Teaching Pedagogy Issues and Challenges of Teaching-Learning Social Science

Issues and Challenges of Teaching-Learning Social Science

Category : Teaching


Issues and Challenges of Teaching-Learning Social Science



  • Understand the objectives of teaching of Social science at various level of school education
  • Engage with issues, challenges, and concerns about pedagogy and pedagogical processes of social sciences
  • Explore the debates and issues of Science versus social science
  • Understand the possibilities for improving pedagogy of social science



The problem and issues of teaching-learning Social sciences emerge, when the nature of social science understood wrong. We have already discussed the nature and pedagogy of social science. On the basis of the understanding of these two chapters, now we will try to explore the problems, challenges, and issues of teaching-learning Social science. Social science has been misunderstood from various points of view, and mainly, it is an amalgamation of History, Geography, Political science, etc. There is a great need to understand social science in its own way that has its existence beyond this amalgamation.

We have to understand that teaching-learning Political science does not mean just to interact in the class or simply try to transfer the information available in book; rather, it is complex process that helps a child engage with the concern .discourse. To understand teaching-learning Social science beyond simply transferring information, this process will be more meaningful to both the learners and the teachers.

Before we move ahead and discuss about the issues and challenge of teaching Social science, it is essential to understand the objectives of teaching of Social science. National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 articulates these objectives at various levels such as primary stage, upper primary stage, secondary stage, and higher secondary stage. Here, we are more concerned about secondary stage; therefore, first, we would be discussing about the overall objectives of teaching of Social science and then objective of teaching Social science at secondary level.

According to NCF 2005, studying the Social sciences is vital for many reasons. It enables children to:

               1.         Understand the society in which they live - to learn how society is structured, managed, and governed, and also about the forces seeking to transform and redirect society in various ways.

             2.         Appreciate the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution such as justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity and the unity and integrity of the nation and the building of a socialist, secular, and democratic society.

3.         Grow up as active, responsible, and reflective members of society.

4.         Learn to respect differences of opinion, lifestyle, and cultural practices.

5.         Question and examine received ideas, institutions, and practices.

6.         Acquire pleasure in reading, by providing them with enjoyable reading material.

            7.         Undertake activities that will help them develop social and life skills and make them understand that these skills are important for social interaction.



The objectives of teaching Social sciences at the secondary stage are to develop among the learner analytical and conceptual skills to enable him/her to:

            1.         Understand the processes of economic and social change and development with examples from modern and contemporary India and other parts of the world.

             2.         Critically examine social and economic issues and challenges such as poverty, child labour, destitution, illiteracy, and various other dimensions of inequality.

3.         Understand the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic and secular society.

4.         Understand the roles and responsibilities of the state in the fulfilment of constitutional obligations.

              5.         Understand the processes of change and development in India in relation to the world economy and polity.

           6.         Appreciate the rights of local communities in relation to their environment, the judicious utilisation of resources, and the need for the conservation of the natural environment.


According to the objectives discussed previously. Social science provides a large framework to learner to understand and critically evaluate the social process and socio-political life. However, we also know that there are many issues, problems, and challenges exist to achieve these objectives, which create hinders in attaining them. These issues and challenges are social, institutional, and political and so forth. In the following sections, the issues and challenges are discussed in detail.


Subjective Knowledge

It is clear that the nature of knowledge in Social science is subjective. Dealing with subjective knowledge is very challenging, because teachers have to deal it without bias. The nature of knowledge in-Soeial science is very diverse and has enough space for subjective interpretation. Sometimes this subjective space is appreciable, but at some point, it becomes difficult to handle. This subjectivity creates challenges in dealing social science effectively. Hence, it is clear that social science cannot be studied purely scientifically, but over subjective space creates challenges.


Teaching for Main Streaming

Social science deals with diversity and one of its aims is also to make people understand the diversity with acceptance. However, Social science teaching in school faces problem that it also teaches to develop faith in mainstreaming, which does not go with very nature of social science and therefore with teaching of Social science. This mismatch creates problem with the entire discourse of social science and teaching of Social science. This probably goes against the objective of social science where respecting diversity is one of the main objectives. This objective gets defeated when we try to put everybody on same path. The scope of multiplicity, diversity, and acceptability of others get shrunken because of main streaming process.


