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.

Monday, August 24, 2009

State of Education in Kashmir

Naseem reflects on the poor quality of education in Kashmir

(Syed Naseem Zafar, 40, was born in Sopore and raised in Bandipora. He completed his high school and higher secondary education from Government schools in Bandipora. He joined the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, for the first year of the Bachelor's Degree course in sciences, transferring and graduating subsequently from the Government Degree College in Sopore. He completed his M.Sc. in Zoology from the University of Kashmir. Taking a public service track, he was selected for the State Forest Service (SFS) and completed his Master's Degree in Forestry at the SFS College, Dehradun, under the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests. He subsequently completed a post graduate diploma in ecology and environment from the Indian Institute of Ecology and Environment, New Delhi. He is currently posted as a Scientist in the Faculty of Forestry at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology of Kashmir (SKUAST). He has published 10 papers and attended numerous conferences and workshops in his field of specialization.)

We need to change for better

India at present spends about 3 % of its GDP on education. About 70 million children receive no schooling, and more than one-third of the population is illiterate. Education sector being the backbone of every developing country, Indian Parliament has approved a landmark education bill which seeks to guarantee free and compulsory education for children aged 6 and 14. The bill will also force private schools to reserve at least a quarter of their places for poor children. The bill is now waiting only for the presidential approval. The Minister for Human Resource Development, Kapil Sibal says, the bill covers children with disabilities and that the government is planning to set up special schools for them. He further added that the bill provides for the inclusion of children who are disadvantaged because of disability. The government is not only setting up special schools for them but doing all to provide education for them in all types of schools. It is said that the bill does not address India’s inequitable school system under which there are vast discrepancies between private schools having good infra structure and state run schools with poor infra structure.

The concept of mid-day meals was introduced by the government of India to feed students from the poor class of society unable to afford educations for their wards. By implementation of mid-day meals it could not show any good results in the state of Jammu and Kashmir because of the reason that not a single one faces hunger here. The scheme could have been implemented not for the mid day meals but to build up the infra structure of the schools, some schools are still without class rooms, chairs, seating arrangement, and could not afford to get sports goods for overall development of their students. As far as in human resource in concerned in the government run schools, we are one of the best and well qualified in the concerned subjects, but still these schools are not preferred by government teachers itself leave the other sections of the society. The fact being that even being the best faculty in the government schools, the students can’t face the competition world because without best infra structure and facilities, the teachers are also helpless.

Thus if we want to increase the rolls of our government schools, we should have to pay the attention towards the overall development of a student, and that can be developed only to give the latest facility to all our schools. We are having innumerous schools; most are running in rented accommodations without sanitary facilities. We should curtail the number not the quality of these institutions. Need of the hour is also to change our mindset towards admitting our wards in government schools.

Previous government has laid stress on revolutionized education system by saying that rich-poor disparity should go in education. The Ex Chief Minister of the state, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in an interview said that his government is committed to remove the disparity existing between the two streams of education available in government run schools and public schools. He said students in public schools have edge over those in government run institutions primarily because of the medium of instructions and quality of education. The present time is the age of competition, students have to choose subjects that are in demand and market oriented education system is necessary to meet the challenge of growing unemployment. It is also unproductive to produce an army of degree holders who have nowhere to go after completing their education.

Kashmiri students are capable but unable to make a mark due to the lack of facilities in schools and colleges. There are hardly any government initiatives as far as the need for libraries, counseling and guidance centre in colleges and universities are concerned. There is one more problem with our educational system that is ratio of the teacher to student which is very large. The ration outside state is 1:35 while as in our state it is 1:80, due to which a teacher can’t give proper attention to every student. The system in our libraries of the colleges exists as it was in the 19th century. A single book which has to be manually searched and issued for a limited period creates the additional difficulties for our poor and needy students. The IT has revolutionized the system of libraries and students can avail the facility on their personnel computers at any time.

One thing more is needed to have some evolved teaching methodologies, such as debates, interactive sessions and group discussion must be introduced as a part of curriculum. The teachers need to take interest in their students and to build their creativity and overall development rather to develop their bookish behavior. There must be an environment where the true aims of education are realized, and the relationship between a teacher and a student will flourish whereby education becomes a vibrant and dynamic activity.

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