The Value of Collectivism in Nepal : The Changing Dynamics

When we hear the word “values”, some of the ideas that pop in our head might be- norms, traditions, rules, beliefs, morals, and the likes. Commonly and simply defined, values are certain principles or guidelines that determine our way of interpreting and making sense of certain situation, attitude, or objects. The study of values or value system has been the interest of cross cultural psychologists, broadly to compare between cultures/societies and specifically to understand the role of values in human behavior and mental processes. The work of Geert Hofstede (between 1967 and 1973) is considered one of the pioneer works, later developed into cultural dimension theory.

The cultural dimension theory provides the basis for describing national cultures along six dimensions: power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, long term orientation, and indulgence versus restraint. Among these six dimensions, individualism has caught fancy of many researchers and they have tried to study the value systems of culture as either being individualistic or opposite of individualistic, termed collectivistic.

According to Hofstede (1980), individualistic societies emphasize “I” consciousness, autonomy, emotional independence, individual initiative, right to privacy, pleasure seeking, financial security, need for specific friendship and universalism. Collectivistic societies on the other hand, stress “We” consciousness, collective identity, emotional dependence, group solidarity, sharing, duties and obligations, need for stable and predetermined friendship, group decision and particularism. Based on these characteristics, many researchers have found in general that western cultures (societies from Europe, North America, and Australasia) tend more towards individualism while Asian, African and South American cultures are primarily collectivistic in nature (Baines, 2009).

Nepalese have a social practice called 'mela' in farming where the members in a village are obliged to participate in plantation and harvest of the crops each other in turn wise.
Nepalese have a social practice called ‘mela’ in farming where the members in a village are obliged to participate in the plantation and harvest of the crops of each other in turn wise.

While the cultures are studied in terms of polar opposites: either individualistic or collectivistic, some researchers like Sinha and Tripathi (1994) and Ebero (1998) propose that there is within-nation variability in individualism and collectivism, and that both values might co-exist in a culture/society. Due to the rapid wave of modernization and changing lifestyles, the proposition of co-existing values might hold some truth after all. Even Nepal, regarded as a primarily collectivistic culture, is witnessing shift towards individualism as evident by the choice of lifestyle by the youths and more educated groups. This doesn’t mean that collectivistic values are fading but rather that the dominance of collectivistic values (mostly upheld by the elder generation) has been challenged by the wave of individualism. It doesn’t necessarily mean a dark cloud to be worried about.

Collectivistic cultures have advantages such as social support, resources and security, which can be detrimental in positive psychological adjustment in an individual. However, restrictions on self expressions, emotions, behaviors and personal goals might hinder the overall development of an individual. Thus, it might be safe to say that both value systems have their own advantages and disadvantages. I believe that the wise thing to do would be to incorporating the positive aspects of both values and minimizing the effects of negative aspects. This way, we can probably get best of both worlds and worst of none. Instead of saying that one is good and other bad, we can move in a continuum: not being rigid but incorporating both values as per the demand of the context. So I believe that it is a great opportunity for Nepal to take the best of both worlds as it is evident that Nepal is going through a transition phase in value orientation.

Nepal has a score of 30 on the individualism dimension of the 6-D model developed from cultural dimension theory by Geert Hofstede. A low score of 30 in this (individualism) dimension means that Nepal is considered a collectivistic society (Dahlin and Regmi, 1997), which is evident in a close, long-term commitment to the member ‘group’, be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. However, the world is developing in technology and it has brought a great change in the way people live their lives. Nepal is not resistant to these changes. With the changing world, due to technological and economical advancements, people’s values have also changed. Earlier, people used to live in large families, joint family system was dominant. So, people at that time held collectivistic values more than the individualistic values. Collectivism was at the center of the culture and people’s life. Though there have been very few researches in Nepal regarding value orientations, Bhattachan states that with the increasing trend in urbanization and mass media development, urban and educated Nepalese are becoming more inclined towards individualism (Bhattachan, 2005, as cited in International encyclopedia of adolescence 2007). It is evident in our day to day life that youths of today demand independence and are more egocentric, the characteristics of individualism. However, it is just mere assumptions as it is not backed by research. So, it is difficult to say with confidence if value orientation of Nepalese has changed, and if then to what extent, and what implications does it hold in describing and explaining the Nepalese society as a whole. This seems to be the research gap.