Teachers Are Not Trained to Teach Social Science as They Are Specialised in One Subject

As we know, social science has its own nature that is different from simple amalgamation of all the subjects like History, Geography, Political science, etc., but still give the essence of all the subjects mentioned here. However, university and even teacher education programme prepare teachers primarily according to their main subject. But the teachers have to face problems while teaching Social science at school. Their teaching is governed by their primary subject. Their orientation and teaching of Social science get restricted through one of the Social science subject studied by the teacher. For example, a person with M.A. Political science faces problem with the idea of geography and economic and so forth. Therefore, there is a lack of effective trained teachers in Social science.


Highly Influential by Teachers' Bias

Another challenge which Social science has to face is that it can be biased from teachers own biases. There is a high possibility that teacher understands a concept in a particular way that is his/her personal perspective. However, this perspective will influence the teaching and teaching learning opportunities provided to leaners. It develops a specific kind of venerability with reference how Social science is to be taught. The idea of bias in social science itself is very problematic because, in social science, if not explicitly, but implicitly, a specific kind of ideology get promoted. It is problematic because it does not provide enough space to learner to think critically about any concept. Learners surely get influenced by teachers and therefore from their ideology also. This process socialises them in a unitary way, which dismisses the existence of bias less learning process.


Negative Perspective about Social Science

Social science has always been considered as second-grade subject. Both teachers and student consider that Social science is a useless subject that does not have any association with their life and carrier, and therefore, more emphasis is given to Science subjects than Social sciences. This idea has been propagated not only by teachers but also by parents. This is a very crucial challenge facing by Social science these days. If we move ahead and see the selection of streams after class 10th, Social sciences are generally opted and given to the students getting lesser marks in the examination. Gradually, a kind of negative perspective has been developed about social science, which needs to be changed.


Teaching of Social Science

A subject depends about the knowledge it entails but how this knowledge is presented to the learners is more important. It has been observed in many studies that Social science has been taught very superficially and largely through lecture method. This method does not match with the nature of social science, and therefore, it loses its pedagogic strength. Lack of using appropriate pedagogic processes student also loses their interest in the subject. Therefore, there is a great need to develop better pedagogic ways to deal with social science, and hence, learner's interest can be maintained. Social science need to be looked beyond 'rote learning', where learner only learns facts and figures; rather, there is a need to develop it as a conceptually sound subject with rationality, and for this teaching, learning processes need to be revisited. Constructivist approach will not help, and one has to move beyond it to make is a life subject for human development.


Nature of Social Science

There is a problem about the clarity of the nature of Social science, as some understand it as a simple combination of all the subject come under Social science, that is. History, Geography, Political science, etc., whereas other believes that social science is not simple combination of all the these subjects; rather, it is beyond that and need to be understood with reference to all the subjects mentioned earlier but beyond the mechanical combination. Social science has been understood only as History, Geography, etc., by most of the teacher. However, what emerged out of these subjects, which develops the premises of social science has not been taken seriously by them. This confusion and lack of clarity about the nature of social science affects not only its content,

moreover, its pedagogic processes also.


What to Teach in Social Science

It is another challenge in front of Social science and teaching of Social science that what to teach to the learners. This field is so vast and divers that it becomes very difficult to choose about what to include and what to leave. Whose knowledge will be accepted and whose will be rejected, how and why. Sdciar science teacher sometimes see themselves in difficult situation, where they feel helpless as they are not clear about selection of content, and therefore, teach them what they want to tell to the learners. Again the question of subjectivity and objectivity can be discussed here in this regard. This uncertainty gets transferred to learners and they will get socialised in same way. This chain does not end and simply develop a kind of confusion about what to teach in Social science.


Over Simplification of Social Science

It is very problematic when we start explaining things in over simplify manner. This creates problems with reference to thinking and learning ability. Over simplification of a concept makes brain dependent on simple conceptual explanation. However, whenever and wherever, we have to deal with complicated concept that we feel helpless or struggle a lot with it or sometimes give up. Social science is a subject that has been understood simple. One can hear 'Social science mein kya hai ye to asaan hai' about social science. Therefore, teacher also teaches Social science in a manner as it does not have any importance and explain the concept in a very generic manner, which at long run put a negative effect on learners' ability. Therefore, over simplified teaching in Social science is gradually become a challenge.


