Academic Freedom

Academic Freedom
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Around 60 students of Government Higher Secondary School Harmain in Shopian district are up in arms as they have been denied the stream which they had opted for at the time of admission. This amounts to short changing these students: they had chosen to study a certain stream or discipline but now after being locked into the school, they are told that the given stream is not on offer. In a way, the lack of choice for students in terms of choosing their subjects is thematic across Kashmir. There are structural and sociological reasons for this. Structurally, there is very little by way of choice for Kashmiri students and there is an academic straitjacket in place wherein they are constrained. Sociologically, the extant paradigms in place militate against disciplines that are not accorded value by society. Here, it is only disciplines like engineering and medicine that are accorded primacy. All in all, and in combination, the academic universe and opportunity structure of students in Kashmir gets severely delimited. From this narrow perspective then, there is very little academic freedom in the vale. This holds from a broader perspective too. Our institutions of higher learning produce research that is moribund, dated and of very little value. This becomes alarming in a day and age where knowledge and the production of knowledge in a given society determines not only it academic, intellectual development but also economic growth. Our age or even epoch is defined by the knowledge economy. Here, as in other domains, we are failing and falling behind stupendously. There are structural and conceptual reasons for this. The former are obvious but conceptually, it is academic limitations, that pertain to limited intellectual horizons, that are constraining that define our institutions of learning. As a result, our students lag behind in very significant ways on the knowledge frontier. In a world where even knowledge is commoditized and where “creative destruction” has become the norm, all this is in the nature of a disability which will hamstrung our students. The issue in contention needs immediate and urgent redress. The first , cardinal step toward this would be development of conditions where the mind is unshackled and a milieu created where intellectual development and efflorescence is made into a virtue. Admittedly, it calls for a paradigm shift where all shackles to intellectual development and growth thereof are removed and where academic freedom, rules the roost.