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Year Ender: J&K’s education system grappled with progress & pitfalls in 2023

Year Ender: J&K’s education system grappled with progress & pitfalls in 2023

While many positive developments took place, there are several loopholes which need to be fixed

Riyaz Bhat

Srinagar, Dec 28 (KNO): In fiscal 2023, the school and higher education departments in Jammu and Kashmir underwent a comprehensive evaluation, revealing both positive strides and critical challenges.

While the School and Higher Education Department logged over 220 academic days, several educational institutes, both at lower and higher levels, grappled with infrastructural shortcomings.

Principal Secretary, Higher Education Department, Alok Kumar informed the news agency—Kashmir News Observer (KNO) that more than 220 academic days were recorded in the 2023 academic calendar. “Except for scheduled summer and winter vacations, no educational institute was closed,” he said, adding that winter vacations were communicated in advance.

Highlighting adherence to academic standards, Kumar said, “We surpassed the mandated number of academic days outlined by NCERT and other authorities, which shows our commitment to uninterrupted education. Even in higher education departments, we refrained from unnecessary closures.”

Acknowledging the significance of NEP-2020, the Principal Secretary HED said the department took significant steps in alignment with the National Education Policy 2020.

MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS AND LOOPHOLES

60% colleges lack NAAC accreditation

In 2023, nearly 60% of Jammu and Kashmir colleges lacked NAAC accreditation, raising questions about the adequacy of curriculum coverage and teaching-learning processes. Out of 147 colleges, only 59 secured NAAC accreditation.

University rankings and concerns

During the fiscal year, the University of Kashmir secured the 48th rank, and Jammu University secured the 66th rank among the top 100 universities in the country, according to India Rankings 2021 (University), Ministry of Education, Government of India.

Challenges in school education

Authorities in fiscal 2023 identified ‘untrained’ teachers, Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) teachers and Regularised Rehbar-e-Taleem (RReTs) tutors as threats in the School Education Department. Monitoring the objectives of private educational institutes was also considered a potential threat. The issue was reported by KNO on November 04, 2023.

Infrastructural gaps in nearly 5000 remote schools

On November 03, 2023, KNO reported that nearly 5000 government schools in remote and hilly terrains faced infrastructural gaps. The ‘JK Vision document 2047’ disclosed the existing challenges and highlighted the need for skilled human resources in teaching. As per the document, over 36,000 ReTs or RReTs lacked the desired level of qualification.

“A considerable chunk of human resources is not skilled in the art of teaching, Over 36000 ReTs or RReTs, not possessing the desired level of qualification, have been regularised,” reveals the Planning Development and Monitoring Department in the proposed vision.

Retention rates

Official figures revealed that retention rates at primary and elementary levels in Jammu and Kashmir were below the national average in 2023. The retention rate at the primary level up to grade V was 84%, and at the elementary level up to grade VII, it stood at 66%. However, there was a 7% increase in retention rates at the secondary level.

“The UT has to take initiatives for 100 percent retention of the children in the education system,” the official document states.

61 pc govt schools without electricity

Until October 02, 2023, at least 61% of government-run schools in Jammu and Kashmir lacked electricity, raising questions about the department’s promises of infrastructural facilities. Additionally, 45% of private schools lacked electricity facilities.

The official figures revealed that out of the total number of government schools, at least 14,240 institutions were lacking electricity facilities, adding that only 39 percent of educational institutions that amount to 8933 government schools were availing the electricity facility.

Departmental exams for employee promotion

On September 27, 2023, the School Education Department proposed conducting departmental examinations through the Jammu and Kashmir Public Service Commission (JKPSC) for employee promotions. The Jammu and Kashmir State Council of Educational Research and Trainings (JKSCERT) was proposed to set the syllabus for the examinations.

“For promotion purposes, in addition to B.Ed, a limited departmental examination is proposed to be conducted by JKPSC and JKSCERT shall prepare the syllabus,” the department has said in a communiqué.

Active involvement of principals and headmasters

In September 2023, principals and headmasters were directed to actively teach at least two classes a day, besides managing the administration of their respective schools. The move was aimed at “enhancing the teaching-learning process”.

Lecturers teaching lower classes

In the same month, lecturers in the School Education Department were directed to teach 9th and 10th standard students “to elevate academic standards”. This was in addition to the routine responsibilities of these lecturers.

“It is impressed upon lecturers of School Education Department to exuberantly involve themselves in teaching at 9th and 10th level besides at the plus-2 level,” the Deputy Secretary to Government had said in a communiqué.

Nearly one lakh dropout students brought back to schools

Former Chief Secretary Dr Arun Kumar Mehta had said that the government has brought nearly one lakh Out of School Children (OoSC) back to educational institutions.

He said Jammu & Kashmir has secured the first position in India under NIPUN Bharat.

Reforms in board examinations

In 2023, the National Curriculum Framework 2023 for School Education recommended substantial reforms in board examinations for Grades 10 and 12 “to make it more easier” for the students.

It said the focus would shift towards assessing understanding and competencies rather than relying on months of coaching and memorisation.

The framework proposed allowing students to take board examinations on at least two occasions during any given school year, with only the best score to be retained.

Stating the pedagogy of the framework, the document reads, “In the long-term, being able to take a subject Board examination immediately after the ‘school term’ that is ‘semester-wise’ or ‘on-demand’ Board examinations) will be made available.”

Rationalizing teacher distribution

To balance teacher postings and maintain the Pupil Teacher Ratio (PTR), the Jammu and Kashmir School Education Department initiated the rationalisation of teachers. Extra teachers from over-served schools were redistributed to deprived ones to ensure a balanced urban-rural distribution.

The department informed this to the union education ministry in response to the queries of last academic year regarding surplus teachers wherein the Centre had informed that 22 percent of schools at primary level and 6 percent of schools at upper primary level had adverse PTR.

Kindergartens operating without governance

In 2023, private preparatory schools, specifically Kindergartens in the Kashmir division, operated without regulatory oversight, raising questions about the effectiveness of authorities in governance.

“Besides having no regulatory authority, the department has no idea as to whether there was any framework or mechanism devised for the functioning of these Kindergartens,” officials at the School Education Department had informed, adding that they also have no data regarding the number of such schools functioning in the Kashmir Valley.

Meanwhile, the parents of some of the students in private crèches had said that the “lackadaisical” approach of the government is giving a free hand to the owners to mint a “hefty” amount from them.

Ban on motorbike usage during school hours

On June 26, 2023, authorities imposed a blanket ban on motorbike usage by students below 18 years during school hours in central and north Kashmir.

Joint Director, Central and North for School Education Department in a communiqué to Chief Education Officers of Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Baramulla, Kupwara and Bandipora, had said, “A large number of complaints are making rounds in media and social circles about the rash driving and stunt biking and reckless movement of two-wheelers by school boys studying in different classes of government and private schools.”

Tagging schools without playgrounds with nearby institutes having such facilities

In 2023, the Ministry of Education (MoE) urged the Jammu and Kashmir School Education Department to tag schools lacking playgrounds with nearby institutions possessing such facilities to foster sports and recreational opportunities.

The MoE said this in a Project Approval Board (PAB) for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir under Samagra Shiksha Scheme for the financial year 2023-24—(KNO)

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