The academic cesspool in J&K

The academic cesspool in J&K

By Mudasir Nazar

The impression one gets after a quick glance at the syllabus issued by the J&K Public Service Commission (JKPSC) for the post of Assistant Professors in various disciplines is that our academics is doomed, and so is our future. The syllabus is issued for screening tests to be conducted for two important reasons: to reduce the number of applicants and to recruit efficient and capable students for the posts. Therefore, the screening test woks as procedure and the syllabus as its substance. This article will focus on the substance and leave the procedure part as that will raise another serious debate: whether the screening test would fulfill the objective of recruiting right persons for right jobs.
Can a person selected on the basis of answering multiple choice questions (like when the UN was created) be a productive teacher? Our experience suggests otherwise. The classrooms of Kashmir are replete with examples where most teachers are incapable of delivering a lecture beyond ten minutes in a period of one and half hour! Therefore, it is imperative to focus on the substance (syllabus) on the basis of which so-called efficient teachers will be recruited.
A careful examination of the JKPSC syllabus, especially for the discipline of political science, highlights three important problems of critical concern (1) incapability and inefficiency of bureaucratic institutions (2) structural exclusion and injustice, and (3) stagnancy of academics and institutions. These problems raise important questions about the so-called debates on merit, efficiency and justice.
The inefficiency and incapability of the JKPSC is clearly visible through its syllabus notification. Ironically, the institution which is responsible for conducting screening to recruit meritorious and capable students for government services is itself run by inefficient people. ‘Copy and paste’ has become a trend for the bureaucrats of Kashmir and the JKPSC is no exception. For instance, the political science syllabus is the same syllabus issued by JKPSC for 10+2 posts advertised against the notice of 27.01.2006. Not a word has been changed. They have not even gone through it and, therefore, it is no surprise to find “enlist theory” written instead of elitist theory of democracy or “Platu” for Plato.
Unfortunately, ‘mainstream’ or core political science is totally missing and un-substantive issues had been included. For instance, the syllabus misses core papers like political theory, contemporary political debates and issues in politics and development. Therefore, key things like liberalism, Marxism, critical theory, conservatism, feminism, fundamentalism, post-modernism, socialism, multiculturalism, communitarianism, anarchism, green theory etc have no place in the syllabus. Similarly, core political science concepts, like Civil Society, Autonomy, Tolerance, Civil Disobedience, Citizenship, Public Sphere, Discourse, Power, Democracy, Distributive Justice, Equality, Rights, Liberty, Human Rights, Legitimacy, Identity, Racism, Alienation, Ideology, Power, Property, Nationality, Trust, Virtue, Welfare and so on, considered the basics of political science and taught in all the universities of the world, are also missing. One wonders what political science meant for JKPSC and for those who framed the syllabus. If the syllabus excludes these theories and concepts and avoids contributions of key political scientists, could it really be called political science?
Secondly, the syllabus highlights structural mechanics operative in the state to exclude students from various universities and subject them to injustice. While core political science is missing, some un-substantive or optional papers have been deliberately incorporated. For instance, two papers, one on Kashmir politics and another on International Law deserve special attention. Most of the top universities do not teach Kashmir politics separately and students from such universities would have an inevitable disadvantage. However, the incorporation of Kashmir politics paper could be justified on two grounds, firstly, it is important for every political science student to know his own context, secondly, since Kashmir politics is taught at the undergraduate level, inclusion of Kashmir politics paper is important. But could this type of justification be applied for the incorporation of the paper on International Law?
Neither is the latter taught at the undergraduate level in J&K nor is it a core paper of political science. What then is the justification for including it and excluding core political science content?
The truth is that International Law is taught at Kashmir University and not at other universities in India. If only KU teaches it, then isn’t it structural exclusion?  Where will students of other universities figure? The case is serious because the syllabus specifically mentions Kashmir and Jammu universities and lays down separate syllabus for the paper of international relations for them. Part two of the syllabus outlines “Nature, development and approaches to International politics (Jammu University) and Theory and Practice of International politics (Kashmir University) and describes separate syllabus for both. Had the JKPSC issued the syllabus merely for the passouts of Kashmir and Jammu Universities respectively? Doesn’t it show that no importance is given to students from other universities, even top universities? It is rightly claimed by some that eligibility for the posts is set according to the eligibility of the children of university officials or bureaucrats in Kashmir.
Thirdly, the syllabus also highlights the stagnancy, both of institutions as well as academics in the state. Academic stagnancy is highlighted by the incorporated content of the syllabus. For instance, theories of International Relations in the syllabus cover merely theories of Liberalism and Realism and ignore new alternative voices like Critical theory, Social Constructivism, Feminist theory, International Political Economy and Global Justice theory etc. It means the JKPSC is forcing students to read (and then teach) content from the 1950’s, and ignore new developments. Such stagnancy badly shows up the JKPSC. It has a bad impact as even universities are not updating their syllabus. They are not keeping up with the pace of development and modernisation of the world. Much of the research carried out in our academic institutions has already been explored fifty years ago. This would not have been the case if the institutions were receptive to change.
The rejection of applications by JKPSC from candidates with degrees in sub-disciplines also highlights the stagnancy and conservatism. While in the rest of the world, academics is interdisciplinary in nature, in our state JKPSC or even academic institutions still reject applications from sub-disciplines. For instance, a degree in politics with special reference to international relations is not accepted for political science or a degree in English is not accepted for functional English. Neither does the JKPSC introduce new subjects nor does it accommodate applicants with degrees from sub-disciplines.
Such applications are often rejected on the claim of specialisation. Unfortunately, the JKPSC is not recognising that the world is changing outside its headquarters.
—The author is a research scholar of South Asian Studies at the School of International Studies, JNU

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