 

References

Baines, J. (2009). What are the factors that shape the career decisions of LSE students? (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/28750/1/finaldissertationjbaines.pdf

Bhattachan (2005). International Encyclopedia of Adolescence, 2007.

Dahlin, B., & Regmi, M. P. (1997). Conceptions of learning among Nepalese students. Higher Education, 33, pp.471-93. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1002992411868

Ebreo, A. (1998). Subjective culture, perceived social support, and adaptive coping: A multi-ethnic study of the transition to college. Dissertation Abstracts International, 59

Hofstede, G. (1980). Cultures consequences: International differences in work related values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Sinha, D., and Tripathi, R. C. (1994). Individualism in a collectivist culture: A case of coexistence of opposites. In Kim, U., Triandis, H., Kâğitçibaşi, Ç., Choi, S., & Yoon, G. (Eds.), Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications (pp. 123-136). Thousand Oaks, CA US: Sage Publication

 

 

 

PESH Education in Pokhara

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23 Feburary 2016

Psychbigyaan Team visited Pokhara with their school program from Feburary 16 – Feburary 20 for ‘PESH (Psychological, Emotional, Social,  Health Education’. The visit was coordinated and sponsored by Sansar Nepal, NGO that is supporting children for education and skills. Psychbigyaan Team comprising Kripa Sigdel, Sujan Shrestha and Ashish Kafle had completed two workshops on two different schools and one workshop to teachers in their Pokhara stay. The module of the session was designed, developed and put in action by team themselves.

The major goals of PESH Education developed by PNN for schools were:

  • To psycho-educate students.
  • To enhance their mental skills and competencies.
  • To share information on how to better support students from Psychological perspective and also to interact with them.

The goals were not limited to these. Students gained various other aspects of motivation, learning, psychological aspects from the session.

Photos from School Program at Gyankunja S.S (Feb-17)

in Gyankunja school

session in gyankunj

Photos from School Program at Himanchal H.S.S (Feb 18)

himancha school-2, pkr

himanchal1

 

Photos from workshop with teachers at Himanchal H.S.S

Sansar Nepal Representative, Michele, introducing teacher's workshop and PNN team to the teachers!
Sansar Nepal Representative, Michele, introducing teacher’s workshop and PNN team to the teachers!

group pic with the teachers

Few of the feedbacks from many we collected at the end of the program:

collage of feedbacks
            collage of feedbacks

 

Feeling freedom with you. Known about our aims, strength, weakness. Known about good and bad friends. Feeling a different world where there’s someone who is listening to me :)
Feeling freedom with you. Known about our aims, strength, weakness. Known about good and bad friends. Feeling a different world where there’s someone who is listening to me 🙂

 

This programme was awesome. We learnt many things related to our aim, adolescent. We learnt that how to achieve goal in our life or in future. So this program should be held in other schools too.
This programme was awesome. We learnt many things related to our aim, adolescent. We learnt that how to achieve goal in our life or in future. So this program should be held in other schools too.

Outcomes of our PSEH Education:

  • Students got psycho-education regarding various psychological aspects needed for them.
  • Students became aware about how to handle stressors – academically and personally.

Our special thanks to Sansar Nepal. This is the first program we did on collaboration, looking forward to much of the programs we will be doing together throughout various schools.

Looking forward to other schools visits to talk about Psychology and Mental Health.
Let’s make the world better place to live in by working on the issues which we are passionate about!

Psychology and its prospects in Nepal

faq-psychnp

Psychology is probably one of the most misunderstood fields of study among lay men. A new kid on the block, it only separated from Philosophy roughly about 146 years ago and established itself as a scientific entity after the establishment of first psychology laboratory by Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, Germany on 1879 A.D. The other possible reason for the misconceptions about psychology might be the fact that it deals with the complex idea about mind and behavior. E might not always be equal to MC^2 as it does in physical science. Dealing with each individual psyche requires more than generalizations, through years and years of scientific study has propagated Psychology from mere introspection to a modern scientific entity with its premises based on scientific research and experimentations.