Gap between Teaching of Social Science and Dealing with Societal Problem

Social science is considered as it does not have any kinds of Social relevance. It is taught, just to pass the examinations, which has not concern with daily life problems and concerns. Hardly, efforts are made to develop linkages between Social science and social problem and gradually the subject, which is of high social relevance become socially irrelevant. The problem resides in the pedagogic process and how and in what way the content is presented to the learners. This gap ultimately, weakens the strength of Social science as a socially useful subject. It depends largely on teachers' attitude towards subject. If teachers deal with Social science from the point of view of textbook and examination, it can never be made a subject of its own strength.


Lack of Promoting the Skills of Thinking, Questioning, Critical Analysis, and Decision Making

Social science has been seen as subject to be taught for rote learning, which simply limits it capability to make learners a critical human being. Social science has also been seen to taught facts to the learners, where teachers simply inform about the facts available in the books.

Such way of teaching dismiss the possibility of promoting critical and analytical thinking skills in learners and they become only recipient than actually participating in learning process. There is a great need to provide space of questioning to the learner to become an aware and critical member of the society. This will eventually make a critical social scientist. However, such spaces are not given the learner and Social science is taught as passive subject and this has become severe problem for teaching of Social science.


Lack of Authentic Field Experience- and Inquiry-Based Projects

Another challenge to Social science teaching is to decide about authentic filed experiences. Teachers face problems to define what and how to engage learners in field experience. Largely, teachers take them to the historical monuments, which alone does not mean or facilitate the Social science to become authentic and activity-based subject. Assignments are also very theoretical or teachers use the assignment given at the end of the chapter, which does not fulfil the requirement of a live subject such as Social science. Therefore, one has to understand the whole discourse of authentic field experience- and inquiry-based teaching-learning processes.


Teachers' Understanding about the Objectives of Teaching of Social Science

Most Social science teachers are not aware of the importance of teaching Social science, that is, why to teach and how to teach Social science, because they simply teach Social science to provide information to the learners. The idea of teaching Social science is to make better citizens who understand the need of the nation along with the responsibilities and rights. However, school teacher probably not aware of it, and if they are aware, they fail to understand how to make these objective application, and hence, learners can facilitate to become good human beings. Therefore, there will be teachers who know the objective of teaching Social science along with the ways, but systemic issues and barriers do not allow them to apply their understanding. Therefore, how to make qualified teachers and democratic system is a great challenge in teaching Social science. Such situation constitutes a gap in the effective and useful implementation of the content of social science.


Lack of Zeal in Teachers about Social Science

It has been observed and studies also shows that a good teacher always update his/her knowledge to provide better cognitive apprenticeship. However, studies also show that teachers failed to update their knowledge and try to teach the same as they studied. This develops another kind of problem where student fails to know new and contemporary knowledge and concept. This will largely influence their way of perceiving world from one decade old. Therefore, learners also fail to deal effectively with the prevailed problems. Teachers show less zeal to deal with emerging knowledge in Social science across the world. This lack of zeal in teachers also influences learners' perspective towards Social science.


Reforms in Education and Social Science Teachers

Largely, teachers of all the subjects get very less chance to update new changes and reforms taking place in education and it happens because over a period of time the linkages between schools and universities are not strengthened. Social science teachers are not the exception in this regard. Their content and pedagogy get restricted to school Social science. New reforms in terms of knowledge and pedagogy happening in universities are not reaching to them and this becomes a cause of lack of new knowledge in teacher and in learner. The linkage between universities and schools is very important step, which need to be taken immediately.


Lack of Professional Development of Social Science Teachers

Professional development is very essential for all the teachers. However, it has been observed that the professional development programmes are not of high quality and therefore not facilitating the professional enrichment of the teachers. The scope of participating in conferences, seminars, workshop, etc., is very low. Generally, teachers do get such chances and if few get it, school does not motivate to do so. This becomes cause of not professional difficulties for teachers. As we know, workshops are conducted for school teachers in summer vocations, but the results are not satisfactory. Teachers simply go there and spend time and when they back to school everything is same. There is scope of school-based professional development programme available in India, which is the need of the time.


