Education: Policy in Kashmir must be a Multi Stakeholder One

Education: Policy in Kashmir must be a Multi Stakeholder One
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By Akeel Rashid
The recently declared first semester result of Kashmir University undergraduates was strongly disapproved by many students who were shown failing in one or more subjects. Calling the result as flawed, the concerned students staged protests against the authorities. Shortly after, the Kashmir University issued a statement that attempted clarified the mystery behind this ‘mass failure’. The statement said that many students have not darkened the circles on the OMR sheet; instead they had encircled, ticked or put a dot on the answers which could not be read by the OMR machine. This “clarification” of Kashmir University suggests and implies that the students are to be blamed for this ‘mechanical flaw’ and with that the authorities have been successful in brushing the ‘official flaws’ associated with this error under the carpet. The administration of Kashmir University is used to conducting the business of education policy making behind closed doors; they should jettisoned this policy and held an open door approach by circulating the instructions in the local dailies as how to fill the OMR sheets prior to conduct of examination. If they had taken recourse to these measures then the need to come out with the ‘General Information’ about the same would have never arisen.
This is not the first time that Kashmir University is at the center of a controversy. From long-established delayed exams to delayed results and degrees, there is a theme to it all. Besides, newly introduced semester system at UG level which has proved a complete failure, the Kashmir University has been imparting disappointments and degrees to the students simultaneously. The problem with the education policy making in Jammu and Kashmir is that it always lacks research input, the matters related to education are just discussed and then settled at the administrative and government level only and students are never consulted for suggestions and recommendations. The rule for settling the questions pertaining to education in developed countries is that the policymakers conduct research in which students are the participants and subjects. A news report published by the Kashmir Reader on December 25, 2017 headlined ‘New system of exams at KU leaves students with no time’ had quoted Dean Academic Affairs as saying that policies are discussed first in the University Syndicate and then in the Academic Council. What the Dean Academic Affairs had said defines the elusive approach of Kashmir University officials and lack of student recommendations with the regard to academic policy making.
The Way Forward
The B Ed program that offers training for the teaching aspirants should be diversified in its scope. Students who go for this course of study are just trained with the already available theories and mechanisms of education. B Ed students are just taught the methods of teaching; it would be better if these students are made to conduct research on the subject of education policies in the state. Education department should also seek the support of nonpartisan researchers to formulate policies related to education.
The Government last year had formed a working group for ‘operationalization’ of knowledge initiative and this group was tasked to prepare a vision document for interventions in skills, teaching, learning, research and innovation that were to be drawn from global best practices and traditional norms. Having participated as a student consultant in one of the session of this initiative last year, the working group has not sought any further student recommendations ever since. The best way forward is that education department should form a ever-changing student working groups under different categories coalesced with academic groups for formulating policies in matters of education.

—The author can be reached at: akeelsofi@gmail.com