Every idea is prone to change as change is the only constant entity. As American psychologist Robert S Woodworth quotes, “First psychology lost its soul, then its mind, and then its consciousness, but it still has some behavior of sort’.For now, psychology is defined as the scientific study of mind and its functions, especially those affecting behavior in a given context. Much like the definition suggests the current dominant approach in Psychology is the eclectic one. We not only look at the mind (psychodynamic approach) and its functions (cognitive approach), but its relation with the observable behaviors (behavioral approach) in a given context (socio-cultural approach). Also the goal of psychology is to not only study mind and behavior but understand the human potential for positive change (humanistic approach) and bring about such changes. Study of the roles of heredity, neurons and various brain chemicals in shaping human behavior and mind functions (biological approach) has also gained prominence with the latest development in the field of science and technology. So it is safe to say that we are in an eclectic era of Psychological study. Talking about all the scientific developments in Psychology, the fact cannot be understated that the wave of positive changes has mostly incorporated the more developed countries in comparison to developing and least developed countries of the world.

General perception regarding Psychology

Though psychology is still looked upon as a ghost territory that only a few people would dare to venture in both developed and underdeveloped countries, it holds a firmer ground in undeveloped and developing countries like Nepal. The awareness about the field of Psychology and mental health is little less to none in Nepal (but the prospect looks good in the near future, this can’t be denied). Though various efforts from government and non-government sector and tragically mother nature (the great earthquake of April 25, 2015) has in some degree helped sensitize the issues of Psychology and mental health, a lot has yet to be done. It is a hopeful time for us all, as the new generation of Nepalese people is becoming gradually aware about the importance of psychological well-being and mental health through exposure to technical advances like the Internet. But there still seems to be a slight misconception about what psychologists do (but as I said earlier, our Western counterparts are no different, a little less but nevertheless, when it comes to matter of what Psychology really is). When I told my friends that I was studying psychology, the most common and instant reaction would be- “ok then, read my face and tell me what I was thinking”, “don’t try and read my mind huh!” or even in some rare cases- “so can you hypnotize by looking into people’s eyes”. (Now that I think about it, it might have been part of a common psychological joke, rather than blunt misconception. I don’t know how to feel right now, to laugh with them or at them). Not only me but all of my friends also faced similar inquiries in a similar situation.

Our Nepalese culture and traditions are dominated by religion. We are religious people, with our roots based on traditional methods of healing and belief on gods, demons and spirits. (I don’t mean to say that our belief is faulty, because I too am a believer in gods, spirits, and religion. A lot of times, religion and beliefs have found answer where science got stuck in questions. And I believe if we look into religious beliefs and practices in a scientific manner it will make more sense than science itself. For that we need diverse and tiring scientific studies into the religious and spiritual claims.)This religious base (beliefs that psychological problem is due to spirits, bad karma and curse) might be the reason that Psychology and Mental Health has been overshadowed in Nepalese society. Looking at a broader prospect, this might be applicable to the entire world, as no corner is devoid of religion and religious beliefs. But the key hurdle for desensitization of psychological and mental health misconceptions has been the stigmatization associated with it. This stigmatization has been a major problem for both developed and undeveloped and developing countries.

The stigmatization of psychological and mental health issues is so profound that having a mental health problem is believed to be the sin of your previous life and untreatable. But this is not true, mental health problem is treatable. The prognosis (chance of full recovery) for psychotic cases (severe mental health problems) might be less in comparison to neurotic cases (mild mental health problems) but isn’t that the same case for physical illness? Some physical diseases can be cured and some can’t. Having a psychological problem is just like having a physical illness – you find out the cause for the problem, go through certain treatment module/therapies, and resume your normal life after recovery. But this idea is not taken as simply as it is by the general mass. It’s OK to have Diabetes and take lifelong medication but it’s NOT OK to have Depression. The part and possibly the major reason for such stigmatization might be the generalization of all psychologically/mentally ill people as ‘Mad People’.

