Rethinking the Education System in Kashmir: A Student’s Perspective

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By Umair Rashid

As we all know education is a very important and powerful tool for success, growth and prosperity. Education is significant because it, among other things, is used to mitigate most of the challenges that life throws up. The knowledge that is attained through education helps open doors to a lot of opportunities. Education is not all about studying and getting good marks. It is really a means to discover new things about which we don’t know and increase our knowledge. An educated person has the ability to differentiate between right and wrong or good and evil. It is the foremost responsibility of a society to educate its citizens. In this essay, I would like to highlight the problems that are plaguing the education system of Kashmir and make some suggestions by which these may be corrected. I would also like to raise questions like: Why Government schools always produce poor results? Why students don’t get all-round development (mental, physical, emotional and so on)? Why students especially of Government schools lack the ability to compete with those students who study in private schools?
The evil of rote learning is in vogue almost among all the schools of the Kashmir valley. Owing to the fixated style of question papers that have been doing the rounds in board exams from time immemorial, rote learning has become structural. We are very sure that most students won’t be clear about many of the basic foundational concepts taught in school even after they’ve graduated. ( I have even heard of students mugging up balanced equations). The shift from rote learning is one fundamental change that need to come about in our education system! Also, the marking system plays a very important role. Is it justified that a student is evaluated only on the basis of his/her performance for the duration of three hours of the exam? If the axis of grading and marking is shifted to classroom participation, project work, communication and leadership skills and extracurricular performance, only then will a genuine student shine. This might sound like a utopian proposition but the education system of Kashmir badly needs to bring about this much needed change. Also it is important to give respect to all kinds of streams whether these be Social Sciences, Arts, Science, Engineering and so on. Every stream has its own importance in its respective domain. ( Nowadays doing B.Tech has become a trend especially in Kashmiri students even if they don’t have the bent for it) A student should be given free choice to pursue his/her career according to his or her aspirations and interests. Not like as we usually say “oh has she done a MA in English? She’ll end up becoming a teacher. Or, ‘’What good is a diploma in hospitality management? It ultimately means doing a job in a hotel as a cook.” We always hear these lines time and again from our elders; it is to be stopped!
The mind and thinking need to be broadened. How long we are going to look down upon vocational streams and look up to medicine, engineering, the IIT’s and the IIM’s? Students at the school level need to be educated through career counseling regarding the kind of streams that exist and what importance each of them plays to make an economy diverse especially of our Kashmir which is already lagging behind.
The most important difficulty nowadays in our education system is aggravated by tuition centres. It becomes compulsory for a student to attend tuition classes even at the cost of his or her school life. Presently, it has become a trend among Kashmiri students to prefer tuition over schools. If one student goes to tuition, it is but natural others, his friends, relatives and so on are also influenced to go so as to maintain his or her status among his peers, society and so on Consequently, students lose precious time and phase of school life and thus lack in dealing with other important aspects and challenges of life. All-round development is possible only through schools not through tuition centres alone. The system of tuitions in our education system is like plunging one’s hands into a vicious cycle which seems to have no beginning or end. The reasons for tuition centres’ mushrooming are because students say that the teaching in schools is laidback and not good enough for them to clear exams. Whereas teachers say that students jump ahead many chapters in tuition classes before the schools resume after vacations or holidays. This makes them lose all motivation to attend schools regularly. Forget all of this, what about the poor parent who’s hard earned money gets drained in school and tuition fees alone? Although the picture does seem dismal, but how quickly will these changes percolate down to common Kashmiri poor man’s son, only time will tell.
There are majority of poor parent’s in Kashmir who can’t afford to send their children to private schools. Where should they go? The only option left with them to educate their children is to send them to government schools. Their wards may possess great talent to do something but the system, atmosphere and the way of educating in government schools doesn’t provide for them the platform to make use of their talent in an efficient and effective way. Also, at the primary level, which is the most important level in any education system, there are generally low qualified and inefficient teachers taking heavy and huge salaries, and without contributing anything to the lives of children who often come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. Forget about high level of exposure they don’t even give them basic teaching lessons. So, when poor parent admits their children in these Government primary schools (being the only option left for them), they remain dull and their base doesn’t become strong as a result of which they fail to fulfill their dreams. Alas! How can they cherish and fulfill their dreams and aims they desire when their base is weak. How can a house be strong if its base is weak?
That is why I strongly believe it is high time for the people at helm affairs to look upon these above important issues, try to integrate them with better and modern skills to make the education system of Kashmir better. Good and young teachers should also be posted in primary government schools so that that they inculcate and envision in the young kids the importance of all-round development and good level of exposure, so that their base in the early school life becomes strong and they can compete with the students of private schools. As his/her base becomes strong, these students can also make good decisions regarding choosing their careers and then doing their courses in the fields of their choice effectively!

—The author is pursuing B.A. (Hons) in Economics from Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at: