Applying The ’Entitlement Approach’ of Amartya Sen to Education

Published in MS Academic, International Journal, August 2012, ISSN : 2229-6484

(A plan for effective education for the millennium)
Abstract
The various crises of 20th century are still alarming the present era. Developing working models or action plans to combat these crises is the need of the time. In this context the existing philosophies, theories and the approaches can be referred to innovate new ways to combat these crises.

This paper focuses on the point that the ’Entitlement Approach’ of Prof. Amartya Sen, which analyzes poverty and famine, can be applied in the field of education to involve the students of colleges and universities to combat present crises through valuable social work.
The application of the ’Entitlement Approach’ in the field of education demands interdisciplinary approach in teaching and framing of the curriculum. The paper presents that how the interdisciplinary approach in teaching, leads to the development of effective understanding among students.
The paper finally presents that how the ’entitlement approach’ to education can contribute to the development of a healthy atmosphere in colleges and universities.

Key words: Interdisciplinary approach, Transformed entitlement, Transformed entitlement mapping.


India is standing at a juncture where there are remarkable achievements as well as many severe crises like poverty, illiteracy, women problems, unemployment, health related problems and so on. The present era demands an effective approach to combat the existing crises. To combat these crises it is essential to develop working models or action plans.

There is the existence of several philosophies, theories and approaches, which have the seeds of creating better world. The ’Entitlement Approach’ presented by Amartya Sen to analyze poverty and famine has immense possibilities to involve the students of colleges and universities in useful social work, if it is applied to the field of education.
Presently as an effect of exam-centric college and university education students are more concerned about securing high marks in examinations. Excellent result is considered by the students as a ladder to acquire good jobs. Securing high salaried job has become the aim of education for most of the students. This attitude is encouraging exam based studies among students. It is also developing self centered attitude in students. Application of ’Entitlement Approach’ to the field of higher education can not only involve the students of the humanities group in the nation’s work, but also it can enhance the quality of higher education to a great extent. Let us focus on the important terms of ’Entitlement Approach’ from the educational point of view.
The ’Exchange Entitlement’ term of ’Entitlement Approach’ has been defined by Amartya Sen as ’The set of all the alternative bundles of the commodities that he (a person) can acquire in exchange for what he owns may be called the ’exchange entitlement’ of what he owns.-
Another important term of ’Entitlement Approach’ is ’ownership bundles’. Alternative bundles are acquired in exchange of ownership bundles. In the educational context ownership bundles could be the knowledge and understanding which is acquired by the students from their observation, self study, school education, family, society and other possible sources. This acquired knowledge and understanding is needed to be transformed into effective understanding to make it useful as well as practicable for life and society. The colleges and universities, on one hand, can work as a centre for providing new knowledge and on the other, play a vital role in the transformation of the students’ ownership bundles into effective understanding. This understanding includes understanding of the present dynamics of the society, understanding the roots of the crises of the present, selection of the weapons to combat those crises and identification of the factors capable of contributing to the development of the society.
Creating effective knowledge demands interdisciplinary approach in teaching as well as framing the curriculum. The interdisciplinary approach again demands the understanding of the basic powers of different disciplines. The discipline like history has a power to create an effective understanding of the roots of a problem. Literature can create an effective understanding of the aspects of the crises as well as their deep rooted effects on culture. Economics can prove to be useful to find out ways on financial level to deal with any socio-economic crisis. Psychology can help the students to understand the mental condition of the victims of the crises and can also guide the students to provide mental support to the victims in order to create new hope in them. Actually, series of discussions on the basic powers of different disciplines are very much required to frame an effective curriculum for graduation and post graduation courses. This approach to curriculum can lead to frame the syllabus of the above said courses in more scientific and logical pattern.
Instead of flat topics the syllabus of graduation and post graduation courses could have clusters. Each cluster could specify topics of same, as well as different disciplines, which are needed to be seen in correlation with the main topic to create effective understanding.
The ’exchange entitlement’ of ’Entitlement Approach’ therefore becomes ’transformed entitlement’ in the field of education. ’Exchange Entitlement Mapping’ is another important term of ’Entitlement Approach’. Amartya Sen defined it as ’The exchange entitlement mapping’ is the relation that specifies the set of exchange entitlements for each ownership bundles.-
In case of education the ’exchange entitlement mapping’ could be ’transformed entitlement mapping’. The utility of the transformed entitlement could be measured through research work. The curriculum of graduation and post graduation level can include minor research work. This should be team research. The team research work could be of two types:

Theoretical research work
Practical research work


In theoretical research work the team of students will work under the guidance of a subject professor and the required experts from other disciplines. The research team could develop a working model to combat any present crises. The team can also make logical predictions of effects of any existing socio- cultural trend in future. It can also identify any socio-cultural or socio-economic demand of the society and focus on the ways to fulfil the demand. These research works should prove to be valuable for social service.

In case of practical research work the student research team will work under the guidance of subject professors, sociologists and the required experts from other disciplines. The practical research work should be in the form of direct social work. The student team for practical research work can select any backward area of that district in which the college or the university is located. The research team will work according to the established model of social work suitable for the selected area. This approach can introduce ’practical work’ in the curriculum of arts discipline.
The research work could be part of the curriculum of the final year of the graduation and the post graduation course. The evaluation system is also needed to be modified accordingly.

Some ways in which students can contribute to the society

The student research team can select a locality having majority of people below the poverty line. They can conduct socio-economic surveys and capability identifying surveys of the residents of the locality.


The student research team having the students of political science, education, geography, nutrition can create awareness about health, food, cleanliness and children’s education among the people of the locality. They can also coordinate with the different departments of the government as well as the business associations of that district to gain financial or material support to improve the living condition of the people of that locality.


The residents of the above said locality could be divided into different categories on the basis of their capabilities identified by the capability identifying surveys. Students can arrange for vocational training for each category to sharpen their capabilities or hone their inherent skills. This approach will transform the unskilled workers to human resource. The students of MBA and Human Resource Management course can guide them to form self help group and start a business on a small scale based on their vocational skills. The student research team should also provide them knowledge about entrepreneurship and the ways of marketing of their prepared goods. The students of economics and MBA can put their learning into practice in order to arrange for the financial support for the residents at the initial stage.


The students of literature, history, visual arts, dance and music can organize exhibitions, prepare and present street plays, folk songs, and dance dramas to make the people of the above said locality aware of their strengths. These activities can inspire the people of that locality to enrich themselves through various opportunities and move ahead for a better future.
The students of journalism can bring out yearly journals focusing on the works done by student research team. The film studies students can prepare documentary films on the locality where the practical research work has been done.


The youth have an urge to gain popularity. They want to be in lime light. Involvement in politics provides them a scope to gain popularity and importance under the party banner. The entitlement approach to education can contribute to the development of a healthy atmosphere in colleges and universities. Instead of having students’ union based on political parties, students can have different councils for social work. Their urge of gaining popularity can be satisfied by enhancing social work through students’ council. Their quality of working with team spirit can be exploited for valuable social work.

Works Cited
Sen, Amartya. Essays on Poverty and Famines An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford University Press. Delhi. 1981

Sen, Amartya. ’Human Rights and Capabilities’. Journal of Human Development. Routledge,
Vol.6. No.2, July 2005

Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press. Newyork.2000


Dongerkery, S.R. University Education in India. Manaktalas. Bombay. 1967

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