Accentuating Education

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Alok Kumar, Principal Secretary Higher Education, J&K.

DR. SHAFIA & MIAN TUFAIL

We, at Kashmir Central, always endeavour to get into the deeper aspects of varied platforms of development in the Jammu & Kashmir. And one of the pivotal aspects is education.

A recent exclusive meeting with the estimable Principal Secretary of School and Higher Education, Jammu and Kashmir Alok Kumar let us into the promise that is set to shape the future of education in the Valley. This exclusive interview offers insights into his vision for the education system, his commitment towards innovation, and strategies for addressing the evolving needs of students and educators.

Alok Kumar begins the conversation by emphasising that the education sector builds the nations and any complacency in offering education to the masses has deep repercussions on any society.

Says he, “We all are stakeholders of the education system and to continue the process, we have to bear in mind that the youth and students are guardians of our future and in this regard, providing basic education to these future thinkers is the responsibility of every stakeholder in our society. As far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, there have been many bottlenecks here in the past and despite all that, education has never taken a back seat”.

On being asked about the quantifiable data of education institutions and teachers in J&K, Kumar says, “We have nearly 23,000 schools in our Union Territory but since I assumed charge, I felt there was no need to establish huge number of schools; it was clearly a manifestation of political interference at that time. We merged nearly 4,500 schools, which meant we have 18,000 working schools at present in which 12 lakh students are pursuing education. Our teacher pupil ratio is above average. We have one teacher to 10 students while the national average is 1:30”.

“The high teacher-student ratio compelled us to stop the further recruitment in education sector as it could lead to overburdening the sector where there is no need,” says Kumar when asked why the government had stopped recruitment in the education sector since 2018.

Pertinently, the erstwhile State Administrative Council in 2018 took a decision to promote teachers to the Master grades which would naturally freeze the future recruitments in the education sector. This led to a traumatic experience for thousands of students who would post-graduate every year from different universities.

Alok Kumar believes that the education system must evolve to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. One of the primary objectives is to foster creativity, critical thinking, and adaptability among learners. To achieve this, he envisions a multifaceted approach that combines traditional teaching methods with cutting-edge technology.

During the conversation, he states that rationalisation in school education is the need of the hour. He unravels wonderful aspects, like the salary budget that he disburses for the teaching faculty is around 12,300 crore!

Kumar says he has had to fight against all odds to ensure that school education is corruption-free, even though thousands of writ petitions are filed against him. But that couldn’t stop him working towards a better future of students and J&K in particular.

On being asked about plum postings and transfers, Kumar reveals, “There was involvement of influence and money to grab convenient transfers. Although, transfer is a part and parcel of any government job, but here in the Union Territory, it is seen with a different notion. What this lead to was that schools would be overburdened with teachers of the same subject. There were some subjects that had not a single teacher or just a few teachers despite the fact that the ratio of teachers was high, which paralysed the whole system and ultimately students would suffer. We have tried to curb the hegemonic behaviour of such influential people and have tried to streamline the whole process with great transparency”.

The Principal Secretary reiterates that the feedback mechanism has been developed and through the Samiksha App, the feedback from students about their teachers and schools is recorded and necessary measures like capacity-building of teachers and upgradation of the infrastructure is being taken as per feedback. He also informs that they have started marking attendance on the JK Attendance App so that regularity and punctuality of teachers is ensured.

Kumar recognises that teachers are the cornerstone of the education system. To support educators, he has proposed comprehensive professional development programmes and initiatives to enhance their teaching skills. The aim of these initiatives is to create a vibrant and motivated teaching force which would be capable of inspiring the next generation of leaders and thinkers.

During the conversation, the Secretary’s unwavering commitment towards equity and inclusion in education becomes even clearer. He speaks passionately about his goal to reduce educational disparities and create an inclusive environment where every student has an equal opportunity to succeed. To achieve this, Kumar is championing policies that address systemic inequalities and promote diversity in the education sector.

Alok Kumar’s visionary goals, commitment towards innovation and equity promise to shape a more inclusive and adaptable education system. As we move forward, it’s evident that the Principal Secretary of School and Higher Education, Jammu and Kashmir is leading the change in preparing our students for the challenges and opportunities of the upcoming centuries.

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