A call for reform

Equality is a term largely thrown around in political discourse. However, it is an ideal that is largely out of reach, particularly within the Kashmir’s education system. The prevailing school system has categorically failed our students. In Kashmir, more than 80% education is lecture – based, only 5% – 7% is project based and 10 % – 13% is case study based. The greatest drawback in this scenario is that our curriculum doesn’t include skills that stand in need of current job market. Here “skill” is an abstract term which cannot be evaluated on the bits of paper. It is not the degree but the “skill” that determines success. These skills include complex problem-solving and analysis, and social skills such as teamwork and relationship management. Reasoning and self-efficacy are also increasingly important, particularly as they improve adaptability. In a survey of employers of engineers in United States, socio-behavioural skills were ranked at or above technical qualifications and credentials in terms of their significance for the employability of recent graduates. Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations — and building these foundations is especially important in early childhood development. According to an official survey, 1500 people at Google have no academic degree. Thus, endorsing the fact that degrees and grades play no major role in determining the career of an individual, but talent and skill inevitably do.

Revolution in education is a particular crucial issue in the context of the current economic climate. The current outdated education system is not making the best use of the most precious natural resource this country possesses – its next generation. Our education system is inclined towards the selective progress of the students. In the long run, it shrinks time for recreational activities and socialization, which is an essential part of the development of an individual. It has reached the point of diminishing returns where we have tried most mechanisms; from more money, to targets with related incentives and public shame, to new types of qualification, and a thousand and one new ‘initiatives’. It is hard to imagine that we are suddenly going to transform education unless we go back to the basic principle, to savvy its relevance. First, it requires more flexibility between the general and technical tracks. Second, more focus on building the skills and inter human relationships. And third, ensuring that specific educational institutions become effective innovation clusters.

The world has progressed drastically. The present realm has underwent a critical breakthrough. In this advance epoch, we need a creative, innovative, incentive, ingenious and unorthodox faction of mind-sets with a new approach and an unconventional paradigm. We need to get out of this era of competition and contention and rather concentrate on collaboration and coopetition. This becomes very apparent when we compare ourselves with other countries. Nations like Finland, Singapore, Russia, France, Japan, Chile and Costa Rica have already modernised the education system by reducing the number of school hours and thereby minimised the home work as well. UK too has some great strengths, particularly in terms of top-end, high quality non – curriculum learning. In this third millennium, it’s necessary to give all the talents, abilities, ideas, abstractions and explorations a fair- minded chance. The present era requires people with passion, know how, initiative, creativity, resilience and self knowledge; people who can get on with others and who know when to listen and when to lead. These skills and abilities cannot be gained in the classroom alone; they come from ‘practical learning’ – learning by doing things for real, working with experts, and integrating theory with practice.

When we think about the future of work— and all the jobs that will have to be created for our expanding youth population — we should hold one thought above all in mind: most children who are currently in primary school will be earning their living in employment that don’t yet exist. Through investments in the developmental area—what is called foundational human capital— we can prepare our children for the coming shifts in jobs, skills and market structures. Lack of investments, instead, will leave future generations—especially the poorest—at a severe disadvantage, amplifying inequalities that already exist. In the worst-case scenario, this might create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of opportunity. Thereby, our education system needs to be transformed comprehensively. Our contribution to the world of innovation is close to none. Kashmir needs an education system that excites and stimulates children, providing them with the learning they need – and deserve – to fulfil their potential. This symbolizes – providing a curriculum of practical and vocational learning alongside theoretical study. Our education system should  focus on churning out not just engineers and doctors, but also entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and writers, all of whom are influential in the development of the economy of the state.

(Mir Seeneen is a blogger from Srinagar)