(Mr. Naveed Qazi, 23, did his schooling from Burn Hall School and Tyndale Biscoe, and eventually graduated in Commerce from the University of Kashmir. Naveed is a blogger and activist from Kashmir, and head of intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir. His blogs have been published on local and international journals like Open Democracy UK, The Nation, Pakistan and Muslim Institute, London. Naveed lives in Srinagar, and writes on current affairs, politics and society.)
Disparities in Education
Kashmiri people in pursuit of education have ventured out to different countries. Most popular countries of them include United Kingdom, Malaysia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, United States, Australia and New Zealand to name a few. In pursuit of a better job prospects, higher industrial exposure and reputed qualifications, many of our Kashmiri youth have realized that it’s no longer good to confine themselves to universities in India or in Kashmir itself because the amount of tuition fee for many popular courses, the lack of modern curriculum, the less brand equity of universities in Kashmir and very high competition amongst students for competitive courses have made matters very stressful for Kashmiri students.
Many Kashmiri students have developed this psychological tendency of studying outside of Kashmir due to emulations for a better future. We have universities, we have degree conferments, we have able professors, but what we lack is the ‘brighter future’ for students starting from the school level to the university level education. We also lack high class infrastructure that we find in the universities abroad. The tier of ‘non-professional’ degree courses namely BSc, BCom and BA which maximum number of Kashmiri students adhere to, have a very low demand in the domestic recruitment sector. The professional degree courses like B.E, M.E, BBA, MBA, BCA, MCA, MBBS and MD are rooted in high competition and merit, where very few qualify. For them, some placements get opened up through local banks, hospitals, some IT firms and manufacturing departments in the government or private sector, but the overall position of employment in Kashmir is very appalling. The reason for that is simply the stagnation in job generation due to lack of proper infrastructure. We also need financial investments from outside of Kashmir and domestic investments through local private companies and entrepreneurs, but the structure of our legal constitution, the militarized borders and the political bankruptcies, have directly impacted the outcomes of degrees conferred upon these upcoming graduates, because they have lesser means to work here, or prosper for that matter.
Emancipation through education is one of the most important components a nation could have to elevate generations, but it has always been a problem in Kashmir. We, as a community, also lack extra circular intellectual activities. Whenever I surf newspapers online, be it Karachi, London or Delhi, I witness a reading routine on these online forums, and a sense of reasoned criticism. Community libraries are very few and desolated without readers. Why are the chambers in our universities not focusing on all core issues like these? Then how will we be implementing good? One of the primal problems in Kashmir is improvement of education standards and the need of converting this unemployed youth to work, with proper infrastructure through economic prosperity. These tentative suggestions are very easy to write, but in reality, it takes years or even decades to emancipate people via passionate and responsible leadership through imparting education and by giving them welfare through jobs and gratuities. Why can’t our politicians try and start now?
During the last seven to eight years, a large pool of graduates have gone to study post graduate studies in the west. In a few interactions with my senior peers, most of them had the same viewpoint. Some of them have even produced ludicrous careers in Middle East and other countries. With the advent of post study work route in United Kingdom (a scheme that has been scrapped now), many Kashmiri students used to earn a living or achieve some kind of work experience for two years, to launch a successful job in the years to come.
After returning from my post graduate studies from England, I began to retrospect what I learned in my college days here and what I learnt abroad. My experience was more than satisfactory and exceeded expectations. First of all, I started to realize that aptitude development and its encouragement carries outmost importance in a western education system. Competitive exams for entering into degrees are not mandatory in most of the courses, and admission is mostly granted on high school grades. The research content, presentations, case study analysis, lab work and group debates carry equal weightage as written examinations. In fact, these entire elements together make up the overall grading criteria, whether at bachelors or at masters level. Even open book written examinations are encouraged where a student is expected to carry significant research to answer questions in theoretical exams. There are research database servers that connect hundreds of British universities, which are loaded with newsletters, journals, newspapers and eBooks that make study bliss for researchers. Group or individual presentations go even up to 45 minutes in some universities, especially in post graduate studies, with a less researched topic. The other thing which I learned was the need of cultural adaption while progressing on a specific group project – at the end, a student benefits from these advantages only when they study in a multi-cultural environment and in countries where imparting education is not done for business, but for cross cultural global interests.
The other important thing to remove education disparities in Kashmir, apart from increasing readership and intellect on various cacophonies surrounding us, is institutionalizing a debate culture right from schools to universities. Our study of history is hijacked by bias. Young students should be exposed more to debating on societal, philosophical, religious or even political issues that are surrounding their lives, apart from academic and extra-circular activities. It will help the students especially from schools to nurture pathways of their future careers. The above suggestions may sound idealistic because there are places in our land where there is not even a proper infrastructure for schools and colleges, but well established institutions should start this practice, in order to develop some kind of efficiency. They should scout investments. Why should Kashmiris stagnate on these crude policies implemented by these non-progressive oligarchs leading us?
If there needs to be an education reform in Kashmir, policy makers should realize the need of quality inflation the so called ‘non-professional courses’. It is ironic that ‘honours degrees’ haven’t been a reality in Kashmir since decades and there is no consultancy on the need for introducing various specialisms’s at the bachelors or masters level. Virtual learning is not preferred to traditional lectures in most of the functioning courses in universities. Why don’t our educationists learn from more civilized countries? And if universities in Kashmir introduce international student exchanges, or rapid industrial exposures, it will be a stepping stone in institutionalizing international cultural interactions.