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Before my transfer to an Engineering College recently, I taught at Govt. Degree College Bandipora, situated on the top of a hillock, an idyllic place surrounded by a majestic bulwark of mountains on almost three sides and overlooking the bucolic expanses of famous Wullar Lake on one side; undoubtedly a wondrous place with amazing ambience for the transaction of education. From the top one could easily survey the distant villages scattered about the dying slopes and verdure plains and some house-tops glittering from across the deep shadowy terrains in higher hills. The majestic snow tops sparkled like a jewel in the crown. Exciting indeed but one could not turn a blind to eye to the hardships and resilience of the students who had to, given the pathetic transport facilities, cover the craggy terrains, the jagged roads and steeps to reach to the college, a singular building resting like an ancient rock on the edge of a hill.

This singular building with just six class-rooms and a comparatively smaller permanent teaching faculty (less than fifteen and in city colleges, where the intake of students is lesser, sometimes even one department exceeds this number) had to attend, to educate 2700 students enrolled in different courses, unarguably a huge capital of human resource. Twenty seven hundred young aspiring minds waiting to be chiseled to perfection to secure the future of a generation!

Not aware of other classes, but the English classes I did were always overcrowded, a discomposed crowd of nearly 150 students, almost twice the number sanctioned by the University Grants Commission. Apparently buoyant faces looking expectantly at you and blandly listening to the abstruse philosophical musings and dismembered visions connected through a series of charred images of the Romantic English poet S.T. Coleridge; I still fail to understand as to why have ‘they’ prescribed the repulsively recondite poems like” Kubla Khan” and “Frost at Midnight” for the students who still don’t know what is Choice Based Credit System after acquiring education under the same system for more than a year. The class-room environment painfully contradicted the external ambience. I realized that the earlier schooling of the students never qualified them to be introduced to the esoteric poems of Coleridge, topical dramas of G.B. Shaw or Chekhov and the philosophical concepts of Albert Camus. I started to feel for the students deeply. Leaving the staff room to attend the classes became excruciatingly painful for me. Looking at hundreds of faces and everyday teaching them an exclusively higher imagination stuff with little or no relevance to their immediate needs in a traditional way and hardly ever considering a break to address their problems, assess their understanding and improvement (the compulsion to complete the syllabus not to be disregarded here), only cemented my fears of waste, mismanagement and misappropriation of the diverse human resource.

Never after that did my fears abate. The institution, like a psychopath lacking conscience, never actually bothered to change its approach. It stifled the teacher through a series of absurd implementations based on the directions of a practically disconnected University and subsequently leaving a huge human recourse directionless. One day when I enquired about the progress in other subjects from my students, the response only worsened my fears. It would send me meditating pointlessly, ‘Twenty seven hundred students! Give me only ten scientists from them, only ten philosophers, ten good mathematicians and only ten revolutionary writers, and I assure you I will change the whole intellectual demography of the subcontinent.’ Seriously, I found our students are not the in the safe hands, in the safe system. As it went on I began to contact my friends working in various colleges of the valley only to hear to the same plaintive tales of dissatisfaction, regression and institutional mismanagement. Based on my limited understanding I found the following four repressive elements in the context of our present college education system doing unpardonable disservice to our students (human resource):

  1. Untimely Implementation of Choice Based Credit System (CBCS)

Let’s say it is agreeable to operate a college from a rented accommodation or run it from a singular six class-room structure, but it would be an absolute fallacy to even imagine the implementation of CBCS, given its nature and scope, from such accommodations. The kernel of this new system is the Choice of the students which unfortunately exists nowhere. The old pattern of subject selection has been forcefully fitted in the new system. The same old subjects are taught with same traditional approaches with little or no scope for skill enhancement. Its implementation has been more a consternation and a setback, as evinced by the recent results, to both the students and teachers than a provision to revolutionize the education system. Leave alone the college students and teachers the University itself seems to have misread the system at the time of its implementation. To complete two semesters a year, a college almost needs to function the whole year without a break. In most of the colleges, as we have seen, students stop attending colleges from November to March because of the dearth of proper heating equipment in the colleges. Implementing CBCS at such a time is like playing cards in the hands of unprofessional players.

  1. Examination System

What pained me the most was the experience of supervising the examination halls. From their faces I could see a desperation of the Kashmir University to somehow get the things done. Students, like products manufactured in a factory, unwittingly accepted everything being fed to them. Unfortunately, they had been conditioned and brought up in a strange culture of examinations which terribly lacked creativity and originality. Evaluation of the answer scripts pushed me to the extreme where I almost convinced myself to resign from my job. Reading their answers was like reading the most original case studies of how our institutions are relentlessly destroying the most reliable human resource.

  1. Dearth of Infrastructure

Another serious threat to the proper growth and management of the human resource is the Government’s and administrators’ negligence, unconcern and dispassion for equipping the colleges with necessary infrastructure, staff and connectivity established decades before. On the contrary new colleges are established with strong guidelines to function immediately from rented accommodations. Most of the colleges are without smart-classrooms, auditoriums, conference halls, reading rooms and adequate laboratories and libraries. The lack of infrastructure to conduct co-curricular activities is duly manifested by our students not competing in various national level events. On the other hand, there is no respite from the relentless fee hike, adding more to the miseries of students.

  1. Political Uncertainty

To cover all the credits in one semester a college needs complete ninety working days. This is almost an impossibility in Kashmir, for there are more politically provoked holidays other than Sundays and coloured calendar days. In the last session, as all of us know, the Government closed many colleges for weeks as a so-called precautionary measure. Living in a permanent fear of a curfew, an encounter, a theatrics of combat and spectacle on the street is now a very old and commonly accepted deterrent to growth and education.

Tail Piece: Because our education and political system had been ordinary and stubborn to change and advancement, we have deprived generations of students who could have been better crafted and subsequently better placed. I still do not understand how bureaucratic supremacy, repeated tasks and assignments, pointless exams and so-called objective assessments can measure the behavior and intelligence of students or serve our “factory style” education system. It really looks “some kind of bar-coding human aptitude”.

Ghulam Mohammad Khan – Assistant Professor at Govt. College of Engineering and Technology Safapora Ganderbal

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One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    Education in Kashmir has been disturbed by various factors. Both political and social conditions are responsible for disruption in academic school and college learning. Human resources are not being utilised to fullest capacity. First of all, peace is very important for education and human resource development. Self rule is a pre- requisite