about an object as simple as a fruit falling from a tree. His intensive study on what he called gravity, was at the time, ground-breaking and even today is regarded as one of the most important discoveries. But today there have been far more advancements even in the study of gravity and many more complex phenomena.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. A device for distance communication that was far more convenient than waiting for days, weeks or even months for letters to reach someone. This telephone was a sweeping ray of hope for better and faster verbal communication. This telephone has also witnessed a cycle of evolution where, in the beginning, one had to schedule a call, wait for the call to get booked and then communicate to now where we can call anyone at any given moment within seconds. Most of us have smartphones now and communication has multiple modes now. The age-old ‘landlines’ are a rarity now. The evolution of requisites continues here. The once thought to be “it” landline was gradually replaced by smartphones and before we may know smartphones will be replaced by technology more advanced than it.
The once known source of light, the fire was the requisite of the time visibility. Houses were illuminated only using lamps and candles. This fire was eventually replaced by Edison's light bulb. Since then, lives have changed for the better. We have evolved from bulb to fancier tube lights and LED lights. Today, we can no longer read, work, study and carry on our lives under dim yellow lights and have far better ways to illuminate our surroundings.
Similarly, we have seen much of humankind and aspects around it evolve and be analysed. From the ancient Greek philosophers till today’s scholars and researchers, our quest for knowledge continues. Greek philosophers like Aristotle, Plato and Socrates studied and questioned many events that affect human life and paved the way for increased philosophical thinking. From this time onwards, humans have defined several formal disciplines of study and imparted knowledge to future generations. We started studying various subjects such as Mathematics, Science, Language and Communication. Since then, humans have defined numerous other subjects and specializations that delve into events concerning humans. Today, we study subjects such as psychology, sociology, religious studies that are abstract concepts of study. We have been studying physical sciences for quite some time now but a subject like psychology has caught our attention only recently.
As we seem to have observed from the instances mentioned above, the world is in a constant influx of change. The requisite and finality of today may well be the history and redundancy of tomorrow. The innovations, ideas and disciplines go through a similar cycle of evolution. How many of us have observed these patterns and related them to our lives? How many of us have seen the evolution of mundane objects to even something as abstract as our thought process. Individuals pursuing careers in these physical sciences have been, rightly so, a subject of pride for our society. A formal degree, although still relevant, does not define someone’s “KSAs”. This has also drastically affected, for better or for worse, the teacher-student relationships and the methods in which we impart knowledge to learners. To quote Taylor and Parsons “We need to change how we teach as well as what we teach if we are to engage learners – moving from didactic to constructivist pedagogy. Constructivist instruction requires strong respectful relationships and safe learning environments, especially as teacher-student relationships shift from expert-disciple towards peer-based collaborative learning.” With innovation occurring rapidly, the requirements from people to match with these innovations have skyrocketed simultaneously. We live in times where knowledge is no longer the top 20% intelligentsia of the nation but a daily hustle to keep up with for everyone.
But we seem to have stuck in a rut and forgotten that there are other facets of humans that are imperative to be learnt by all of us and have been ignored by the formal education system. One such subject is psychology. For as long as we know, psychology has been a subject that is out of people’s reach. It is a discipline for only a certain group of students and the others have close to no clue about what this subject encompasses. While the research and field in itself are growing rapidly, the common people, which is an integral part of the study of psychology, is far from the subject.
In today’s rapidly growing world, with cut-throat competition, we constantly hear a surge in the percentage of mental illness, but are we as a society, aware of what these mental illnesses are? In a world of social media and influencer culture, the casual usage of words and phrases such as anxiety, depression, delusions has increased. But how many of us really know the meaning of these words and the gravity of these disorders? Most of us assume that momentary, fleeting feelings of sadness are equivalent to depression and nervousness before giving a speech in front of an audience is anxiety, when in fact these are temporary and eventually pass. Most of us have never been taught what empathy, patience and compassion mean and hence we are clueless about what to do when a friend or a family member is experiencing a panic attack or opens up about their mental illness. We were so caught up learning trigonometry that we never understood introspection and happenings of our mind, let alone that of others.
