What We Owe our Students: An Overhaul of the Education System!

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Dr. Abdul Roouf Bhat
“More Gazetted Officers from Jammu than Kashmir” is the question that strikes one’s mind while scrolling down the results of administrative as well as professional exams. Different people with varied opinions have diverse approaches to discuss an issue. Shocking, though it may be, but this response does reflect a direct comparison between the standard of higher education imparted by colleges associated with the Universities of Jammu as well as Kashmir. Going down from the punch line, it demands a detailed discussion about why this difference has been found to occur. Nobody can rule out the impact of conflict, disturbance, political uncertainty and so forth on education, but there are some factors which need an in-depth revision not only to boost but to save the higher education system, especially the college level education of the valley. Surprisingly, in Kashmir valley, a student is forced to be serious about his education only at two levels, either at the senior secondary level or after joining the university while the college level is treated as a corridor wherefrom one has to pass in order to reach another level of any establishment. While in the University, the student realizes the value of the education imparted in the college but it is too late to cope up for the losses particularly the loss of the basic concepts. Who is to be held responsible for this loss?
Is it the student, the college system, the administration, the academicians or the political uncertainty? While there are extraneous factors which are not amenable to resolution that are at work, other more pertinent reasons which can and need to be worked upon are peculiar to our education system. A few of them, if taken care of can easily be addressed.
The first and the foremost problem is the attendance of students in the college. A student at the senior secondary level is particular enough to attend the tuition classes and school regularly but the same punctuality is never taken recourse to in college. A teacher in the college is always ready to deliver his best to the students, but shall be able to do that only when the student is present in the class. The attendance rules framed by the universities force the students to sit in the classes but the students do so only for a period that compensate to qualify for the attendance in the college. The Honorable High Court of Delhi in various judgments has made it clear that “no sympathy should be shown to those falling short of requisite attendance and that allowing them to appear in examinations will lead to a total academic chaos”. The court rejected the argument that students who do not attend classes pass the examination with a good percentage sending a strong message to those students who do not consider attendance as a compulsory component of education. Such strong messages and a transparency in the system along with the accountability of the teacher as well the student shall put the system in the right direction. It must be made mandatory for the college administration to upload the subject wise attendance of the students on monthly basis on the college websites so as to make the system transparent and foolproof. This shall also preclude political or administrative pressure the college administration faces when students with shortage in attendance are barred from appearing in the examination(s).
Another important factor that needs revision as well as up-gradation is the course curriculum. Although , a lot of changes are being made in the curriculum at regular intervals, there is an utmost need that the courses be designed as an advanced extension of the senior secondary courses. The quality of the course curriculum should be maintained keeping in view the national standards in order to prepare the students for national levels exams. There are many courses where the course curriculum is below the senior secondary standard with not much to learn and a student enrolled in such course gradually loses interest in attending the classes or consulting books.
The last but the most important part of this story is the evaluation of the students for which a competent policy is still not in place. It is important that we produce graduates who have sufficient knowledge and for that we need to set a benchmark for the people who pass out as graduates which will further help us to devise a standard for our evaluation. A graduate student should be in good as well as sufficient knowledge of his subjects and should be able to face any competitive examination based on his concerned subjects. Evaluation system should not merely check rote learning of students. It should be a system which will help our students to understand a problem and find a solution. The papers should be set in a way which compels our students to attend the classes, go through reference books, and gain supplementary as well as advanced knowledge for the topics given in their curriculum. The attendance rules can force a student to attend the class but it cannot force him to learn. That learning curiosity can be incorporated through the system as well as standard of evaluation. The state is in need of more educated people than qualified people. The students need to understand the basic meaning of education. Also a communication gap that exists between the stake-holders of the education, the administration, the academicians and the university needs to be crammed. While taking some important decisions about the education, the academicians who are interested in serving the society should be given a chance to contribute. All the stake-holders need to remember that their role is important in order to shape the future of education in the state; therefore education is to be prioritized over all issues.

—The author is an Assistant Professor at the Jammu & Kashmir Higher Education Department. He can be reached at: abroouf@gmail.com