Education is the most important pillar on which a developed and sensible society is established. It is the basic backbone of personal growth and development for any individual(s) in the society. The importance of proper education system in any society is acknowledged by all including the younger generations and children. Likewise, the importance and requirement of basic and higher education is also felt in the Kashmiri society since the very beginning. Kashmir Valley has been known and acknowledged by many historians and intellectuals as the “Land of Knowledge, good habits and Literature” or in other words “Land of Alim, Adab and Ilm”. An educated person has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong or good and evil. It is the foremost responsibility of a society to educate its citizens.
Post-independence, the state of J & K established its own Education Board and University. The education system in the Valley is divided into Primary, Middle, High Secondary, College and University level. Various private and public schools are recognized by the State Board to impart education to students. Despite these various efforts of the State and private institutions, the overall output of education system in the state is lagging behind vis-à-vis the rest of the country. Official data puts the state literacy rate at 67% which is much below the national level of 77% as per 2021. Again, the female literacy rate in the state is 56.65% much below the male literacy rate of 83.92% (Data from Google). Education system of Kashmir is plague by various issues like corruption, disinterest by govt schools staff, militancy, social backwardness and conservatism. Another issue is the limited choice of studies available to the female section of Kashmiri society. Due to the conservative nature of the society, many female students are unable to pursue higher studies. Only a few elite section of the society managed to send their children to national level institutes outside the state.
This result in a lot of younger generation remaining wasted without tapping their skill, potential and knowledge. Further, the problems of militancy and social unrest also hampered the development of education. More than half of the parents in the valley are hesitant to send their children for education as the fruits of their studies and effort are unimaginable or difficult to reap. There is always an uncertainty in the minds of Kashmiris for achieving the goal of their studies. Post abrogation of Art 370 in 2019, the state education has become a stalemate due to the lockdown and more unfortunately by the stagnant administration. No govt or civil administration has thought over the loss of academic sessions of the students in 2019. Again in 2020 and 2021 due to the Pandemic, COVID-19 the brunt of losing academic sessions is faced by the students. These three years of academic lockdown will create an incurable vacuum to the Kashmiri society, the consequences of which will be slowly and gradually plaguing the future generations.
However, all is not bad in the education system of Kashmiri society. Institutes like the University of Kashmir, Sher-E-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science, NIT Srinagar are some of the educational centers having world class facilities and infrastructures for learning. Various streams of learning and centres for Research and Development are available in these institutes which can be easily accessed by all Kashmiris and other sections of the society. From the various accounts of research centres and higher learning we also find many Professors, Scientists and Doctors of these institutes performing extremely well and figuring themselves in the list of top world scientists and educationists. For instance, two Kashmiri scientists namely Dr Shabir Hussain Wani and Dr Shabir Ahmad Ganai have figured recently in the world Ranking of Top 2% scientists as per Standford University Research database 2021. (Pub on 19 Oct 21 in Kashmir Reader).
Thus, it can be rightly concluded that all assets, infrastructures and human resources for a fully literate society is available in the Valley. The only requirement is great amount of effort and determination from the govt as well as the society. If both entities i.e. the educationist and the students co-operate and persevere the state will outperform the rest of the country in education. The state has always been a land of knowledge and learning centres since the times of Kings and Rulers of Medieval India.