Towards Higher Lea(r)nings

217

SHEIKH ABID

Since the 2019 abrogation of Article 370, things have been rapidly looking up in the sphere of education in Jammu & Kashmir. Education, after all, can go a long way in disarming the elements of radical thought and volatile action and ensure peace. 

EDUCATION plays a key role in an individual’s success. It’s something that steers you in the right direction. It empowers, builds reasoning and judgment besides inculcating self-belief, skill, values and ethics. And needless to say, it ups one’s way of living, one’s social and economic status besides transforming the personality of an individual.

The status of education in a state that’s been stung by one of the deadliest, long-standing conflicts of decades, becomes crucial. In what we call Jammu & Kashmir, where frequent hartaals and bandhs have been a nightmare for youngsters’ future, where syllabus books were once replaced by bullets and stones; where strikes were a norm and a working day, an unusual event… in what has been such a disturbed zone, education becomes a crucial factor indeed. Thankfully, the number of organised stone-pelting incidents associated with separatist motives marked at 1,767 in 2018, were reported to have come down to a record zero in 2023. Similarly, there were 52 cases of organised bandhs/hartals in 2018, but it dropped to zero in 2023. But yes, if we were to calculate the damages the separatists unleashed, I would still put education on top followed by economic, social, political and mental loss.

  • When things changed

After years of strife, came an extraordinary yet unexpected event in the political history of Jammu and Kashmir. An event that shaped the future prospects of who will be who of Kashmir vis-à-vis India. The Centre, on August 5, 2019 abrogated the highly sensitive and debated Article 370 from the Indian Constitution which had given a temporary status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

We might have had our reservations with the constitutionality and legality of the abrogation of Article 370 which, by the way, was given a green signal by the highest judicial body of India – the Supreme Court; yet, we cannot ignore the drastic positive changes with respect to some of the crucial domains of education, tourism, governance etc.

Let us examine the changes in education sector post abrogation in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Article 37 abrogation, often a subject of intense debate, unfolded a narrative of hope and transformation, particularly in the realm of education. As the dust settled and the region embraced change, a wave of positivity surged through the educational landscape, ushering in opportunities that were once distant dreams. One of the noticeable changes after the abrogation of Article 370 was the significant decline in strike calls by separatist groups. Over the last four and a half years, the region has experienced a remarkable reduction in strike-related disruptions, indicating a more stable environment. Before the abrogation of Article 370, the average number of working school days in Kashmir was significantly affected by frequent hartals (strikes) and unrest in the region. On an average, schools in Kashmir were operational for approximately 120 to 150 days in a year, with disruptions caused by hartals, protests, and security concerns.

Post-abrogation, there has been a noticeable improvement in the number of working school days. Schools have been able to operate more consistently, leading to an increase in the average number of working days. In the year following the revocation of Article 370, the average number of working school days rose to approximately 200 to 220 days per year, reflecting consistency.

Besides schools, training institutes like SCERT Kashmir also enjoyed a high number of working days for holding training and other requisite programs.

From subject-based training to soft skill enhancement and pedagogical workshops to leadership development programs, SCERT performed a number of processes and activities and started various research projects on critical educational issues.

  • Student enrollment and Capex budget stats

Other than increasing working days, the administration has released a document comparing two scenarios pre and post abrogation, the stats copy of which is with Team KC. The authorities have claimed that from the year 2010 to 2019, only 819 civil works in schools under the Capex budget were completed in the erstwhile state while from 2019 to 2023, at least 2,339 works under the UT Capex budget were completed.

The documents further reveal that under the erstwhile centrally sponsored schemes including SSA, RMSA and Samagra Shiksha, at least 9,635 civil works in schools were completed from 2004-2019 and post 2019, at least 12,600 such works were completed. A good 342 spill over works also got completed, the documents reveal.

The School Education Department has claimed that in the past five years, student enrolment in government-run-schools has increased by over 17 percent. It said that till the academic year 2023-24, the enrolment has increased by 17.7 percent, marking a significant increase in gross enrollment ratio.

Furthermore, the Directorate of School Education, Kashmir (DSEK) releases, every year, an annual academic planner in order to engage students and teachers meaningfully in different academic and co-curricular activities during the year. This document covers all aspects of learning in details. From classroom activities to syllabus completion and exam conduction to sports and other non-academic activities, this document proposes a roadmap to all.

