Implementing National Education Policy in Jammu and Kashmir

The academic calendar of Jammu and Kashmir especially the winter zones of the erstwhile state has come up for discussion yet again. And, as expected the people, by and large, have opposed the intended move. Early this year, the government had stated that it wanted to implement a uniform academic calendar in all the schools of Jammu and Kashmir. Pertinently, the examinations in Kashmir and winter zones of Jammu region are held in October-November. The students in the summer zone of Jammu region take the test in March-April.

The National education policy (NEP) which the government intends to implement in Jammu and Kashmir seeks Synchronizing of the academic session with the national calendar. Apparently, there seems to be no problem in it. However, the implementation of the NEP will end up adding more school days to the academic calendar, which according to Michael Barrett, a US expert, seems punitive. According to the Education Commission of the United States, forty-six of the fifty states mandate school years of 175 to 180 days. These 180 days have to accommodate field trips, graduation ceremonies, in-service training for teachers, study tours and anything else that needs doing. So, the actual number of school days in the US is less than 180. Spain has only 180 school days. Britain has 190 and France 185. The number of school days in most of the developed countries is less than 200. Any extension of the calendar here shall not only punch holes in parents’ purse but also tax the nerves of the students and the teachers.

Fortunately, the government does not want to impose a decision on reluctant students and their worried parents. A committee has been constituted to study the pros and cons of the matter and make recommendations accordingly after proper application of mind. The committee has to bear in mind that a change in the academic calendar for reasons other than academic shall adversely impact the students who are fully prepared and hope to take the test as per schedule.

Pertinent to mention, the former education minister also suggested a change in the calendar. However, the proposal was shelved following severe opposition from the students and the civil society.

The committee and the people who ultimately have to make a decision must accept a harsh reality. The schools including those who fleece the poor parents in the name of tuition fee do not do justice to the curriculum. The parents have to either prepare their wards themselves for the examination or get a tutor for the purpose. The students even in public schools are brazenly told to complete the syllabus at home. So extending the session, or to put it plainly increasing the number of school days won’t make any difference.

By taking the calendar to March, the students will be restrained from going on educational/study tours which form an important part of curriculum. These tours subject the students to much needed exposure.

The March calendar gives just a month or so to the students to prepare for entrance examinations. The NEET is held in May and the first JEE in February. So, while the students will be busy preparing for the examination, they will have to either skip the first JEE or appear (if at all they are eligible) in the competitive test. There is no denying the fact that students elsewhere face similar problems but the situation there is different. The March calendar is in vogue there from the very beginning and the students plan accordingly. But, here in Jammu and Kashmir, the authorities come up with the idea in the middle of the calendar which only distracts the students.

The November calendar has plenty of time to offer during winter months. Besides preparing for competitive tests, the students can take a break for education tours which is also a part of the curriculum. There are other benefits that need to be considered before making a decision.

And last but not the least, remote areas of Kashmir Valley and some areas in the Jammu region remain cut off for several months due to heavy snowfall. These areas include Tangdar, upper reaches of Kupwara, Uri, Bandipora. The far flung areas of Doda, Ramban, Kishtwar and the Pirpanjal region in Jammu division experience similar problems. The connectivity to these areas is restored in late April or early May which means examinations cannot be held in these areas in March. Can the authorities afford to have a separate calendar for these areas?’

It needs to be made clear that Kashmir has a different academic session because of the harsh winter. The Valley has been receiving heavy snowfall in the month of March for the past few years. And if this trend continues, the consequences can only be imagined. The expert committee, therefore, has to do a lot of thinking before submitting its recommendations.

Courtesy : ZAHIR-UD-DIN

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