Teaching Social Science Is Only Theory or It Develops Creative Skills Also

Social science has been observed as a theoretical subject and not a subject that provides space for the development of creative life skills. Hence, the way it is taught, it limits its scope to be used in daily life and make it a theoretical subject, which hardly has any kind of association with actual life of learners. Learning few facts from the textbooks has become synonyms of teaching-learning Social science. However, it is a fact that social science has a great relevance in our social life. It facilitates to understand the social scenario in which they are living. However, unfortunately, developing such creative skills are not part of Social science teaching in actual practice, and therefore, it has become a challenge in front of Social science to how to prepare such Social science school teachers who can facilitate developmental and creative skills in learners. This also questions the relevance of teaching of Social science for life-sustaining vocation. It becomes unclear to the learners that why are they studying Social science if it does not lead them towards a good carrier for sustainable life.

Space for Reflection on Social Science Content to become Good Citizens

As we discussed earlier that what is to be included in Social science textbooks have always been a matter of debate and have not received any clear answer yet and the contexts available in textbooks are largely political governed, which hardly provide space to develop critical and effective citizens. Second, the way that it is taught also does not provide space to think and develop ones understanding about concepts; rather, it is simply given to learners, which does not provide any space to be actively and critical engage with the content given in the textbooks. This decreases the possibility of developing good citizens for the nation.


To Provide Space for Developing National Consciousness

Teaching Social science faces problem in developing national consciousness, due to the content given in textbooks make teacher to confuse about the national and international concerns. The very idea of globalisation created this conflict or confusion, where teachers somehow fail to make correct sense of the given knowledge and get influence by the overt idea of globalisation. Experiences with school teacher show that largely teachers believe that globalisation is good for the nation. However, it is necessary to know how it is good and where it is not good and influencing nation's growth and existence of future generation? Therefore, teachers have one-sided perspective about the content available in the textbooks and try to simply transmit it to the learners. Dealing with such issues where teachers themselves are not aware of the challenge in teaching Social science.


Social Reality versus Content

Content of social and social reality is not dealt adequately with reference to teaching of Social science. The knowledge available in Social science textbooks has hardly any relation with lived social reality. This gap creates countless problems with reference to Social science about it utility, usefulness, significance, and so forth. The way social science actually construct knowledge and the way it is presented with reference to social life does not match and here lies the actual problem, which can only be dealt effectively if we will develop relationship between social reality and the Social science contact and the process of knowledge construction. The challenge of teaching Social science is to develop strong relation between these three dimensions.


Issus Related to Interdisciplinary Approach

Social science is interdisciplinary in nature and therefore needs interdisciplinary approach in acquisition. However, how to understand this nature and make this subject interdisciplinary is a great challenge for teachers in school. By saying interdisciplinary will not help much in this regard, rather one has to understand and make use of this knowledge while teaching. For example, one has to link different subjects while teaching Social science like a story. It also leads to problems to teachers, as teaching methodology is found to be not good. Therefore, there is a great need to make sense of interdisciplinary approach that deals with practical or implication part.


Hegemony of Science and Science Method and Struggle for Existence

Social science is struggling with a unique kind of challenges nowadays, where it has to prove itself as objective as science is, and it creates an unrequired and needless comparison between two subjects or discipline with different nature and epistemological basis. We all are aware of the fact that the nature of science is different from the nature of Social science, then why everyone is trying to establish equivalence between these two distinct disciplines. This struggle of compression forces social science to develop characteristics of science and it becomes cause of destroying the nature and beauty of social science, where social science has to prove itself as a science.

Gradually, the scientific method has dominated the entire field of social since. This has also crated major problem in social science, where we try to deal with subject filed with very objective tool. This mismatch in the tools and the field of research creates problem in fundamental researches and innovation in the field of social science. The methods of social science researches have been rejected for investigation because of unwanted importance is given to scientific method.



It has already been discussed earlier that Social science is considered as a subject, which is factual and has very less utility in real life as far as occupation is concerned. Therefore, it is considered as a subject that needs only rote memorisation. This very idea ruins the pedagogic needs of the subject and restricts it to the rote learning. It has become a challenge for Social science pedagogic discourse to understand and establish social science beyond memorisation. There is a need to establish the need of the utility of the subject, and therefore, pedagogic reforms are need.



