COVID-19 has been a back breaker for every sector – health, education, economy etc. In the post COVID world, a new world order has to take shape and new models of governance have to be evolved. And this job will never be an easy one. No doubt health has become top most priority, but other sectors cannot be ignore. The most important sector among them is education and as it is visible the Government of the day has already started to accommodate post-COVID concerns, but there are some policy suggestions that need to be inculcated.
Although there have been challenges to education in the past, the most recent calls made by the HRD Ministry for reform may provoke a fundamental change in the educational scenario. These calls for change may result in greater transparency and accountability and may reflect on the purpose of better education in schools, colleges and universities in the present scenario.
Now the time has come to create a second wave of institution building and of excellence in the fields of education, research and capability building. We need highly educated people who are skilled and who can steer our economy forward. When we can provide skilled people to the outside world then we can transfer our position from a developing to a developed one very easily and quickly.
This would apply not only to the country but also to Jammu and Kashmir. At present, the 1st-class institutions in J and K are in a limited number. Most of the schools, colleges and universities lack in high-end research facilities. Less-investment in libraries, information technology, laboratories and classrooms make it very difficult to provide top quality training or engagement in cutting-edge research. This gap has to be bridged if we want to speed up on our path to development. We have to be responsible for coordinating, determining and maintaining the standards in the institutions of education. The surfacing up of a worldwide economic order has immense consequences for education more so under the changes that have taken place in the recent past with regard to globalization, industrialization, information technology advancement and its impact on education. The policy changes have also taken place at the level of UGC, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and such other regulatory bodies from time to time to accommodate developments and maintain quality in education. In J&K also, it is time for all those who are concerned with policymaking, planning, administration and implementation of Education to revitalize the very thinking on the subject, and put it on right track.
Since we are facing challenges to establish a strong education system, we have to work very reasonably, and relentlessly. Various governments came and went. Off course they tried to establish new education policies in the system but the present dispensation seems to be more serious in making educational sector vibrant. The new global scenario poses unprecedented challenges for the education system. The University Grants Commission has appropriately stated that a whole range of skills will be demanded from the graduates of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and commerce, as well as from various professional disciplines such as agriculture, law, management, medicine or engineering. The system can no longer continue the model of general education as it has been persisting with for the large bulk of the student population. Rather, it requires a major investment to make human resource productive by coupling the older general disciplines of humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and commerce to their applications in the new economy and having adequate field based experience to enhance knowledge with skills and develop appropriate attitudes. The establishing of Cluster Universities in the J&K is a right decision by the Government due to the emerging needs. Responding to these emerging needs, the UGC has also stated: “The University has a crucial role to play in promoting social change. It must make an impact on the community if it is to retain its legitimacy and gain public support”. It seeks to do so by a new emphasis on community based programmes and work on social issues. Concepts of access, equity, relevance and quality can be manoeuvred only if the system is both effective and efficient. There are many basic problems facing education today. These include inadequate infrastructure and facilities, gap of large vacancies in schools and faculty positions, outmoded teaching methods, declining research standards, unmotivated students, overcrowded classrooms and widespread geographic, income, gender, and ethnic imbalances. Ensuring equitable access to excellence for students coming from poor families is a major challenge. The students from poor background are put to further disadvantage since they are not academically prepared to crack highly competitive entrance examinations while as urban elite and rich students have access to private tuitions and coaching.
It’s time now to modernize our education system. Today’s youth always try to go outside for education to utilize their talent as they feel there are better facilities outside. Can’t we improve it here? Can’t we retain our students here?