For a social science student, studying at the London School of Economics (LSE) is like living a dream. LSE has an exceptional reputation in the realm of social sciences.
Signing up at LSE, for me, was an induction into a whole new mode of learning. The most interesting aspect of the system is that you’re allowed to choose the subjects that you want to pursue rather than accepting what is imposed. To be frank, tailoring a curriculum, given the vast number of courses on offer, felt like mixing a custom-made salad. However, the process becomes a bit strenuous, considering the fact that there are a large number of relevant and equally fascinating subjects on offer and your kitty can hold only four full units. So, you are required to narrow down your interests and confine yourself to the ones that you are truly passionate about. Thus, in the first few days, I spent a great deal of time pondering over my options.
Once my course choices were finalised and approved by the department, I got to know my schedule and began organising myself. Thus began the real academic life. Here, the classes are very interactive and seminars, including debates and discussions, are an integral part of a student’s schedule. After registration, students get to access the catalogue of relevant reading material for each seminar session. This service is available throughout the academic calendar on “LSE Moodle” (LSE’s Online Resource Centre for students). One is required to find time and critically engage with these materials (sometimes overwhelming in number) and evolve a perception, which is then put to test in subsequent discussions and debates where he/she meets contradictory viewpoints that challenge perceptions.
Often, what brightens the classroom atmosphere is the intellectual enthusiasm of LSE students which prompts them to engage one another in debates to sort out their differences. In my observation, this is the central pillar of the LSE pedagogy. The pursuit of a dialectical approach “to know the causes of things” is the motto of the institution. Further, the professors use various means in their tool-kits to test your reasoning acumen, which quite often involves introducing a crisis to which you’re asked to respond. That requires an evaluation of all the available alternatives in search of the best one.
In marked contrast to the system that is followed in India, the western approach is, to a great extent, based on ‘critical engagement’ of the academic material. One is expected to probe all aspects of a given issue before treading a line of argument, which is then required to be substantiated with proper reasoning and analysis.
Moving out of classrooms, one can find a variety of extracurricular activities to suit his/her interests. The LSE Student’s Union caters to the needs of the diverse student body, providing the much-sought-after counselling and advice, which are invaluable during the first few weeks.
The writer is pursuing M.Sc. in History of International Relations at the London School of Economics.