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.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Positive Parental Role is Pivotal in Promoting Quality Education

Amin describes how family responsibility is integral to educational development of the society

(Dr. Mohammad Amin Malik, 43, was born in Ayathmulla village in Bandipora District. He passed his Matriculation (10th grade) from the Government High School, before completing his 12th grade from the Government Higher Secondary School, both located in Bandipora. He attended the Sri Partap College and Bemina College, both in Srinagar, and graduated with his Bachelor's degree from the Government Degree College in Sopore. He obtained his Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree from the University of Kashmir with distinction. Subsequently, he completed diploma courses in computers before completing his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Kashmir in September 2005. Since 1996, he is employed by the Higher Education Department of the J&K Government, and has steadily risen up the ranks and is presently working as Reader/Associate Professor in the Department of Physics at the Amar singh College in Srinagar. He has written 25 research papers, many of which have been published in leading technical journals, and loves to indulge in his favorite subject of physics snd science literature.)

Fine-tuning the Education Sector

During the presidential election campaign, the USA president Barack Obama once in a speech emphasized that “… And I’ve said this all across the country when I talk to parents about education, government has to fulfill its obligations to fund education, but parents have to do their job too. We’ve got to turn off the TV set, we’ve got to put away the video game, and we have to tell our children that education is not a passive activity; you have to be actively engaged in it. If we encourage that attitude and our community is enforcing it, I have no doubt we can compete with anybody in the world.”

The relationship between education and development is well established, such that education is the key index, backbone and soul of all developmental aspects of a society. German priest and scholar Martin Luther says; “When schools flourish, all flourishes.” With the new Govt in place, there is an urgent need for it, to prioritize the whole education sector in the state. It has suffered a lot and needs a special healing touch. The ailing and underfunded school system should be given a jump-start with a huge infusion of money for its infrastructure which includes lavish school buildings, lavatories, laboratory equipments, computers, matting, furniture, etc. Similarly the adequate infrastructure of the newly opened Colleges may be met on war-footing basis, as the students of these Colleges are eagerly waiting for the proper infrastructure which is presently available in other well established Colleges.

Education is primarily the responsibility of both the community and the state and only Govt cannot be held responsible? Therefore it becomes the duty of the society as a whole, to share the august responsibility in a proportionate manner. In this regard, the greatest obstacle a teacher faces is the home environment from which his students come. Parents expect the schools to do what actually they ought to do and thus shrink from their responsibility to provide their children the basis of a good education. Looking around we see too many parents are surrendering the responsibility for their children's education to schools and the results are self-evident.

A good teacher can only be built on the teaching a child receives at home. It has been established by studying that, enough good students come out of poor schools, which substantiates that the student and the family commitment to education matters the most. Better schools will come only after we have better students and that will require better parents. Therefore parents need to assume more of a hands-on role in educating their children and view teachers as professionals who serve to help the parents succeed. It will be detrimental to our nation's social, economic, political and moral stability, if parents play a minor role to that of the professional teacher. So parental involvement is must and it will not only lower the total cost of education, but strengthen the home and the society. It would also foster the individual growth of children--who want and need more than anything else than their parents time at their home schools.

Like in the previous years, the recent uproar on under-performance by the Govt schools is justifiable and a matter of serious concern. May be in the near future this evil may spread in the rest of the schools and in the end the Govt schools would become irrelevant and redundant. So this evil has to be arrested at the earliest by taking certain measures. We have to study how majority of the private schools in the state run successfully. We have to differentiate between their management and our administration. The system of education here requires as much care and planning as is needed for the efficient management of an industry or any private organization.

I have seen academics and educationists always talking about restructuring the education system, sometimes giving suggestions of changing it altogether. I think our scheme of education is appropriate as it has served us in the past in a brilliant manner and there is no need to make the system bigger and more complex. Beauty always lies in simplifying the complexities.

It has been well established throughout the world, that red-tapism, nepotism, inefficiency, lack of accountability, corruption, negativity and lethargy are the major barriers to the growth of any organization, whether it is education or any other department. In this regard, only our political leaders, bureaucrats and the enlightened public consciousness can solve the problem. Unless these three units make sincere efforts and show their commitment to the society, our education system will continue to deteriorate day by day. The education here requires courageous sharp administrative tuning with main focus on accountability and clean and correct administration. The system has to encourage its charactered, honest, dedicated, committed and bold employs, who can play a vital role in solving the problem.

There is a need for introducing e-governance in the whole education sector. The e-governance would be a paperless smart administration, which will be a strong tool for ensuring evil-free administration that will improve infrastructure and ensure effective and transparent administration. The problems of transfers, promotions, GP Funds, construction works and other office work, etc can be addressed instantly, so that, the administration is not cluttered with these non-academic components and forget what ought to be its main purpose. Once these office dealings become a secondary affair, the officials will be relieved of their stressful duties and will now be able to concentrate fully on the academics. Thus by monitoring the system efficiently, e-governance can play an important role to boost the academics. The system can further be stimulated by increasing the frequency of seminars, symposiums, workshops etc. The teachers must be made active participants and not passive recipients. An environment of education, knowledge and competition can be created in our home lives as well, if media coverage of these events along with further addition of education programs is given priority at the peak hours.

The great philosopher Socrates says, “A nation is known by its school, a school is known by its teachers.” An ideal teacher is one who has high intellectual ability, even though he teaches courses of low academic level. He/she should know his subjects thoroughly, should have acquired the ability to reason and critically examine information and arguments and should be worthy academic role models for students. He/she should be capable of spotting and correcting errors and misinformation in textbooks. He/she will certainly advocate and emphasize on learning by understanding rather than by rote methods. Having these qualities he will be far less likely to teach untruths, lies, myths, pseudoscience and immorality. He will grow through experience if he meets life honestly and courageously. The personality of a teacher can open doors for him and his character can keep the doors open.

Henry van Dyke (1852 – 1933) an American author, educator and clergyman says about teachers and teaching “Ah! There you have the worst paid and the best rewarded of vocations. Do not enter it unless you love it. For the vast majority of men and women it has no promise of wealth and fame, but they to whom it is dear for its own sake are among the nobility of mankind. I sing the praise of the unknown teacher, king of himself and leader of the mankind.” But now things have changed altogether for teachers especially in J & K state where they are now paid abundantly with good future prospects. So the society expects best from them. The buildings, laboratories, libraries, and all other equipments in a school will count, but it is the dedicated and committed teachers who make these worthwhile.

The information technology is rapidly changing teaching and learning systems through societies known as information and Knowledge societies around the world but it will not change the theme of good teachers and good teaching but rather it will further enhance their roles. While the information society is based on technological breakthroughs, knowledge societies encompass broader social, ethical and political dimensions. A knowledge society is one in which knowledge becomes a major creative force. It creates, shares and uses knowledge for the prosperity and well-being of its people.Being a teacher in the Knowledge Society requires new specific competencies: a teacher has to deal with new knowledge, new ways for accessing knowledge; with a networked world and with new types of co-operation and collaboration; with a society in which knowledge plays a crucial role.

There is a powerful driving force inside every person that once set free, can make any vision, dream, or desire a reality. So we have to wake up from the deep slumber to save our progeny and posterity from degenerating further. We must now stop sleeping on uncertainty and discard saddest summaries of life like could have, might have andshould have. When there is a genuine desire to do things, God helps in mysterious ways. Let us spend our full energy before we die. A saying goes “In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have.”

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