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Making of the New Education Policy for J&K

Making of the New Education Policy for J&K Making of the New Education Policy for J&K

By Bilal Ahmad Wani*

Education has been a key factor for a promising and bright future of any society.  The education particularly at school level has been the focus of the present regime and it has kindled the hope among the poor sections of our society who dream of providing good education to their children. Therefore, rejuvenating and safeguarding the only affordable option of educating their children from dying a silent death is to be taken on war foot basis. Although the SSA and RMSA schemes couldn't prove to be of all good for our state but their contribution is immense and far reaching. It is because of these schemes that, barring few, most of the government schools have a good infrastructure and teaching faculties now. The melodrama that started at the ministerial level helped to catch the public attention upon this essential public sector and now that the momentum is being taken forward by the dynamic administration under the able leadership of a young leader. People living in far-flung areas hoping for the rejuvenation of the education sector have pinned high hopes upon the capability of this young leader

Taking decisions at highest levels with the hope to get positive results without listening or taking into the account the circumstances of all the stakeholders is a wasteful process. It won't fetch good results if the decisions were taken confronting the dignity and individuality of any particular stakeholder. It is the coordinated effort of all the stake holders of the system to churn out best results of the decisions taken based on good ideas. These ideas need to be within the reach of our system and affordable to our work force. Putting excess burden upon their shoulders with the hope to get good results is just dreaming of an unachievable task. There are countless issues confronting the education sector that need to be assessed properly by conducting some ground level research by some independent researchers. The data available from education department isn’t reliable enough to form an opinion or to support a comprehensive education policy. The rigorous exercise to formulate a sound education policy is gaining ground but the serious concerns of the important stake holders who latter on have to implement the same on ground aren’t being taken seriously. It is better to give them enough space and take their inputs seriously. Moreover this would also help to make the Education policy more indigenous and productive than being a compilation of alien ideas. A teacher is a pivotal in this whole process of streamlining the education sector. He need to be heard properly and steps be taken to restore his dignity. The teachers are feeling a sense of alienation within the system as most of the decisions taken in the name of streamlining the education sector go against the dignity and interests of a teacher. Teachers are being publicized for wrong reasons only. They became scapegoat for all the mess in the sector that is because of the failure of the administration also. The first step in this direction was taken by issuing a circular by the present administration about restoring the dignity of the teachers by referring them as 'Sir or Jinab' in offices. These small steps would instil confidence among the enthusiastic teachers who are reeling under the pressure of lack of support and encouragement. No doubt we need to bring efficiency among our teachers but that must be based on appropriate arrangements supported by sound policies. After analysing the recent decisions of the school education department taken by the honourable education minster such as taking tests of the teachers and threatening termination of those who fail in these tests, banning private tuitions even after working hours are all confronting the interests of the teachers. There can be many areas where improvement is needed but some of the vital areas that need to be taken seriously are;

ENSURE ACCOUNTIBILITY: The lack of accountability is the single obstacles that once restored would do the rest in the present system. It is the corruption which emanates from erosion of ethical values that in turn erodes accountability mechanisms. The immediate steps that were taken by the honourable Education minister and administration by establishing helpline and grievance redressal system were the need of the hour. Taking help from the social networking sites can help in efficient and transparent working of the system. This would also reduce the gap between the teachers including the parents and the department. The tightening of the noose at the higher levels would help in reducing the menace of corruption.

ZONAL ADVISORY COMMITEES: To make the system more efficient and accountable an independent Advisory committee at zonal levels is one such idea to work upon. They should not only cooperate with the VEC (Village Education Committee) but also advise and assess the working of the schools at ground level. The committee may consist of a prominent academician of the area, two prominent retired teachers, one member from Zonal education office, one from DIET and the VEC of each school. They should not only be advisory in nature but be provided enough mandate to keep a watch and vigil over all the activities related with dispensing duties, work culture and accountability. The advisory committee, after assessing the school, can converge with different stakeholders like the academic wing of respective DIET for academic help and respective CEOs or even Directorate office for intervention and help.

VILLAGE EDUCATION COMMITTE: The VEC should be more diverse consisting of head of the school, two well educated inhabitant of the village and few parents. They should be capable enough to participate in the crucial decision making process for the successful functioning of the school. 

