Teaching Regional Planning

After two and half hours of tiring lecture, I was told that someone was waiting for me in my room.By then I was trying to interest my student on regional planning. It has been my topic of interest for years; when the long lecture ended I remembered that someone was waiting for me. When I went back to my room I could not find anyone, I went to canteen for a coffee and in my return, I found two senior professors from Meenakshi Govt. College for Women waiting for me. After a formal greeting, one of them informed me that she had accidentally visited this blog and to her surprise found the materials related regional planning in the site. I heard from her that regional planning has been introduced as an elective subject in M.Sc Geography under the new CBCS and they have been trying hard to find materials for their students. This blog made them find that regional planning is also included in the MSW curriculum and that made them to approach us (Madurai Institute of Social Sciences) to get some useful reference material as the resources related to regional planning in their library was totally damaged in previous year’s floods.

I recollected my own experience of running here and there to collect materials when we decided to have a paper on regional planning in our curriculum by then was abstruse; I had to work on my own interest to build some good material for the paper. Over the years, I developed materials relevant to our syllabus. When some of the affiliated colleges in MK university area started MSW course, the instructors of that regional planning paper advised their students to get it from their friends doing MSW in our college. Though I was disgusted about their behavior, in order to avoid the hardships faced by the students doing community development specialization in other colleges, I decided to upload the learning material given to my students in this blog and that has been noticed by the teachers like me who were infact searching for resources to help their own students.The decision of these two professors to visit our college itself is a proof for their concern towards their students. More than that their visit made me to realize the power of technology… thanks to Google with its user friendly technology motivated even computer illiterate like me to use its facilities. An enabling environment is needed even to share what we have.. Is it not?

If I recollect my experiences in teaching regional planning to social work students, it was really a frustrating experience. I thought of recommending to take away that paper from the syllabus but for the request of a fraction of my own alumni who really felt that knowledge about regional planning helped them to grasp the nuances of development. One alumnus told me that his knowledge about viability, range of goods and the concept of innovative firms made others to feel that he might have done his MBA additionally. No doubt it sensitized a limited number of students about the need for spatial social justice. But I have to admit that they are very few in number. My teaching experience in the subject has been very frustrating. Majority of my students always give me looks that admit their indifference to the subject.

But teaching of regional planning and adopting it social work curricula benefited me immensely..widened my cognitive horizons and perception. It sharpened my facilitating skills in participatory rural appraisal (PRA), it sensitized me about the intra village disparities and to produce beautiful self explanatory PRA visuals. My interest in regional planning made me a graphicrate.. it slowly made me to learn about GIS and to adapt GPS in PRA practice, normally not of an interesting area for social work educators. My attempt to incorporate GPS in PRA improved the quality of social mapping and reliability of household related information generation. This combination made both the villagers and the NGO’s field staff to feel that social mapping as a pleasant experience. (I am planning to document some of these experiences as an example for best practices in peoples’ participatory geographic information system- PGIS)
This is the positive side but on the negative side, to admit honestly I could not create any interest with my own MSW students. In an utter frustration I recommended to replace regional planning paper with the new livelihood promotion paper. Since locality/regional development is inseperable from livelihood promotion, I retained many of the core concepts that are borrowed from regional planning.
As the semester is coming to an end, I realized that this is the last semester for regional planning paper and it won’t be taught as a subject matter in the semesters to come. It is time to bid goodbye to regional planning from MISS. The approach of the two professors made me to share whatever I have developed. so far But, I feel honored when I think that the material may be better appreciated outside than my students and my colleagues.
Good bye regional planning from MISS and have a nice and fruitful days in the Meeanakshi College.
Thanks to professors Dr. Sethu Rakkayee and Dr. Rameshwari of Sri. Meenakshi Govt.College for women for honoring regional planning by visiting MISS with the real spirit of searching knowledge, the basic quality of a true teacher.
(Note: The entire material is uploaded in scribd site (see the Community Development Specialization Syllabus Post –Paper 16. Regional Planning in this blog ) and ppt presentation will be uploaded in this site after a little bit of editing)

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