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.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

In Defense of the Distance Education

Naseem says that distance education offers an opportunity to thousands of students who are left out of the mainstream of education

(Syed Naseem Zaffar, 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.)

Distance does not matter

The scenario of higher education in Jammu and Kashmir needs to be revised because it does not cater to the needs of the poor aspirants. As per the Directorate of Statistics, Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir, the enrollments at the graduation level is about 72672 (2004-05) and every year about 10,000-15,000 are added up to this figure. As per the figures published recently by higher education department, the number of colleges existing in Jammu region is 155 and in Kashmir it is 103. The three Universities exist in Kashmir and four in the Jammu region.

Thus the chances of higher education for our students are very less, as is evident from the statement of Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University who was interacting with the UGC team. The Vice Chancellor has said that about 30,000 students appear in the KU entrance examination annually and out of this, about 21,000 qualify the rigorous test, but KU is able to accommodate only 2100 students as per the intake capacity and is accepting the fact that we are depriving hundreds of students from the benefit of higher education.

Let us analyze this scenario that 18,900 passing the entrance test can’t get their seat in the PG departments. The reason being the intake capacity of our university. The important point here is that the university has curtailed the intake capacity in the open merit and has made seats available for the Management and Payment seats. One fails to understand that if the state government is providing funds and other grants for the university establishments, why there is so much of increase in the amount to be deposited for the payment seats.

On one side the government is saying that we will provide the opportunities for poor and backward class to go for higher education and on the other one couldn’t get the seat despite being meritorious and passing the rigorous tests in our universities.

The government should immediately take the steps to increase the intake capacity of our universities and the seats allotted in the payment category should be kept at least minimum. Then a big question arises that whether our highest seats of learning are more interested in getting the revenue in the shape of payment seats or to have more opportunities for our young generation who opt for higher education.

The question for the present government is that what they have done by opening the avenues for the higher education. This drawback is giving a lot of economic advantage to the outside Universities. As per the figures available about 500 crores are annually drawn from our state in the shape of fees paid to outside Universities at PG level admissions.

A number of students who couldn’t afford to perceive their higher education outside the state because of the fact that a lot of expenditure on fees and boarding lodging can’t be met from their meager resources. One more problem with the Kashmiri students is that they face lot of problems outside the state for being Kashmiri.

The students of our state who want to peruse the higher education have now taken the option through the path of Distance Education offered by some Universities who already stand recognized by the UGC, MHRD and DEC of India at very nominal fee structure, affordable by those who fall below poverty line. But here also they couldn’t continue their studies because very recently the Department of Higher Education, government of Jammu and Kashmir has issued the notices to about 148 Institutions, including the study centers of various universities operating in the state of J & K, saying that they are running unauthorizedly in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Under Section 17 of J & K Private College (Regulation and Control) Act, 2002 which regulates the establishment of Private Institutions in the higher education and Rule 20 of the Jammu & Kashmir Private colleges (Regulation & control ) Rules,2005.

As per the details of the act, it gives the guidelines for establishing the institutions imparting the regular mode of education, giving the descriptions of the land and the framing of faculty and other regulations regarding the service conditions of staff etc. The rule 20 with sub clause 2nd says that unauthorized institution include institutions affiliated to a university with its seat outside the state in contravention of Kashmir and Jammu Universities Act, 1969. Also an exception is given to the institutions and other organizations recognized by the Government of India such as IGNOU, DOEACC,MVDU.

ne thing comes in mind that are these outside universities not recognized by Government of India and other bodies like UGC, DEC (IGNOU),MHRD and Association of Indian Universities. If we are allowing the IGNOU and others who stand recognized by GoI, and on the contrary debarring the other universities recognized by the GoI and DEC (IGNOU).

It becomes confusing for the student community to understand the policy of government. If those universities are not recognized by these esteemed organizations they are liable for closure at an earliest. But the universities come under the preview of UGC and if the University runs some distance education programme, the Distance Education Council (DEC) has the authority to issue recognition otherwise the programmes can’t be valid. The Recognition Policy of the DEC says in its clause (v) regarding the Territorial Jurisdiction.The distance education council has decided not to insist on territorial jurisdiction to be followed by institutions in offering programmes through distance and online modes and on that matter, Universities should be governed by their own Acts and Statutes.

And in clause (vi). Approvals to Study Centers: The DEC does not consider giving approvals to study centers of any distance education institution as opening of study centers and Regional centers is an internal policy matter of the institution/ University concerned, as per the provision in their own Act /Statutes.

Now it is clear from the clauses of the DEC that the Universities are governed by their own acts and statutes regarding the Jurisdiction and opening of study centers.

In the present era when the world has changed into a global village, it is important that our young generation must not get deprived of the higher education and the benefits thereof. The access to knowledge and skills by all masses of society regardless of location, gender, age or race is important. Education and training must be all inclusive and reflect the vastly diversified current economic situation and various fields of human power needs. At the heart of the campaign for education for all is the Millennium Development Goal. In the global education climate increasingly divided between the “haves” and “have nots,” collaboration is needed to foster universally beneficial development. World leaders, meeting at the United Nations in 2000, set eight MDGs that aim to transform the condition of humankind in the 21st century.

That is where Open and Distance Education (ODL) comes into picture, the need for continual skills for upgrading and retaining and mind blowing advancements in the field of technology have made it possible for a number of learners to explore and be taught at a distance. As per the recommendations in the parliamentary standing committee’s 172nd report on human resource development, for a vast country like India where accessibility to higher education is quite low, Open and distance learning has the vast potential for taking higher education to more and more people irrespective of different barriers. This system not only caters to in-service people but also to unreached masses of the society. As per the 11th five year plan, out of the total enrolment of learners in higher education, 7 million learners are enrolled with Open and Distance education. By 2017, this count is estimated to reach 16 million. A sum of Rs 8,116 crore has been assigned by the government of India to promote distance education throughout the country. The open and distance learning (ODL) system has emerged as a vibrant and dynamic component of higher education infrastructure in India. It provides access to quality education to about 25% of the total population of learners in the higher education sector.

This mode of education provides a huge opportunity for thousands of knowledge seekers. We must be aware of the benefit it means for us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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