Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On the Education day, Know Your Educationists

A gathering at the SKICC organized by the Academic Staff College of the University of Kashmir on November 1, 2008, provided an unique setting for Kashmir's academia to gather for promoting education


(Geer Muhammad Ishaq, Dr. Z. A. Chatt and Prof. Mehraj-ud-din present a brief overview of the proceedings of an expert level panel discussion on higher education held at SKICC.)

DEPARTMENT OF HIGHER Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India has decided to observe 11th November, birthday of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the first Union Minister of Education as the “National Education Day” every year. A resolution to this effect has been adopted by the Government of India on September 11th, 2008. At this occasion, it will be pertinent to present a brief overview of the proceedings and recommendations of an expert level panel discussion organized by the Academic Staff College of the University of Kashmir in association with Indian Institute of Public Administration, Kashmir Chapter at SKICC, Srinagar on November 1st, 2008. Veteran educationists of the state including principals of several degree colleges and noted academicians of the Universities of Kashmir and Jammu participated in the panel discussion that was divided into two sessions in addition to the inaugural session. Theme of the first session was, “Higher Education in India – Changing Dynamics”, whereas the theme for second session was, “Higher Education – Professional Development and Quality Control”.

Prof. Riyaz Punjabi, Vice-Chancellor, University of Kashmir, in his special address also made a set of recommendations for introspection and subsequent rectification of our higher education system that include addressing the problems at micro level with special reference to the J&K state, bridging the gap between academia and policy-makers, making greater infrastructure available to colleges and universities, restoring dignity of teachers and honouring their feedback, need for non-intervention by political forces, greater collaboration and better coordination between three units of education at school, college and University level.

Shri N. N. Vohra, Governor of the J&K state presented a comparative overview of the situation existing at the time of independence of India and the one existing today. He expressed his grave concern over deteriorating standards of education alongside a proportional increase in the number of educational institutions. He emphasized upon the eminent academicians of the state to determine the extent, in the context of present democratic functioning, to which we can proceed further and set the system right. He informed the gathering about the government decision to set up a committee to establish state knowledge commission.

During the first session that was chaired by Prof. A.G. Madhosh, former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Kashmir and co-chaired by Prof. T. A. Kawoos, Principal, Amar Singh College, Sringar, several noted educationists of the state presented their views and recommendations. Those who spoke besides Chairman and Co-Chairman during the first session include Prof. G. R. Malik, former Head, Dept. of English/Director, EMMRC, University of Kashmir, Prof. Mushtaq Ahmad Peer, Director, Institute of Computer Sciences, University of Kashmir, Prof. (Dr.) Zeenat Ara, Principal, Govt. Women’s College, Srinagar, Prof. Z. A. Chatt, Senior Faculty, Govt. Degree College, Anantnag and Prof. C. L. Vishen, Chairman, CASET. During post-session interaction, Mr. Nasir Mirza, Senior Faculty, MERC, University of Kashmir, Prof. M. I. Nazki, ex-Controller of Examinations, University of Kashmir, Prof. A. R. Khan, Professor of Zoology, Prof. Yasmin, Prof. Sharf-e-Alam, former Vice-Chancellor of Patna University and others participated in the deliberations.

During the second session that was chaired by Prof. Nisar Ali, Coordinator, PG Centres, University of Kashmir and co-chaired by Prof. G. M. Dar, Principal, Sadiq Memorial College of Education, Srinagar, experts who presented their views and suggestions besides chairman and the co-chairman include, Prof. G. M. Sangmi, Dean, Faculty of Commerce and Management Studies, University of Kashmir, Prof. N. A. Nadeem, Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Kashmir, Prof. M. I. Nazki, ex-Controller of Examination, University of Kashmir, Prof. A. R. Rather, former Dean, Faculty of Education, University of Kashmir, Prof. Ashok Aima, Senior Faculty, The Business School, University of Jammu, Prof. V.K. Kapoor, Director, Law School, University of Jammu, Prof. Abdul Hamid, Principal, Govt. College of Education, Sringar, Prof. Syed Rabia Firdous, Principal, Gandhi Memorial College, Srinagar and Prof. Nazir Ahmed Gilkar, Senior Faculty, Degree College, Bemina. Several principals of various degree colleges and university teachers participated in the post-session interactions and posed many questions to the panellists.

There is also need for diversification of education at middle or high school level owing to the fact that orientation of students towards professional subjects needs to be done from 8th or 10th standard onwards so as to provide greater avenues and foster their inherent capabilities in one particular stream rather than making them study all kinds of subjects irrespective of their personal interests and inclinations. Education should be made compulsory only upto a particular stage and then it should be made more choice-based. Admission policy in colleges and universities should be streamlined and made fool-proof. Admissions should be strictly made on the basis of total intake capacity of the respective institutions and the aptitude/merit of aspiring candidates rather than on the basis of other stray considerations. There are instances where colleges having a total intake capacity of 4000 have ended up giving admissions to over 12000 students in a single session. Need of the hour is to implement UGC guidelines in letter and spirit and stop violating norms.

Creative skills and competitive spirits of the students of higher education should be fostered and encouraged. In order to make our students better citizens, human and moral values need to be inculcated in them by way of value-based education. That is very important in order to lessen the burden of evils and turmoil in our society. Industry-academia interaction should be enhanced. At least one residential college at each district headquarters should be upgraded/established with extended library access to students as well as the faculty beyond normal working hours of the college. There should be greater autonomy to institutions of higher learning and the concept of autonomous colleges as envisaged under the objectives of proposed state knowledge commission should be seriously considered. There is dire need to carry out regular review and updation of syllabi as well as reforms in evaluation/examination patterns by all educational institutes. Adhocism and contractualism that breeds mediocrity in higher education should be abolished and only clear vacancies should be created and subsequently got filled up by meritorious candidates through proper selection procedure.

Objectives of higher education should be properly defined and total quality management procedures adopted in teaching, research and extension at the institutions of higher learning. Undue intervention by politicians in educational institutions should be stopped and the academicians should be allowed to work freely without submitting to any extraneous considerations. Ways and means should be explored to reduce the stress levels among students as a result of emerging cut throat competition and decreasing job opportunities. We should keep pace with brisk technological advancements in teaching learning process and should not lag behind in adopting the latest technology in every sphere of our education, be it in teaching, devising syllabi, evaluation methods, certification and automation procedures etc. Distance mode of education should be expanded to enhance accessibility to education. Alongside providing better perks and remuneration to teachers, they should be made more accountable. Transparency in educational institutions should be increased and teachers should have a greater realization of their responsibilities towards the society. Recruitment and transfer procedures and policies in educational institutions should be made more transparent so that they are not used by the vested interests as a tool for punishment or reward. Integrated efforts should be made by all stake holders in converting our educational institutes into the centres of knowledge and excellence. All players should contribute their bit towards building a knowledge based society.

(This article does not cover all the views and recommendations presented by various participants due to constraints of space. Same are given in the full report of proceedings available at the Academic Staff College, University of Kashmir. Geer Mohammad Ishaq is Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Pharm. Sciences, K.U, Dr. Z. A. Chatt is senior faculty at Degree College Anantnag and Prof. Mehraj-ud-din is Director, Academic Staff College, Kashmir University. Greater Kashmir news)

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