Private Schools Association of Kashmir (PSAK) has termed the Government order of forcing "low quality" government school syllabus on private schools as final nail in the coffin of struggling education sector in the state.
Terming the order as extremely dangerous, the Association said that it would push education sector in Kashmir over the cliff. "This is a disaster in the happening. Everybody knows the quality of syllabus in government run schools. Some of the books have not been updated for five years and most of the books are mismatch for their respective classes," said G N Var President PSAK. "Govt school students are unable to pass their crucial secondary and higher secondary examinations after reading these books. Their career and life is ruined and primary reason is their outdated syllabus. Now the government wants to force every private school to adopt same books."
While counting the drawbacks of the government school books, the Association said the standard material like paper, printing, pictures extra is sub-par. Even the binding of books comes off within a week of handling by kids, the Association said. "In comparison the matter available on Private School books published by reputed publishers like Cambridge, Oxford, Macmillan, et al is far more standard than BOSE publications," said Var.
The Association said that the move to enforce government school syllabus is an attack on the freedom of private educational institutes. "On one hand government talks about the autonomy to be given to educational institutes and on the other hand by issuing such orders they are curtailing their freedom. Many private schools have dedicated educational experts who continuously update the syllabus in tune with global trends. It is the flexibility which makes our schools unique. We adapt change speedily. Incase govt syllabus is forced on us, our growth will get stagnated and everything will be lost," said Var. "Our schools have produced gems who have made their mark all over world. Some vested interests don't want that trend to continue and it seems to be ploy to derail our progress."
The Association also questioned the rationale of designing syllabus by BOSE, despite the body having no mandate. "Basically the preparation of text books was the job of SIE's and it was hijacked by the BOSE," said Var. "Not a single person associated with the BOSE textbook preparation is qualified as a textbook writer. Textbook writing is a technical job and needs specific orientation and training. Could the BOSE prove that any of the persons associated with the BOSE texts has undergone any orientation in text book writing- definitely a big No."
However, if BOSE publishes quality text books with reference to content and materials used it will be a welcome step for implementing equity, the Association reiterated. The Association also questioned the lack of funds for books which comes from SSA and are too meagre to publish standard books.
The Association said that NCERT books cannot be prescribed fully in the state because they lack the localized aspect of the content. "It will completely be alien for our kids who will be more disconnected from their culture, roots and society than ever before," said Var.
The Association said that the private schools are already reeling under numerous problems due to repeated diktats of government and this new order will break their back. " The 153 private schools have been closed due to harassment tactics of government. Our quantity is already diminishing and now with syllabus order our quality will also go down," said Var.
The Association said that if equity is the criteria then it should apply to infrastructures as well and government schools should not function in cowsheds and on the pattern of 3 rooms for 7 classes. "Basically the problem with learning outcomes is with govt schools, private schools fare well at all levels. Government should set its own house in order rather disturbing private sector," said Var.
The Association challenged the government to debate with civil society, academicians and private school representatives on the merits and demerits of imposing govt school syllabus.
The Association is of the opinion that the new syllabus will force rich people to send their students outside the state and it is the poor man who will suffer. "We fear there will be a steep division in society. The elites including government bureaucrats will send their wards outside the state for better education where syllabus is of higher standard. And it is only the middle and poor class people who will have to bear its consequences," said Var.
The Association also demanded to know whether the new syllabus will be applicable to CBSE and Cambridge approved schools who have their own syllabus. "Will they enforce their syllabus on these schools too or it is the order for economy class schools where a middle class man dreams big for his child," said Var.
The Association also questioned the timing of such an order as it has been issued when private school students have already purchased their books. The Association said that if there is any reform needed in the education sector it should be reorganization of government role. "There is a need to separate Govt's role as regulator, financer and provider of education," said Var. "Only then tangible results will be expected from ground."