Quantity over Quality

Quantity over Quality
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It stretches reason and credulity to believe that augmenting the hard infrastructure of education in Jammu and Kashmir will improve and enhance educational outcomes. This assertion becomes salient against the backdrop of the administration’s putative decision to open seventeen colleges in the region. Improved educational outcomes are not contingent on merely tweaking one or two variables in the whole education infrastructure or ecosystem. Education, broadly speaking, and improving educational outcomes, in particular, can only be enhanced by rejigging the entire value and supply chain of education- right from the primary, secondary to higher levels. But, doing this entails a revolution in the education sector in Kashmir, which given the path dependency of institutions and warped institutional legacies, bureaucratic inertia and torpor, the short political and electoral cycles and short term horizons thereof does not fall in the realm of probability here. Why, the question is, has the administration then come up with the plan of rolling out seventeen more colleges in Jammu and Kashmir? This question becomes significant against the backdrop of extant hard educational infrastructure, especially in Kashmir, which is in a state of deep disrepair. The answer might lie in politics. The administration might be attempting to pander to some peoples’ demands in an attempt to reap electoral dividends. But, herein lies the problem. That is, the moment education becomes politicized and once politics becomes more important than education, education, or more accurately, the quality of education suffers- at times, irredeemably. This constitutes a travesty given that one robust foundation of and for society is how resilient its educational structures and institutions are. All this gains poignancy and saliency in the contemporary world where education is a sure shot route towards social and economic mobility. Shoddy provision of education, bad or poor inputs- hard and soft infrastructure among other things, institutional lacunae, all add up to focusing and emphasizing on quantity over quality. Disaggregated this, in turn means that educational standards in Kashmir, or for that matter, Jammu and Kashmir will go down exponentially. Building more colleges might create employment for a few and please certain constituencies but the real beneficiaries of education- students- will suffer. Real reform of education in Kashmir would, besides working on the value chain of education would or should focus on both supply side and demand side measures. But, this form and nature of reform is unlikely to happen in Kashmir. The reasons have, are and will be in the domain of politics.

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