It is pertinent to mention that Union Minister of State for Home Nityanand Rai recently informed the Rajya Sabha that since 2019, significant developments had taken place in the education sector of the erstwhile state. “With 49 new degree colleges established, the IIT Jammu and IIM Jammu functioning, digital classrooms implemented, and the adoption of the ‘School Complex System’ to enhance learning outcomes, things have been certainly changing”, he recently said.

Also, more than 8 lakh students receive the cost of uniforms and over 5.50 lakh students receive free textbooks annually. “Uniform Academic Calendar, J&K, implemented the calendar across the UT, which is justified by the logic that students of the winter zone had to waste six months to seek admission to different courses in the country where academic session started from March-April,” the minister has said in a written reply.

The significant rise in the number of teaching days and the academic calendar has brought J&K at par with the rest of the country.

J&K has also adopted a ‘School Complex System’ with the intent to improve the academic standard in schools. The objective is to utilise the resources at complex (Cluster level), for maximum output and which shall also enhance the learning outcomes. 746 complexes are identified and stand notified.

Moreover, cost of uniform is provided to more than 8 lakh students through DBT mode every year and free text books are provided to more than 5.50 lakh students every year, as informs the minister adding that J&K has developed an app namely Samiksha – Performance Feedback of Teachers by Students – for the performance appraisal of the teaching faculty by the students.

  • Developments in secondary & higher education

The J&K government, in 2019, had announced the establishment of new 102 degree colleges in two phases – 52 in Phase I and 50 in Phase II. Soon after making the announcement about making these colleges functional, the J&K administration, led by the then Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu had decided to put on hold the operationalisation of new degree colleges announced in Phase II, citing lack of resources as the reason.

The government decided to focus on those new 52 colleges which were approved in the Phase I by the erstwhile State Administrative Council (SAC).

The number of government degree colleges in the erstwhile state was 96 (including two engineering colleges), while after 2019, 53 more degree colleges (including 2 engineering colleges) have been sanctioned, of which 49 degree colleges (including one engineering college) have been established and made functional.

Similarly, two AIIMS – one in Jammu and the other in Kashmir division – are almost nearing completion. Besides setting up IITs, IIMs, nursing and professional colleges have also given our youth a range of career choices here that otherwise had to move out of the state for higher education.

The seriousness of the government in spending on education can be validated by the PM recently inaugurating various IITs, IIMs, KVKs and NVs across country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the campuses of three Indian Institutes of Management – in Jammu, Bodh Gaya and Visakhapatnam, in February this year and laid the foundation stone of several projects worth Rs 13,375 crore, including permanent campuses for three IITs, 20 Kendriya Vidyalayas and 13 Navodaya schools.

The Prime Minister dedicated, inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of the campuses and buildings at a public function at the Maulana Azad Stadium in Jammu.

“The advancement of education and skill development sectors on such a scale was a distant reality ten years ago. But this is a new India. The government of the day indulges in maximum expenditure for modern education of the present and future generations,” Nityanand Rai had pointed in his address.

On vocational education, under the academia-industry partnership, TATA Technologies has established two centres for Innovation, Invention, Incubation and Training (CIIIT) at Government Polytechnic Boys, Jammu and Government Polytechnic, Baramulla.  An MoU signed with Ashok Leyland involving two ITIs i.e., Budgam and Kathua for upgradation of training facilities in the automobile sector has also gained momentum.

  • NEP 2020 & Kashmir

NEP 2020 has brought about a transformative change in the education system of Jammu and Kashmir, particularly in government schools. The policy’s focus on inclusivity, quality education, and holistic development has paved the way for a brighter future. By embracing the provisions of NEP 2020, government schools in Jammu and Kashmir can empower students, foster innovation, and create a generation of lifelong learners ready to navigate the challenges of the 21st century.

Well, investment in education gives the best return in the form of a literate future generation. A generation that is rational, can think on its own and can differentiate between good and bad, evil and pious. And only a well-educated future generation can take J&K out of the remnants of a deadly dark past of blood and gore. Only a well-settled, successful and a visionary generation of youth is capable of not falling for fundamentalist factions and be mature enough to demolish the vicious radical elements of the society.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here