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.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Proliferation of Coaching Institutes

Iqbal describes how coaching degenerated from a supplementary effort to mainstay of education among Kashmiri youth with disasterous consequences

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad Peerzada, 40, was born in Parigam village in Kulgam district. He graduated from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Peerzada looks after his family farm business, including tending to horticulture and orchard gardens. He enjoys writing on social and political issues of the day.)

The Economics of Education

History stands witness to the fact that, soon after the establishment of democratic government in 1947, education sector was taken up as the first and the foremost priority of the government. A new Education Policy was framed making it evident that people would be given basic education. For this purpose new primary and middle schools were opened across the length and breadth of the state, making sure not a single portion is missed out in the process. The institutions established during the period of Dogra Rajas were revived and equipped well with the basic requirements.
It was the period when there was no concept of private education institutions. No doubt few missionary schools had already come up which mainly adhered to the urban populations. The impact of missionary schools was such that few local Muslim and Hindu organizations also got involved with this sector. Such ventures were mostly motivated by a sense of belonging to the society and bettering the educational scenario. The financial aspect would usually come last in the list of priority of such ventures.

Ironically during the last few decades’ education in the valley has lost such passionate lovers and admirers. The government as well as the society has turned indifferent towards this significant sector and those who are seen investing in this sector are mostly driven by the financial aspect of it.

The mushrooming of private institutions followed by unchecked enhancement of sub standard tuition centers has drained out nobility and injected financial envy deep into the nerves of this sector. The state education department seems to have lost its basic writ to the private sector which is mostly owned and run by those who constitute the cream of our bureaucracy and decision making.

Reports pouring in from various areas suggest that students of secondary and higher secondary levels are, nowadays, increasingly dependent upon the substandard coaching centers which resort to mere note publishing and deceive the students. This is done in the name of imparting education while as hefty amounts are also taken from the student community. These institutions hardly bother about taking up education the way it is supposed to and, instead of doing so, bring in the Note-culture which has spoiled not only the students but the sector as well. The priority is to equip a student with relevant material to qualify the exams and not to make him/her understand a concept in a proper perspective.

It is in place to mention that hundreds of high schools in the recent years were upgraded with an intention to provide higher education to the people at their door steps. Millions of rupees are spent on the pay and other perks of teachers while as school infrastructures too are being worked upon. During this winters alone, millions of rupees were spent on heating arrangements of secondary and high schools.
There are numerous excuses that finally push the families in admitting their ward into a private tuition center. Besides Hartals and unfavorable conditions, there are strikes by the government employees which keep the students out of their respective schools and colleges during the quality season. Reasons like this and many more compel the parents for taking such a decision.

Now the dilemma is multiplied when a teacher displays less sincerity towards his profession in a school or a college while as the same teacher promises to be sincere in a coaching center. It is again an issue that government teachers are mostly focued on running private academies and institutions instead of working honestly in a school or college for which they are paid by the government.

A mushroom growth of coaching centers over the past few decades has virtually shifted the role of educating the young generation from the government and registered private educational institutions to an unregistered cluster of commercial ventures. Offering the educational standards previously supposed to be the hallmark of all schools and colleges, a good number of coaching centers can be seen in almost every locality of the city depending on its population. Since the coaching centers do not fall under the jurisdiction of the education department’s directorate of college education or the directorate of private educational institutions, their owners enjoy a free hand to charge any amount of their choice as fee.

It is widely known that classes are not held regularly in all government colleges and one of the reasons behind the absence of students from colleges is that they remain busy learning at their coaching centers.

It is observed that many coaching centers are operating within the premises of private schools and colleges located in residential areas, especially densely populated localities. Unlike in the past, these coaching centers hold classes in the morning shift, forcing students to skip the regular classes at their respective institutions.

Considering a better learning opportunity at the coaching centers, they prefer to stay away from their schools or colleges and, therefore, fail to meet the condition of 75 per cent attendance to appear in the annual examinations. Except a minimal number, most coaching centers are failing to maintain their standards although they are still attracting large number of students, perhaps because of the academic loss which the valley students suffered in the 2010 academic session.

A recent survey shows that the closure of schools during the previous unrest has provided an opportunity to the coaching centers not only to increase the tuition fee but also to introduce various extra charges including admission fee, ho and cold charges, medical charges and note publication charges.

The increasing trend of learning at coaching centers has also encouraged operators of such commercial ventures to introduce the so-called `crash programmes` for late comers or outsiders not fully prepared to appear in the upcoming examinations.
The rush of students at various coaching centers can be seen right from early morning till late in the evening. The thing that most of such private tuition centers are set anywhere without any consideration for proper space and accommodation creates a scene in amny a localities. The activity affects privacy of the households in the neighborhood. Besides, the crowding outside the coaching centers also puts a halt on the vehicular traffic.

A visit to various major thoroughfares in Baghat , Peerbagh , Hyderpora , Sanatnager Byepass, Magermal bagh, Mulan Azad Road etc shows that prolonged traffic jams occur on the roads housing coaching centers. Students and their parents are seen standing outside the residential bungalows converted in coaching centers.

Like people always do, the state government was expected to intervene and check the validity of such coaching centers and also see the reason behind their success. While it continues to pump in loads of funds on the government run education sector, the private aspect of it is growing more. The teachers being paid by the government to discharge their duties to the best of their capabilities are more concerned and conscious about setting up private tuition centers.

Why so?

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