NEP 2020 and J&K: Humble interventions needed

In place of Primary school stage National Education Policy (NEP 2020) recommends (A) foundational stage by clubbing Anganwadi/preschools (three years) with two years of schooling (1st and 2nd class) and (B) preparatory stage (class 3rd to 5th). Therefore, one more school structure is to be created on war footing level to achieve this objective. It needs additional infrastructural development to be created mainly in terms of school building, teachers and other minimum facilities.

Anganwadi workers/ preschool teachers with 10+2 qualification and above may be provided in service six months certificate program in Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) and those with lower educational qualification may be provided one year diploma program in literacy, numeracy and other relevant aspects of ECCE.

Appointment of counselors as recommended by NEP (2020), one for each cluster of schools be extended to each school so that educational, vocational and personnel problems of students can be addressed at an appropriate time. It will help in proper course and job selection by students with the help of counselors by taking into account the assets and liabilities of students. Counselors may also help students to deal with other personnel problems at home – related to siblings, parents and other family members; school – related to teachers, peers, playmates, library, laboratory and administrative staff; neighbourhood and society. The counselor can also act as a go between parents and teachers. In the long run the problems of drug abuse, delinquency, dropout, parental rejection, anti-social behavior will get a better redressal. The qualification of the counselor should be bachelors/ masters with diploma in guidance and counseling/Masters in psychology. If there is paucity of human capital with required qualification then M.A social work, M.A Education/M.Ed will also work. However, the students with M.A education/M.Ed must have opted for educational guidance and couselling as one of the subjects at master’s level.

For appointment of teachers at foundational, preparatory, middle and secondary school level, teacher eligibility test (TET) is to be introduced at divisional level (JAMMU/KASHMIR). TET is must for recruitment of teachers in govt and private schools.

In school complexes, rationalization of school is to be done without reducing accessibility for effective school governance, accessibility for students, resource sharing and community building. The creation of school complexes would go a long way towards building vibrant teacher communities.

Efforts are to be made to recruit more highly qualified and competent teachers and administrators from socially and educationally disadvantaged groups in order to bring in excellent role models for the students of such disadvantaged class.

Every year the recruitment for vacant position of teachers should be effected from schools to university level so that institutions do not suffer because of paucity of qualified teachers. The faculty is the heart of effective teaching-learning process.

Professional development of teachers should become a regular process through SCERTs, DIETs and human resource development centres. There should not be any financial crunch for such activities so that teachers remain updated to manage the knowledge explosion and teachers do not become irrelevant for students.

A subject like moral/value education be introduced at school level in which empathy, respect for others, cleanliness, courtesy, democratic spirit, social service spirit, respect for public property, liberty, responsibility, pluralism, equality and justice are promoted. Equality among castes, classes, religions, regions, weaker sections will get promoted through this subject.

Respect for diversity and respect for local content in framing curriculum, pedagogy is must so that teaching-learning process can become easier to understand for students and transmission and enrichment of culture will not take a back seat.

Focus on regular formative assessment for learning than summative assessment is the need of the hour. It will discourage coaching culture and non attendance on the part of students at college level. However it needs comfortable teacher pupil ratio.

For gifted and talented students at the level of school complexes, colleges and universities science circles, math circles, music and art circles, poetry circles, drama circles, debate clubs, sports circles, health and well being clubs are to be established to deal with their diverse needs and talents.

Efforts are to be made to involve community alumni, healthy senior citizens, retired scientists/educated govt and semi-govt employees especially teachers from all levels in voluntary spirit for mentoring the students at each level with special focus no disadvantaged class.

Skill development centres with proper qualified and skilled man power be created in each college of J&K where knowledge and skill about processing of horticulture and agriculture products may be given to the students. It will on the one hand generate interest in parents to send their students to colleges and increase Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) and on the other hand unemployment problem may also get addressed.

Subjects related to agriculture, horticulture, tourism should be introduced in the curriculum at secondary and college level so that knowledge and skill obtained by students may reach to their families and direct transfer of knowledge will help our society to empower the masses for economic upliftment. As the economy of J&K is rooted in agriculture, horticulture and tourism, it will be a milestone for the economic progress of the society.

Teachers doing outstanding work must be recognized and promoted and given salary hike to incentivize all teachers to do best work. For assessment of career progression, peer reviews, commitment and performance appraisals by students should be taken into consideration.

Continuous and comprehensive evaluation and choice based credit systems are to be revised to instill innovation and flexibility.

Student exchange and teacher exchange programs are to be encouraged at national and international level among better quality institutions (teaching/ research) at university level with appropriate funding.

At least one university in each division of J&K needs to be given a residential character to get best flavor of higher education and research. It will decidedly help in creation of knowledge and the fourth pillar of education “learning to live together” as recommended by Delor’s report (world commission on education) may also get a real boost.

Although agricultural universities comprise approx 9% of all the universities in the country, yet enrollment in agricultural and allied sciences is less than 1% of enrollment in higher educational institutions. Therefore, there is a need to create more infrastructures in these institutions so that more students are admitted in this sector, which is the need of the hour.

In order to achieve 100% literacy, strong and innovative govt initiative is needed for adult education also, to facilitate community involvement and the smooth and beneficial integration of technology. For adult and lifelong education, schools/school complexes after school hours and on weekends and ICT equipped public library spaces can be used. It will also help in community engagement.

6% of GDP needs to be earmarked for education in order to improve the educational sector multi-dimensionally.

Giving autonomy to some best colleges with better infrastructure is the need of the hour, in order to build commitment and lessen the burden for affiliating universities. These autonomous colleges can have some hand-holding for some period of time from earlier affiliating universities.

The off-campuses of the universities need to be strengthened from the point of view of teaching and non-teaching faculty and other infrastructure. New programmes that the universities want to start afresh should be started in these off-campuses than to repeat already existing courses in the main campus with due consideration to man power requirements, social demands and rate of return approach of educational planning.

Establishment of demand driven quality private educational institutions should be encouraged in private sector like courses related to health sector, agriculture, horticulture, tourism and engineering.

Prof Mahmood Ahmad Khan, Department of Education, University of Kashmir