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, December 23, 2010

On Coaching

After a recent tragedy, Mehmood reflects on the practice of coaching, and wonders if better education in tradional schools would in fact reduce the nearly 100% demand for coaching these days

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 37, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir, having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

How Can our Education be so Cheaply Murdered!

Coaching, as we all know in Kashmir, has remained a matter of debate; from social gossiping to some serious writing. This talk accentuates when coaching appears as a context to something unpleasant or unfortunate. The public opprobrium assails every limb of this creature that appears to them no less than a monster. But practically in spite of all the anger and contempt towards the business of coaching we keep sending our children to tutors and coaching centers. What does that signify! This, that after having lost a youth little over a week ago packs of students would keep the Airport Road crowded and the spoilt brats would continue to behave as a hazard. It means that coaching is an evil, yet essential. It means that our anger is momentary and whipped by some unwanted event. Beyond this we have lost the appetite to subject the institution of coaching to any meaningful investigation.

This week we have seen people talk about coaching after an NIT student died when his car was hit by a teenager, in all likelihood a student of some tutor or a coaching centre situated on the Airport Road. We have also seen in this week that an association of people affiliated to the business of coaching did good amount of public relations exercise. All this accrued from the tragic event. In a rush of things people can decry for banning the whole affair called coaching. As a response to it coaching institutions can gather and lay down some guidelines and underline the role that such institutions are playing in preparing students for various exams. This all is understandable. And this all is transitory. The primary question that needs asking is the system of education in Kashmir. The proliferation of coaching institutes and the enormous growth of tutors across the valley is fundamentally not to be seen as an emergence of a service industry, but as attenuation of a value called education.

The purpose of raising this question is entirely positive and unmistakable. It doesn’t even tangentially meet the acerbic talk of banning the practice of tuition, or closing down the coaching institutions. It even stays at a good distance from all the talk of morality that is often raised in this context. However, by implication it touches upon the range of subjects that include coaching, education, morality and ethics.

Just a quick look into how tuition and coaching became infectious in our Valley and then the question that need be asked. Though the emphasis and impact of this discussion on coaching lies in detail, but the limitation of space dictatorially comes in the way; so just the allusions.

Not that long ago our schools and colleges would suffice as providers of education and the stations where students would prepare for different exams. The increased differentiation of life and the expansion of professions were bound to make an impact on this. But it didn’t happen this way. It had a different trajectory. It grew at the cost of education. In the beginning the reason for going to a tutor was individual attention and making up for the loss of school time due to some reason. Afterwards children were sent to tutors during winters only to help students in getting the winter vacation work done. 10th grade became an area of special attention. Parents wanted their children to go through the syllabus during the winters so that for the rest of the year they can revise it. Once Matriculation exams were conducted by the State Board students would have good time till the declaration of results. This break would also coincide with the winter vacations. So it gave a fillip to the business of tuition. Now students would go to tutors in groups to cover the entire syllabus during the winter cum result break. Here college teachers contributed to the growth of tuition considerably. College teachers were presumed to be more competent than their Hr Secondary equivalents. The initial reasons that justified the practice of tuition were lost all in the way. Now it became a logic in itself. Everyone had to go for it because everyone would go for it.

Then came CET, the test conducted for professional courses, Medicine and Engineering. Class room study and tuition classes were though to be inadequate for cracking the CET. So there was a need for coaching. Since in the beginning of 1990, everything shook from the foundations, education too could not resist the tremors. Students from the valley moved out to avail coaching from different private institutes outside. Towards the middle of 1990s, coaching centers came up in the Valley to tap the business that this whole affair of coaching offered.

And now it is coaching and tuition all over. It is a huge market and that is how it is being viewed at. From the business point of view there is nothing wrong in providing a service and tagging a price to it, but what has it done to our education system is the question that needs asking.

If a college teacher does tuition in the working hours what example of professional ethics he is setting before his students. If he is doing it in the morning or in the evening, he is wasting the time that is meant for studies. Unless a college teacher upgrades his knowledge and skill, he doesn't deserve to teach. And how is this to be explained. In our classrooms the number of students is now less than the crowd that is present in the tuition rooms. The arrangements of seating is far better in schools than in these tuition rooms. After all there is a limit to madness. And if all is done in those dingy rooms what use the school and college buildings are to be put.

Leave aside all, the most important phase of a student's life is the period of graduation. In a hope to get through CET he wastes this time in the tuition classes and coaching hours. How can our education be so cheaply murdered!

Since it is about the system of education and unless a systemic change is made, no half-hearted initiative can deliver. To cut a long discussion short, unless school and college education is revived and students really make the most of the hours they spend in schools and college no change can be a change. One way of making a beginning is to think about conducting the CET differently. Either the students should enroll in the college or else prepare for this exam. Or even there is a point in the suggestion that 11th and 12th exams should be clubbed to get the students for professional courses. Again the schools that can offer education to students in a way so that they need neither tuition nor coaching should be given a significant incentive. If that happens we can set an example that can be emulated by even those who are right now into the business of coaching.

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