Psychology as a discipline is gaining importance but society will truly benefit when we learn about this subject from early ages. When children will understand that looking after one’s mental well-being is as important as eating your greens, that is when society will be catching up with the times. Research suggests that our physical health is strongly associated with our mental functioning. If we avoid seeking help when required because we fail to recognise the severity of the symptoms, the distress that it may be causing us or be in denial, we are risking further damage. If children are taught this subject in school, it will only pave the way for a healthier society. It will help to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses, increase awareness, encourage healthy habits towards mental illnesses and possibly even reduce the percentage of mental illnesses amongst the masses. We will be better equipped to deal with any mental health-related emergencies.
Psychology has expanded to many fields of study today. To define this subject, psychology is a scientific study of behaviour and mental processes. The field has expanded to the study of disorders (clinical psychology), industrial and organisational psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology and many more.
Clinical Psychology: This subject describes those psychologists involved directly in providing comprehensive healthcare to patients who are suffering from mental illness.
Cognitive Psychology: this subject is concerned with mental processes such as attention, perception, thinking and other activities in the brain. Cognitive psychologists study the human thought process and how people obtain, process, and store information in the brain.
Developmental Psychology: Developmental psychologists understand how people mature over the course of their lives, emotionally and physically, from birth until old age.
Educational Psychology: Educational psychologists study factors impacting learning, learning methods and how information is processed and absorbed.
Experimental Psychology: Experimental psychologists conduct investigations and empirically explain basic psychological processes, like attention, perception, memory, and reasoning.
Forensic Psychology: Forensic psychologists work in the intersection of the legal system and the field of psychology. They often conduct evaluations and research that aids in legal proceedings.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology: Industrial-Organizational Psychology, also known as I/O psychology, studies how human behaviour impacts industry and organizations.
From self-employed to the top management of a conglomerate, everyone has to go through a constant cycle of “skilling up” and wearing multiple feathers into one's hat. Technology has an important part to play in this change. The Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum predicted that by 2022, 75 million jobs across 20 major economies will be displaced by emerging technologies. This report also predicts that 133 million job roles will be created by this same technology. This suggests a need to update and train oneself to match the demands of the future, making many skills and even some jobs redundant in the process.
Even with this constant requirement of being the “Jack of all trades”, there are a few skills that will continue to remain timeless even if there is a Schumpeterian “Creative Destruction” due to innovation. Learning, observing, listening, developing, collaborating being some of them. I say this keeping in mind that knowledge is going to expand more and more in the future. Skills are going to lose all bounds. Today’s skill will become a prerequisite of tomorrow. The social media that we use today to widen our reach would probably be replaced by an even better platform to which we will have to get accustomed. But here too those age-old skills will be a constant. In a world of grave uncertainty, competition and change, man has started to take his mental health for granted. Emotions are raging, intolerance and mental illnesses in the world are rising. A field like psychology being a subject of grave importance since schooling ages, makes more sense in today’s day and age more than ever. It will not only help us to understand our own mind but also towards others. It is a subject with cross-cultural value. In an education system where we have always been taught the external world, why are we shying away from exploring the internal world?
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This article on 'Psychology : A pre-requisite for the future' has been contributed by Smruti Pusalkar, who is a graduate Psychology student from Fergusson College. She is part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP), which is under the leadership and guidance of Anil Thomas. GIRP is an Umang Foundation Trust initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present it in creative content expression.
Smruti wishes to develop herself to be a more patient listener and a sharp observer to understand the happenings of the world and grow increasingly empathetic. She is passionate about mental health and well being and plans to pursue a career in this field. She is extremely curious about psychology and wants to spread awareness about mental health problems to help those in need.