History, like a mirror, shows us the scars of the wounds that we have suffered in confining education within the shackles of caste, class, and gender. The foundation of modern society is education. With traditional ties of kinship, family, etc, becoming weaker, education is a binding force in so many ways. It has become much more than just enlightenment. It develops modern values, and a framework with which society examines its problems and identifies solutions.
The resurgence of Jews after the Holocaust and their exile from Europe came from their determined focus on education. Japan’s post-war success despite scarce resources is a perfect example of how investment in education and human resources can take a nation from ashes and dust to prosperity and progress. Knowledge-based economy is essential for a country that aspires to move up the social, political, and economic ladder. It is this realisation of the importance of education that makes modern democracies enshrine education as a fundamental right in their constitutions. It is the reason why international organisations like the UN emphasise goals of education and use it to calculate Human Development Index (HDI) of countries.
In Kashmir, though, it is education that suffers at the slightest disturbance, whether it is local or global, the latest being the coronavirus outbreak. Problems in Kashmir are wide-ranging, from structural to infrastructural to socio-political. Our students and we as a collective society are heading towards a bleak future. While Delhi is innovating with Happiness Classes, our classrooms are ever so dismal. While students in other parts have access to online sources, our students do not often have even 2G internet. While competitive exams are getting tougher, our students are still limited to ‘Syllabus Subsidy’ – the government coming to the rescue of students with 50% syllabus relaxation. The government’s circumventing of the education process and jumping to conducting exams at 50% syllabus relaxation can in no way be an alternative to classroom education. Such actions on part of the government have reduced our education to just the conducting of exams, for mere promotion to the next standard. Paper checking has become the only job of our talented teachers.
It is necessary to address these issues and protect the future of our generations by collectively taking the responsibility for the same. Instead of syllabus relaxation, the government should think of long-term alternatives to keep education unaffected. Access to internet in educational institutes must be ensured at all times. Creation of cultural centers and small resourceful libraries in villages could be a giant leap forward. It is also important to introduce talent search tests and innovative programs on local levels to keep students exploring and engaged in studies beyond the four walls of their schools. NGOs should be encouraged to contribute in raising the standard of education and to ensure that it is not affected in any sort of adverse conditions. As hospital employees are asked to report to duty even in times of emergencies, so should teachers be required to continue teaching, at their localities if need be in case they cannot travel longer distances.
All schools and institutes should maintain a database of their lectures for every class, so that they can be shared with students in times of emergency.
It is very important to keep education protected from adverse impacts of socio-political conditions. I strongly believe that socio-political conflict and education should not be mutually exclusive. Do you?
—The writer is a social activist