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, September 9, 2009

Foundation for Growth

Shakeel-ur-Rehman discusses the role of education

(Syed Shakeel-ul-Rehman, 32, was born in Qazipora, Tangmarg. He did his schooling at the Government Middle School in Katipora and at the Government Higher Secondary School in Chandilora, both in the Tangmarg Tehsil. He graduated in Social Work from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), being the first Kashmiri student to graduate with that major. He subsequently did his post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the same University. He has taken specialized courses in computer hardware and software technology. He worked as a columnist and correspondent for the Greater Kashmir daily newspaper until 2005 and is currently the Opinion Editor of the Kashmir Images daily newspaper. He also anchors Doordharshan Kendra Srinagar's live phone-in show called, "Hello DD" since April 2005. Mr. Shakeel-ur-Rehman holds the distinction of having interviewed prominent personalities in all major fields and walks of life, probably more than any other Kashmiri journalist.)

Promoting Excellence

Universities and colleges perform several functions and some of their most important activities have nothing to do with the all-important teaching.

By definition, teaching involves lecturing on what is in the past. A lecturer can only teach what has happened and what has been tested. However, one of the most important non-teaching functions that a university can offer is the ability to look ahead and see what the future holds in any particular specialty. Research and original thinking should be at the core of what universities have to offer, yet this is where Kashmir has yet to build its institutional capacity.

Research students constitute a small chunk of the total student body in the state. This is very low compared with other places within Indian, where about 25 per cent of the student body is working on post-graduate work. Technology is moving fast, and new industries are starting. This is not the time to be stuck in the past, and businesses need to move quickly to prepare themselves for the next century. They can only do this if they get quality research pointing the way to new technologies and new methods of working. Research is about looking to the future, while teaching is about repeating the past.

Both are essential, but society needs research in order to have the skills for the next generation. The state particularly brain rich Kashmir is well placed to pick areas of knowledge vital to its own society and economy, and start building global centres of excellence in research. An example of this is IGNOU which has made research an integral part of its curriculum for various courses of study particularly for social work both at the under and post graduate level. This step of the university has facilitated future thinking on part of Kashmiri students also who have enrolled in IGNOU’s social work courses where completion of independent and authentic research is mandatory for degree completion.

The same approach can be adopted by our indigenous centres of learning like Kashmir University, and Islamic University also. Both these varsities would set new benchmarks if they focus more on research than on traditional methods of teaching. Although research on smaller scale is going on in most of the state's colleges and universities, it is not enough. The state needs a lot more to be part of the knowledge economy of the future.

Exploring new possibilities through quality research would benefit us in the longer run. It is an admitted fact that we are one of the most backward and poorest states of India. In some pockets of our state the incidence of poverty is more than 200 per cent. In the index for human development we rank somewhere alongside Bihar. It is, therefore, unbecoming for us to ignore research. If the state intends to make a mark then it will have to say good bye to theoretical approach of teaching. Because only through forward thinking, which comes through research, will we be able to change our socio-economic profile.

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