Social science is a very important subject at school level and there is a great need to establish the everyday importance to this subject. However, it faces many challenges, not only as a discipline rather with reference to its pedagogic process also. Social science is considered boring subject by majority, which need to be question and for that lots of new researches will be needed to come out from this pessimistic understanding about social science. Not only students, rather, teachers also perceive Social science as a low-status subject, whereas science and mathematics are considered high-status subjects. Social science methods have not be given due respect in its own discipline, and it became one of the major challenges faced by social science. Interdisciplinarity is another challenge social science, which has to face as it is misunderstood by the people. Simple amalgamation of all associated subjects is considered social science, which distort the actual essence of Social science and its teaching. This problem leads to another problem where one can see huge difference between social reality and social science content. This widens more when social science taught as a fact than ever evolving discipline, and therefore, learners fail to deal effectively with their own social issues and problem, because they hardly make sense of what is taught in school and what exists in real social life. In such a situation, learners also fail to develop

skill of thinking, questioning, critical analysis, and decision making, and Social science becomes a subject of rote memorisation. To deal with all these issues, it is important that the nature of social science need to be understood in itself and not always with reference to science. Social science has to prove its strength with reference to itself and not in line with science, because both have distinct nature all together.



Social science teaching is an interesting and complex process, where, countless issues and concerns work simultaneously. A Social science teacher has to keep many things in mind while teaching. Some of the points are discussed as follows:

1.    Social science teaching-learning is more effective when it explains meaning completely to the learners. Meaningfulness develops a special kind of mind network, where learners become able to create linkages among various ideas, beliefs, and concepts. Meaningful teaching of Social science will also facilitate the development of in-depth knowledge and understanding about any concept. A good and effect Social science teacher will always teach less but meaningful. Teachers will always emphasis more on depth and breadth.

2.    Social science teaching must promote subject-oriented literacy, which is inter-disciplinary and promote the critical-thinking processes to analyse the social values, context, and issues with the help of inquiry-based approach, so that, learner become able to deal with social concern, challenges, and issues effectively.

3.    3. Teacher must provide spaces for reflection not only to the learner rather to their own practices also.  This opportunity will facilitate learners and teachers to understand curriculum in a more effective and comprehensive manner, and therefore, they can do better planning of teaching and learning. Reflective practices will engage teachers and learners to make more elaborated scenes of the nature and epistemological bases of social science and this engage ment will lead them to develop need based pedagogical practices in social science.

4.    Social science teaching must'provide a balance perspective and should allow learner to decide their own way of action with appropriate rational. This will make them more responsible for their actions and decisions. Such issues are largely related to caste, class, gender, religion, culture, etc.

5.    Social science needs to be observed as an integrative subject where, this integration is not formed one the basis of History, Geography, Political science rather it incorporates the fields of anthropology, psychology, sociology and a like. The perspective developed on the basis of such eclectic approach provides a better lens to see and analyse social problems. This also provides a totality perspective to understand problems and issues with reference to its con- nection from past to present and predict for future.

6.    A wider space to conduct inquiry-based research need to be provided to enhance the ability of analysing, synthesising, decision making, etc.

7.    Social science has to be value based, which prepares responsible, aware and human citizens. Social science has to develop democratic attitude in learner so that they can trust and have faith in democratic values at large. The ideas of multiple perspectives, respecting the dignity of others, accepting others' existence rather tolerating other and so on need to be promoted through Social science teaching.

8.    Value development is not restricted to learners only; moreover, teachers also need to provide time and space to themselves to develop values about their own teaching processes. Teachers should develop consciousness about their own value system that surely influences their pedagogic practices and believes.

9.    Social science teaching must develop the capabilities of argument and taking rational decisions about one's own choice and the choices that make effect on others. Needless to say rational thinking will surely develop a better citizen for the nation and for the world. To develop these abilities, teacher has to provide spaces for debate, authentic experiences, in-depth discussion, and raising questions and so on.

10.  Social science should not be considered as simple, boring, and easy subject. It is a challenging subject and provides challenging and wide range of researches in the concern field. Therefore, teachers must provide intellectual challenges to the learners, and therefore, they can become able to deal any conflicting situation effectively.

11.  Social science teaching should be active. Where lived and authentic experiences are shared and provide base of the teaching-learning process of Social science. Let learners also decide what they want to study, let me bring material to the class, let them decide the way they want to study, because it is very important to actively engage and take part in all the actions actually to become authentic learner of any concept (Hands of experiences).

12.  Pedagogy used by teachers, need to be clear and precise where, learner can make sense about the classroom practices. The classroom must be engaging, interactive, authentic, and full of examples and learner centred. Largely, Social science classes should be based on humanistic approach.


Issues and Challenges of Teaching-Learning Social Science

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