The beauty of social life lies in the fact that one can romance with life. If the societal existence happens to be one where there is very little, if any, scope for this, there certainly is an issue. For every society, the crux of social transformation and the continual challenge for sustenance of the civilizational dynamics lies in ensuring a smooth and coherent social context for the youths to function; the youths should have adequate scope for nurturing their varied talents. It is in this context that I have recently raised the issues of intergenerational mobility in the Kashmir region which amounts to utilizing the talent of each new generation for social advancement. I concluded my last piece in this column thus: “the Kashmir Region now stands at a historical juncture to catch a moment for transition to long term transformation and cope the unfolding complexities. But transition is not something funny and which would fall from the sky. What is needed is a shared commitment between the civil society and the common man of Kashmir valley for a bright future. For the government, the recent steps speak volumes of the movement towards convergence with the needs of the general public for reclaiming the Paradise on Earth. What remains is the reorientation of the few splinter groups in their behaviour and engagement for their own good and for the common good. If this happens, sky is the limit for the land and people of the region.”
The historically critical juncture in the Kashmir region demands a kind of commitment every great thinker, statesman, philosopher or cultural scriptures have underlined for a meaningful quality of social life and to be adopted by every member of the society as the behavioural principle. Let us recall here what Ludwig von Mises commented in a critical phase of world history: “Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. No one can stand aside with unconcern: the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us.”
What we need now is every one of us putting the best foot forward for a bright future, and retain the committed togetherness.
Now where should we start while endeavouring to get engaged. Given the social challenges we have faced during the last seven decades and the imperatives for enabling the youths to join in the global race for competitiveness in an increasingly complex world, we must assert that we have to start from the case of children, the very foundation to becoming youth. The Convention on the Rights of the Child mentions in clear terms the responsibilities of both parents and the state in connection with the right of the children to know and be cared for. While the Convention itself is not mandatory, almost all the countries of the world do endeavour to care for the needs of the children. In recent years, there have emerged healthy research at the global level on the needs of appropriate intervention to ensure children welfare. Under the influence of psychology, children were earlier considered as empty vessels with only the context of filling and the identity of agents filling them as important variables. This has now been changed towards a perspective wherein they are considered as “being” and “becoming”: human beings now, and the adults of tomorrow. This adoption of “being” and “becoming” perspective has brought to the fore so many important areas for research as well as relevant policy orientation. While perspectives of the adult only were taken as the bases for decision making and policy evolution earlier, listening to the children themselves has now emerged as an important field of research. In fact, the present concern is to evolve appropriate methods and methodology for listening to the perspectives of children. We may recall here an incident a few years back in South Africa where the school children of South Africa came out to the streets demanding library and librarians. This has made the government of the country rethink the efficiency and effectiveness of the educational policies. The South African example apart, the policies for children have a lot to do with development and social equity issues. One primary objective of catering to the right to know of children is reduction in the gap between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged in so far as the opportunities for learning are concerned. This bridging of the gap irrespective of the familial background has implications for psychobiological development of the children, and the future tranquillity of society.
Further education is considered as the best panacea for poverty. While the most disadvantaged children today would naturally come from poor (in one way or another), education would enable them to escape from those constraints when they become adults. This benefit at the individual level has positive implications for the social quality of life as well.
Still further, in the global race for competitive supremacy, there is only one way to run ahead or at least maintain the competitiveness. This is to ensure quality in the present “being” of children so that they are fully equipped to shoulder the socio-economic responsibilities when they “become” adults.
This immediately takes to the imperative urgency to seriously look at the school education scenario in the Kashmir region. Here there is a fundamental need to reassess the roles, dynamics and delivery of the different stages of education in the Kashmir region. We can visualise three core objectives of school education (upto the twelfth standard). First, education till the end of secondary level should prepare the youths for appropriate orientation and background knowledge for modernisation. It is the stage during which a scientific outlook would be instilled among the future generations. Second, education during this period should prepare the youths for entry into higher education. The manner of education provision during this period should enable the youths to reorient themselves as to their preparation for the next stage of their life. Third, education by the end of the secondary stage should prepare the youths for entry into the employment market for those who do not have the orientation and also those whose families cannot afford; the role of the state is altogether a different issue here. From these objectives of school education, it is easily evident that completion of the twelfth standard is a very significant transition period. In any society, the degree of smoothness or turbulence of the transition would differ from one youth to the other. Nevertheless, it remains the mandatory responsibility of any society and state that the transition should be made as smooth as possible. This is particularly because we are dealing with a very impressionable phase in the life of individuals.
Now the issue before us is: Have we been able to make this transition from childhood to youthful days a smooth one in the Kashmir region? I am afraid, the answer is in the negative. I shall be continuing on these issues in this column.