While NEP 2020 aims to overhaul the country’s education system, a highly appreciated move, but what matters most for the students of Jammu & Kashmir is good quality education in government-run schools. The state of Jammu & Kashmir has always been considered as educationally backward state as reflected in established education indices. Now-a-days, in the chilly morning children with glittering faces wearing woolen cap with their traditional dress Pheran are seen going to school. Similar was not the case few years back. This has been possible due to evolutionary steps taken by Jammu & Kashmir government in 2016 to revitalize the education system and provide winter tuition during long winter break of 3 months when the temperature plummets to subzero. In this highly competitive world, students of Kashmir cannot afford to sit idle for 3 months at their home while their compatriots in other parts of country toil hard to achieve their goal. Students from economically well off class can afford private tuition during this break but same is not the case for downtrodden as they remain hapless.
Initially the winter school classes were designed for the 10+2 pass outs who were appearing in competitive exams and limited to locations which had good infrastructure and relatively large student community. As the drive received overwhelming response, the tuition classes have been expanded to the lower classes from 3rd to 12th. In this world of acute modernization and innovation, this noble idea of providing free winter tuition to all students will have long lasting effect and yield positive result. It will considerably help students of Kashmir to compete with their counterparts across the country. While the department of school education, J&K deserves appreciation for this initiative, a colossal and determined effort is required at all levels to attract children from all communities and make the drive more effective for benefit of students. Some suggested measures to influence the future outcomes are enumerated in succeeding paragraphs.
It goes without saying that parents in Jammu & Kashmir prefer private schools over government- run schools to ensure their children receives quality education. According to the Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education (BOSE) officials, more than 41 government run schools have failed to produce 20 percent result in class 10th. Among the poor performing schools, nine have produced zero percentage results which include three in Anantnag, two in Bandipora and one in Badgam, Baramulla, Kupwara and Kulgam districts. Once you will visit the schools of general area kandi, you will find schools are in rudimentary state with broken doors and windows. Valley receives heavy snowfall during winters. Schools have no heating facilities in it. In such condition, it becomes very difficult to conduct classes and even more difficult for students to learn. Providing basic infrastructure to facilitate the smooth conduct of classes in all government schools will boost this initiative. Both Center & State government can work in synergy to provide adequate facilities to schools located in remotest part of valley.
Madrasas have been the only educational institutions available for the educationally deprived sections of the Muslim community in Jammu & Kashmir. The implementation of winter tuition classes across all Madrasas with provision of requisite facilities will immensely bridge existing education gap of Kashmir vis-a-vis with other parts of country. Effective implementation of Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas (SPQEM) can be instrumental in this drive.
Although technology is key focus of NEP 2020, only 59% of schools across the country have access to electricity and the problem is profound in UT of Jammu & Kashmir. Technology has enhanced the methodology of teaching. Government impetus on digital India can be exploited to modernize classrooms by using Wi-Fi for audio visual classrooms. Electrifying all schools and putting computers in them is some of the basic measures we need to take immediately. BYJU/ AKASH homework programs can be provided to students of Kashmir on nominal charges.
No initiative or policy will achieve its goal unless the people involved at execution level are taken into cognizance. Similarly, this winter tuition cannot achieve its desired goal unless we provide some incentive to teaching staff. After all these teaching staffs are sacrificing their comfort of paid leave and turning up to take winter tuition classes. Their motivation further ebbs when they have to do this in poor conditions which exist across all government schools. May be we can provide them incentive in form of extra salary. Today, education has become a big business as many students post completion of their graduation from IIT & IIM join coaching classes as a teacher in various coaching institution which offer them handsome salary. Therefore, incentivizing teachers will attract them towards winter tuition which ultimately results in overall success of this drive.
To achieve tangible goals, monitoring is must. J&K education department can set up a team which can visit these schools to check functionality. Here, Army also can pitch in and report the matter to concerned agency in case found irregularity in attendance.
Flexibility is required at implementation stage. Moderating the timings of classes for students as well as for teachers, cancelling classes on days of heavy snowfall, impetus on difficult subjects, exclusive doubt clearing classes are some of the suggested measures to make the winter tuition classes more relevant. Overall pragmatic approach will lead to grand success of this winter tuition classes in Kashmir.
As an organ of government, Indian Army is extensively & intrinsically involved in smooth implementation of government schemes and overall improvement of existing situation in Kashmir. As part of perception management, we can take active part in providing tuition classes to students. Today, the young recruits are more than qualified to teach students up to class 10th. We can identify bright students and sponsor their higher education and impart extra coaching to weaker students. We can incorporate Army Education Corps in such programs. Army can also be useful in monitoring the proper execution of winter tuition classes. We can encourage students to attend schools by emphasizing the importance of education to the economically weaker sections of society.
The world is witnessing rapid changes in knowledge landscape with big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning getting incorporated in education scheme, whereas in Kashmir, we are still struggling to provide basic education to channelize the energy of youth in right direction. There are numerous reasons for the lagging education standards. Winter tuition is small step towards enhancing the education standards. Urgent and revolutionary measures are needed to improve this fundamental problem of lagging education if we want to address the challenge of hopelessness and haplessness amongst the youth of Kashmir. If we genuinely want to take out Kashmir from this quagmire of existing internal security situation then all-out effort is required at all levels including the community to improve the education standards in terms of both – quality and quantity.