DECENTRALISED SCHOOLS: The more the autonomous a school is more will be its efficiency. This is more possible in a situation like ours where issues are very local. The autonomous decisions taken at school level can help to solve them in a better and efficient way. The autonomy can be in deciding the holidays, winter vacations, books from the choices available from among the alternatives as per the level of their students, school timings etc. The decision making power entrusted to a school would bring tremendous results in overhauling the work culture of our schools. Here government can fix some minimum standards for all of these decisions and rest will depend upon the school authorities.

CURRICULUM AND TEXTBOOKS: There is a strong resentment among the teachers that the text books at lower primary classes aren't of good standards and there should be an immediate replacement. Although theme based approach can be a great success at lower primary levels but still good text books can add taste to it. Why can’t we have different versions of the textbooks for our government schools? There is strong need to relook into the textbooks and revise them by taking the concerns and suggestions of teachers into account. There is nothing attractive in the books provided to the government schools. The print is worse, figures and pictures are worst. While framing these different versions of textbooks concept of minimum basic learning should be taken as criteria for at least up to primary level.  A teacher should feel enough choice and independence while consulting a textbook.

IMPROVE LEARNING LEVEL OF STUDENTS: We need to realise that whatever the factors are, a good proportion of the students in our government schools don’t have the sufficient levels of learning of the standard in which they are presently in. This ugly face of the system need not only acceptance as a fact but concerted efforts be put in place to devise a strategy to help them to improve. This proportion of the students has been subjected to injustice both by the teachers as well as the administration. They need special focus and extra efforts to get them out of their problems. Merely issuing a ban from the government for detaining them by issuing a circular can’t be a solution. The teachers should be provided enough resources, time, space and encouragement so that they can help these students by taking them to the minimum learning level of their respective grades. These students have suffered not because of a single stakeholder but everybody equally contributed to their present situation. This should not be the conventional remedial strategy used by our department since ages but a serious engagement of all the stake holders taking innovative steps so that this proportion of students can be immediately helped.

INVOLVE LOCAL YOUTH:  Local unemployed youth can be made participants in this innovative process of remedial teaching. They can be given proper emoluments and a certificate as an experience for their contribution which should have preference in teacher recruitments. This can be of immense help not only to improve the learning levels of the weak students but also prepare these unemployed youth for their future teaching assignments. This is far better than involving our youth in tuition industry who in turn would never get out of this mentality even if they were given permanent teaching assignments.

BAN ON TUTIONS:  The ban on private tuition by government teachers is indeed against the interest of the student community who dream to compete at higher levels of competition. Most of the students in government sector are first generation learners and they can’t get help from their families in their studies. You can't expect a teacher to prepare them for all competitive exams within the school where it becomes hard to prepare them even for board exams. We have very limited number of working days due to frequent hartals, holidays, harsh climate and natural calamities. This should also be noted that best of the potential teachers are in the school education system who are unable to give their best due to the system constraints. Besides if the intension of the government is to safeguard the student community from exploitation then they should have banned the private tuitional together. The ban on government teachers only paves way for their vote bank as they would be applauded by the unemployed youth for giving them space in the Tuition industry. For the common people nothing has changed as they won't be spared from being exploited by the tuition industry instead the contract has been now given to those who are more hungry and thirsty. God save them. The Innovative cell created by the Directorate of School Education is a welcome step as it has representative teachers who can help to identify the core issues concerning the teaching learning process so that they can addressed immediately to prevent their cascading effect.

 Teacher experiences can be of immense help. Many of them have great success stories that can be of great help to devise new strategies. The field should be thrown open to everyone for contributing not only directly by participating in teaching learning activities but also in devising strategy or framework for a successful education policy. Making certain assessments and taking immediate steps for quick revival of the system to a certain basic minimum level is the need of the hour.

*The writer is a teacher and freelancer who writes articles about education, social and political issues.  He holds a post graduate degree in Botany from Kashmir University, Masters in Political Science and Bachelor's degree in Education.  A government teacher, he is presently deputed to the Department of Botany, University of Kashmir.

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BILAL AHMAD Wani

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