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.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ailing Education and Newer Avenues of Education

Report on the tragic state of education, followed by a report by Shakeel-ur-Rehman on new opportunities in the age of Information Technolgy

(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.)

Ailing Education (Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

Much is being written and said about the educational system and there is a general complaint that the system ails and ails badly. There are several factors responsible for these ailments, however, the main one being government’s non-serious attitude.

It is tragic that education is the one sector that never tops the priorities of the government and therefore receives a raw deal. The very fact that children of top government functionaries, elite and ministers are comfortably admitted in expensive private schools and the government schools are meant for the poor and downtrodden alone, government cares not to through even a glance towards government schools.

But the overall callous attitude of the government and the society towards government schools disheartens the teachers and thus they fail to give out their hundred per cent. If the intension is to make the education in Jammu and Kashmir result oriented and to correct the wrongs of the system, government should make it mandatory that the children of top government functionaries study in government schools. Once that is done, the government schools will start competing with elite private schools because then only the government functionaries would be interested to see what is happening in these government institutions as the future of their own children would be at stake. Though a wishful thinking, but if it is done, the educational system in the state would undoubtedly see a revolution.

That said, the medium of instruction in our schools is too problematic for the young children who fail to grasp the basic concepts. Teaching languages, be that English, Urdu or Hindi is okay but making these three languages as a medium to teach mathematics, science or social sciences tantamount to doing injustice to the young minds. While these kids are still in the process of learning these languages, we try to teach them other subjects in these languages thus overburdening them. It goes without saying that one can understand things in a much better way in one’s own language and therefore the educational experts should not shy away from this universal reality.

If the intention is to impart education in a healthy way and to allow the kids grow with clear concepts of what they are being taught, mother tongue alone should be the medium. That is what is being done all over the world. Germans, French, Russains, Chinese etc don’t teach political science, physics, sociology or any other subjects in any alien language. They too study and learn other languages but when it comes to impart education, they use the mother tongue alone as the medium of instruction. So why not here? The teachers too can be more successful that way because they too can be clearer while using the language in which they think and generally every individual thinks in his or her mother tongue. Need is to take a decision and make it mandatory for the teachers to use the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in the schools.

Newer Avenues

The joint family system has given way to the nuclear family system in the wake of urbanization and there is exodus of the young to the towns for better alternatives than agrarian.

People send their children to schools so that they could grow to be better individuals with better employment opportunities than themselves. But the educational system followed in India still adheres to the one propounded by Lord Macaulay, intended to produce babus or clerks. No attempts have been made by the government to scrap the obsolete system of education and bring it in line with that of the several developing nations.

The modern youth is in a dilemma as to the selection of a proper career. He ventures into the job market with high hopes and finds that he is yet another addition to the vast saturated market of the jobless. His sheer grit and perseverance succumbs to the rejection he faces at various offices and he becomes frustrated. The fifteen or more years of his dedication to the education is unable to fetch a decent job. All he acquires is theoretical knowledge and he is unable to apply that knowledge in the practical field.

The increasing population has also resulted in the growth of competition among the youth where each tries to fare better than the other. In the age of the survival of the fittest, those acquiring jobs through nepotism or bribery are deemed successful. The youth today is, therefore, a disgruntled lot. All this makes it imperative for the youth to acquire newer skills with emphasis on market relevance. And it is here where information technology could play a crucial role.

It is now an admitted fact that no achievement of science has brought about such a transformation as IT. It has catapulted the progress of several nations and even individuals. It has opened up an infinite number of new avenues in the fields of health care, education, entertainment, communication, commerce and agriculture. Realizing the need for computer literacy in the state, efforts are on to provide computer aided education in all the schools in the near future.

Besides other benefits, computer education will not only make the administration efficient but would also open up newer job avenues thereby reduce joblessness to an appreciable extent. With a government which appears to have a farsighted vision, Kashmir could also become an IT hub. Admittedly, we need politicians with foresight. We are a place with one of the most intelligent human resources and all it needs is to show them a direction.

With concerted efforts on the IT front, the state will not only become able to take on the challenge of joblessness but would also present a rosy picture to the outside world which would in turn attract investments in key sectors of development. Given the importance the Omar Abdullah administration has attached to IT, it looks imminent that IT would get the kind of priority it needs. It might take a few years but the vision of making Kashmir an IT hub is achievable.

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