Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Educating Kashmir

By: salman nizami

A law is over due for the education setup in Kashmir which should be implemented for a common core curriculum for all schools, the setting of educational standards and which addresses the issue of discrimination in between Jammu and Kashmir and else where . 'The most important thing about this law should be that at state level it should set up a code of conduct (stipulating non-discrimination) for the school system. Reform is long overdue in a state where since the beginning of the tumult in 1989, education has been hostage to crisis and to outdated teaching methods that emphasize rote learning rather than developing children's reasoning abilities. Reforms have been hampered, however, by the lack of an education infrastructure at state level. Nineteen years on, children still attend untidy and tented classes, and there are dozens of schools that provide segregated teaching under one roof. Textbooks are often loaded with outdated information. In one of the latest edition of Greater Kashmir this issue was raised, wherein the information in our civics and history books are as old as 20 years. Never updated, never corrected. I have been witness to one of such shameful story that involves the education department. There is one primary School Kathimaidan, Zadibal , that was shifted to one of the rooms of a private house in The JKPCC colony of Badamwari, I visited that school lately and was surprised to see that students from five different classes studying in one room with 4 teachers in it. I have forgotten the number of times I have approached the Education minister, the Director, and who not? Although there is a piece of land that has been earmarked by the LAWWDA to the Educa-tion Department for the construction of this school, but believe me no one is serious to take the resp-onsibility. The most shameful answer I could get from one of the officers of the education Department was that , " It's the MLA of the Area who has to exercise pressure on the department to have it done , or raise a question in the state assembly , If he is not interested why are you ?
Coming back to the curriculum, you ask such question to any one in the school education and the response will be that they are already working on it, the multiple curricula that existed until now created a patchwork of incompatible teaching systems. I don't know how far they are correct but if they are then the new curriculum should ensure that children of different parts of the valley spend most of their time in school together and, at the same time, take classes in designated 'national subjects' such as language, Culture and literature. If ever the school education department ensures that a new curricula will be updated then the following things should be kept in mind.
New Methods
The overhauled curriculum should throw out old teaching methods which, leaves the student reduced to the status of passive recipient, to be crammed with facts. 'The student should now be expected to observe, resea-rch, draw conclusions and participate in team projects, not just be served ready-to-use definitions.' 'A curriculum should be a detailed description of skills, values, competencies and attitudes that students should acquire,' 'The only objective defined should be the amount of knowledge to be fed, substituting the outdated.' Study like students and not like Robots. The teachers will have to be retrained for the new curriculum and the use of new multi-media methods. 'At the end of day , if you see schools in the villages you will find out that not a single teacher is aware about how to use Internet , although there is a strong desire on their part to learn new things. Our education is good but many things have changed in the world and we have to keep up.' Now or Never The latest education system should be included which requires the state to ensure that education of children is 'in conformity with their (parents') religious and philosophical convictions. With the new school year starting from March, and the assembly session in January there should be a consensus among all the parties that the new law if ever made should be passed in the upcoming session, if it needs to be. Although bureaucratic web or some vested interest may not let this happen but this is high time to think and think fast.' For Kashmir, modern-izing its education system is a priority if it wants to keep pace with outside world. Educational reform is one of the conditions that must be fulfilled by 2009 for J&K to join the other states of the country. We can't remain isolated, and if we play it smart Sadiya, we can finish first. Passing the new law will be a first step towards this, but Kashmir still has a long way to go before its education overhaul is complete.

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