Madness if usually associated with all types of psychological problems. It is a common belief that psychologists deal with Mad People. This notion is not correct. Only specialists like clinical psychologists deal with people having psychological/mental problems. And even then, they can’t be termed as ‘Mad’. All other field of psychology deal with people going through normal day-to-day problems and work in areas like industries, schools, organizations dealing with human resources. Madness is generally referred to as a loss of control over oneself and one’s ability to function properly. Though this scenario is similar to those people with severe mental health problem (Psychosis), the term ‘Madness’ is considered derogatory and thus the term ‘Psychotic’ is used to describe them. But the people suffering from mild mental health problems (Neurosis), fit nowhere in the category of being ‘Mad’. Though with some areas of dysfunction, they are fully capable to function properly and lead a normal life. These people experience difficulty in some part of their life, just like a person suffering from cold experiences difficulty in throat while other body parts function properly. With some professional help and emotional support or medications in severe cases of neuroticism, they can duly return to their day-to-day life and expect full recovery in the areas of dysfunction.

The generalization of all psychological problems as madness has prevented individuals from seeking professional help in cases where their condition is perfectly treatable. Lack of timely intervention due to the fear of stigmatization leads to deterioration of mental health condition and even the easily treatable neurosis might turn into severe case of psychosis.

Study of Psychology in Nepal      

Psychology was first taught in intermediate level at Tri Chandra College, Kathmandu starting from 1947 A.D. However, master’s level study only started from 1980 A.D. at Tri Chandra College. It later shifted to the central department of psychology, Tribhuvan University, Kirtipur. So psychology can be considered a fairly new subject in comparison to other subjects being taught in Nepal. Even today, Bachelors level psychology is taught in Tri Chandra College and few other private colleges like Golden Gate International College and K and K International College. Master’s Level course is offered at Tribhuvan University Central Department of Psychology, Trichandra College and Padma Kanya College, Bagbazzar. Therefore, there are limited options for psychological study and even more limited specialization courses available in Nepal. As of now, specialization courses are available only in Clinical Psychology, Counseling Psychology and Industrial and Organizational Psychology. The lack of choices for specialization has forced Nepalese students to go abroad for the higher educations.

The lack of exposure to Psychology due to limited number of institutions offering the subject might be one of the reasons for the drawback of Psychology in Nepal. The recent trend shows that number of Psychology enthusiast students has increased. Until now, the few institutions have been able to hold the student load but in near future more such institutions are needed with more specialization options if field of Psychology is to develop in Nepal.

The necessary reformation in higher level education is not only quantitative but also qualitative. The course taught in psychology has gone little or no update from where it began. Psychology and every other field of science are ever-evolving with new studies and findings providing new ideas and new approaches. Old theories and techniques in psychology might not be relevant and useful in present context. New ways of dealing with human behavior and mental health have surfaced and already become a new wave in the West (meaning the more developed countries). We need to keep ourselves and our students updated about the latest developments of Psychology if we are to develop a competent global citizen.

For us to be competent in our field, we not only need to keep ourselves updated about the latest developments but should also participate in new research and findings. The sorry state of research based study in Nepal can be evident by the fact that most of the researches conducted in Nepal come from foreigners. There are only a few prominent researchers in Nepal and that number is even less in the field of Psychology. Nepal is an untapped resource for new findings in the field of Psychology and we, the Nepalese people, need to be the first on the summit.

The exposure to Psychology is needed not only in higher level educations, but the exposure needs to start from the school level. Just as Health and Population is taught in school level, Psychology and Mental Health should also be included as a choice subject for the students. Early introduction to principles and basics of Psychology might help develop a new generation that is sensitive and has the right approach towards psychological and mental health issues. The first and perhaps the major goal of such effort should focus on eradication of stigmatization and generalization of issues concerning Psychology and Mental Health. This can be termed as a grass root approach, where the goal is to create an informed generation of people rather than focusing on people already with a set of beliefs and attitudes. Thus a national level educational policy for the sensitization of Psychology and Mental Health seems to be the need.

In conclusion

Psychology has a lot of scope and the horizon seems promising. A better future for psychology demands a rigorous effort on the part of psychology professionals. A healthy population is a healthy country and being an integral and perhaps the most important aspect of health, psychology and mental health needs to be prioritized from both public and national level. As the new generation puts it, “psychology needs to be the buzz in town”.