The J&K government, earlier this month, convened a meeting, to review the Education Invest Policy (EIP), with the government officers, academicians, Vice Chancellor of the Universities and other stakeholders in the education sector. The meeting was convened to review the present education scenario, also look into the future plans of the J&K government to broaden the horizon of educational institutions, and improve standards in Jammu and Kashmir with respect to the implementation of EIP.
While taking a review of the existing education scenario, the J&K government itself admitted that the colleges and the universities in J&K were lagging behind in providing all-round development and exposure to the students. As per the policy document, the government stated that the youth in J&K were looking at colleges and universities outside because the higher education institutes in other states and UTs have better quality of education as compared to the institutes here.
The confession came at a time when the present regime has established 50 new government degree colleges despite the existing 96 degree colleges in J&K facing a downward trend in enrolment.
The overview of the policy claims to make J&K a new axis for knowledge, by developing its human resource, institutional capacity and creating a favorable eco-system for the establishment of state-of-the-art knowledge institutes of national and global repute.
Such tall claims are made at a time when the government has failed to upgrade the existing State Institute of Education (SIE) to SCERT, and make it functional in order to bring reforms in the academic standards.
The process for establishment of SCERT started some three to four years ago. Despite its failure to make SCERT functional, the government is day dreaming about inaugurating big projects here and naming them as centres of excellence.
As per the new policy, the government endeavors to make J&K a quality education hub and is poised to invite private players, of national and international repute, for setting up centres of excellence and educational institutes in various academic and professional streams.
But the decision seems to be illogical, as inviting outside investors, national or international, will be again a step towards draining the economy as the employer and the employees will be most probably outsiders.
Instead of providing land and other facilities to outsiders, government should encourage local investors to put money in education sector. This by making registration process easy, but monitoring from the competent authorities strict .
The local investors have already applied to the government for establishment of colleges or universities in J&K, but there has never been a worthwhile response.
Under the policy, the government claims to restore the educational ecosystem in the UT and to enhance educational infrastructure so that the students do not move outside for studies.
It seems that the government has forgotten, how miserably it has failed to fix the infrastructural gaps in existing schools and colleges, despite availability of funds. At present we have dozens of degree colleges which don’t have laboratories, but offer admission in science subjects at undergraduate level. We have schools without proper classrooms for students. Even the new degree colleges which were announced with much fanfare were started in the buildings of primary and middle schools.
Under the new policy, the government claims to do handholding throughout the process, including smart schools and campuses, residential schools and colleges, technical education institutes, private colleges and universities in J&K.
Given our experiences, such claims were also made by the previous regimes but there was no change on ground. Government announced smart schools which remained confined to papers only.
If we talk about residential schools, implementation of the KGBV scheme is a glaring example to judge the government performances. Majority of female KGBV residential schools are without permanent campuses.
The situation in ITIs and polytechnic institutes is no different because over the years the government failed to bring any reforms in the sector due to which more than 50 percent of the seats in these technical institutes remain vacant.
Under the policy, the government claims to give due preference to reputed players in the field of education willing to set up universities in Jammu and Kashmir. They will be facilitated in allotment of land in J&K from the specified available land bank.
While the government intends to set up new universities and colleges in J&K, the government figures reveal that very few colleges, out of 208 private un-aided colleges, including professional colleges in Jammu and Kashmir, are functional.
Some colleges still don’t have the required infrastructure in place. The government has also admitted that the regional colleges and universities lag behind in providing all-round development and much-needed exposure to the students in the UT.
So, instead of expansion, the government should focus on strengthening the existing institutions. Let the government fix the infrastructural gaps and make existing colleges more vibrant, introducing new courses at undergraduate level. Expansion can wait but the need of the hour is to strengthen the existing education sector – from school to university level.