A Session To Suit

147

MAREAYA FAYAZ

Though there has been attempted a uniform academic calendar in the schools in Kashmir and Jammu divisions this year, things have not been so uncomplicated. We analyse the issue.

THE academic session of schools in the Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division were altered and run as per the uniform calendar this year. And this has met a mixed response, triggering a debate if there should be a uniform calendar or should there be March or November sessions as per the weather conditions in particular areas.

Notably, Jammu and Kashmir had conducted the March session until 1974-75. The practice was altered after 1975.

Undoubtedly, ensuring consistency in the academic calendar is imperative, considering the diverse facets of education; however, there exist additional dimensions to this matter that are not extensively discussed.

A significant number of scholars had initially expressed their disagreement with the government’s choice to move the session to March, while other vested parties supported this decision. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the group of students, who constitute the primary stakeholders of the School Education Department (SED), were not consulted. Consequently, the adjustment in the session timeline may lead to practical challenges that could hinder the seamless execution of the March examination session in J&K.

In the historical context, it has been observed that the winter season may extend until the conclusion of March or even April due to unexpected snowfall occurrences, leading to frequent delays in conducting examinations by the JK Board in Kashmir and the winter regions of Jammu. Conversely, the summer regions of Jammu do not face similar uncertainties related to weather conditions. The coordination of a uniform examination schedule for the summer regions of Jammu and Kashmir presents a notable challenge, as the likelihood of exam postponements due to adverse weather conditions in Kashmir remains unpredictable, in contrast to the more stable conditions in Jammu. This issue raises significant concerns among students hailing from Kashmir.

In addition to the administration of exams, concerns exist regarding the possibility that moving the academic session to March could lead to a decrease in the number of school days due to the extended winter period experienced in the Valley. The region of Kashmir frequently encounters an early arrival of winter, which persists until the conclusion of March. Consequently, under such climatic circumstances, the school days in the Valley may diminish, consequently impacting the amount of time available for the introduction of new educational content.

The March timetable provides students with approximately one month to ready themselves for entrance assessments. NEET occurs in May, while the initial JEE takes place in February. Consequently, students must decide between forgoing the first JEE and participating (if eligible) in the competitive evaluation while engrossed in exam preparation. It is indisputable that students in other regions encounter challenges, albeit within a distinct context. The March timetable has been established there since the beginning, allowing students to strategise accordingly. Conversely, the November timetable affords ample time, particularly during the colder months. In addition to gearing up for competitive assessments, students have the opportunity to engage in educational excursions, an integral component of the academic curriculum.

By implementing a Uniform Academic Calendar, the current focus should be directed towards enhancing the academic environment in all government schools. This initiative has the potential to positively impact a large number of students, especially those from underprivileged backgrounds. Many parents opt to enroll their children in private schools due to concerns about the quality of education and facilities in government schools. However, in the recent years, government schools have made significant progress in rebuilding their reputation by improving school infrastructure, such as renovating buildings, constructing boundary walls, and ensuring electrification. Consequently, these schools have seen a rise in student achievement, with many students making notable contributions in various areas of the society.

It is imperative that teachers in government schools continue to work with the same level of dedication and passion. Their efforts are crucial in bringing about a substantial transformation in the education sector. The invaluable role of teachers in uplifting the educational system cannot be underestimated. They serve as guiding lights, steering the next generation towards a brighter future and ultimately contributing to the development of a strong nation. The acceptance and support for the Uniform Academic Calendar reflect the positive mindset of those who are instrumental in shaping the nation’s future. A heartening sight observed in schools is teachers offering treats and encouragement to new students in March. Therefore, the public should view this initiative not as an added burden on students but as a remedy that offers numerous advantages. As builders of the nation, teachers have previously demonstrated their ability to inspire and lead their students towards the right path.

Considering all the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a strict March session and establishing a standardised academic calendar, it is imperative to ensure that the primary goal of both stakeholders and the government, which is to provide every student with an equal chance to strive for a brighter future, is not overlooked. It is crucial to recognise that while a standardised academic calendar unites all regions, it may also result in the isolation of students residing in remote areas that are disconnected from the main regions for approximately six months due to severe winter conditions. The schools in Kashmir were scheduled to commence classes on March 1; however, this was postponed to March 4 due to adverse weather conditions. It is common to observe that examinations are frequently delayed in Kashmir and certain areas of the Jammu division due to inclement weather.

  • What say the students & teachers

Consequently, there is a significant demand from both students and faculty members for greater flexibility in the March session.

Abroo, a student from Baderwah, says that “owing to severe winter conditions leading to extensive snowfall and disruptions in traffic flow on the highways, various regions experience isolation during harsh winters. The academic calendar in the Jammu region aligns with the national schedule, unlike Kashmir, which adopts a distinct calendar mainly due to the extreme winter conditions. In Kashmir, students undertake their final examinations in October, commencing the new academic session in November, followed by a lengthy winter break spanning three months.

Subsequently, schools reopen in February or sometimes in April, while educational institutions in remote areas such as Gurez, Machil, Tanghdar, and Keran resume activities in May. These mountainous terrains in Kashmir encounter isolation for approximately half a year due to heavy snowfall. Additionally, Baderwah witnesses substantial snowfall, accompanied by harsh cold temperatures, prompting individuals to relocate to Jammu for educational purposes and coaching during the coldest months. However, this practice is no longer feasible. It is evident that students residing in frontier regions express discontent towards the revised academic calendar, attributing their dissatisfaction to the challenging climatic and topographical conditions. Moreover, certain areas in the higher altitudes of Pir-Panchal continue to experience precipitation until mid-April”.

Tariq, a teacher from Sopore says: “The change in the academic calendar is a welcome step towards bringing unity among students and gives them enough time to prepare for the exams at home. The winter break can be fully utilised by the students to prepare for the upcoming exams and they can prepare well since people hardly leave home during the three coldest months. This time should be utilised by students in a good way and the March session will help in that”.

Another teacher, Fazil Mushtaq, says: “Teachers and students will definitely take some time to get used to the change in the academic calendar but we should consider that the goal is to make things better for our students. So a little flexibility might be the way to go”.

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