The Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir has drafted a new education policy called Education Investment Policy-2020 (EIP) with an intent to develop a knowledge-based accomplished society. For quality education, it aims to establish state-of-the-art institutions of international standards and aspires to develop knowledgeable, skilled, contemplative human resource and to augment employment, productivity, return prospects and attain financially viable expansion at global level. The policy document has confessed that the existing Govt. and Private Institutions of Union Territory (UT) are unable to produce well developed and refined human resource and added that these institutions are unattractive to cater the needs of native students because of which almost 25% students are seeking admissions in different institutions outside the UT every year.
To restore the stability in education system, institutions at different levels are being established with modern infrastructure which facilitates better learning. The EIP envisions to set-up an Education City with the services of Smart Schools; Business Schools; College of Agriculture, Horticulture & Herbal Sciences; Engineering Colleges; Law School; Multi-Disciplinary Colleges; Multi-Disciplinary University; Nursing, Para-Medical & Pharmacy Institutions; Technical Education Institutions; and University of Design, Town Planning & Architecture.
In addition to this, the focus areas of EIP is to establish World Class Residential Schools, State of Art Colleges, Universities and Student Scientific Activity Centres. To promote Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana, Skill Development is also being thought-out by investing in setting-up of new Training Institutions. These institutions shall aim to develop linkages with industry for provisioning the innovative services. For this purpose, some policy interventions have been streamlined like, Digitalizing Administrative Processes, Regular Trainings of Faculty, and establishing Specific College Clusters which shall be managed by Mentor Institution at the district level. For diverse skill development programmes, a Skill University and Vocational Colleges are also planned to be established in UT. The industrial estates will also be approached for the adoption of technical institutions by which "Centres of Excellence" are established which shall offer Industry Specific Courses and Internships. To increase employability, these institutions will also offer the "Hands-on Skilling Programme" through identified Spokes. Moreover, EIP advocates to establish Innovation and Entrepreneurship Cells in various Degree Colleges to develop research, incubation & innovation culture in these institutions.
To implement the theoretical knowledge into practical experience, digital kits will be distributed among students and to encourage virtual education, institutions shall be asked to support students to go for MOOC courses so that they earn credits online also.
The draft policy document is also interested to initiate exchange programmes of faculty and students of those institutions coming-up through EIP at the international level and for this, MOUs with partner institutions are worked out.
The EIP also focuses on sports activities and to take sports as a profession, it is planned that a Sports University with the best possible infrastructure shall be established along with 06 Physical Education Institutions in 06 different regions of UT.
To facilitate establishing these institutions, an effective single window system has been created by appointing 'Single Window Clearance Body' with the provisions of operationalising applications, assigning of nodal officers, and creating an escalation matrix.
All this is done under the aegis of the Department of Higher Education, J&K which serves as the Nodal Department for implementing EIP.
The policy invites National and International Private Players for establishing these educational institutions so that standard of education in the region is improved across disciplines, thus, pays a way to privatize education in Jammu & Kashmir.
Although, it is a matter of fact that privatization has brought about swift transformations in the system of education. EIP will encourage private players to establish institutions of learning at different levels to meet the growing demands for education. As a result, new educational institutions may help not only to increase the number of institutions but also the number of seats for highly demanding courses including engineering, mathematics, and medicine. Besides, it will also decrease the distance between educational institutions. However, it will definitely create the gap between the demand and supply in education and will not only increase the cost but also decreases the excellence and quality of education.
Privatizing education may negatively affect its fundamentals both as a right and as an empowerment. It will breed exclusion, segregation, and marginalization with crippling effects on the basic rule of equality of chance in education. Through this policy, if education is commercialized, the players will exploit the resources as per their wish and it will become an entity of commerce which will have grave and harmful consequences on the society. It will make education costlier. Keeping in view the socio-economic conditions of Jammu & Kashmir, it is very difficult for students with humble background to afford admission in costly institutions which may come-up through EIP as these will demand lofty donations in the form of capitation fee in different courses at different levels and any competent deserving poor candidate desiring to pursue any course may be deprived.
If the policy sees the light of the day, students with low grades and aptitude will be getting admission in private institutions as long as they spend money. Thus, the private institutions may make the process to compromise on the quality of education that will further lead to manufacture unqualified/unskilled graduates who may not have a noteworthy impact on society.
In Jammu & Kashmir, since there is no recruitment policy for teachers in the private sector, institutions at all levels exploit them because these teachers are unable to knock any door for registering their grievances. Thus, privatizing education will daunt the financial interests of teachers where they are loaded with stress cause by extra workload & job insecurity and through EIP, their conditions may worsen.
Privatizing education through EIP may not help the society because there will be a capital drain as most of the players will be from outside, teachers may be appointed from other regions, existing institutions may lose their relevance, and students who are desirous to go outside will not stop here and keeping in view the prevailing conflict situation in the region, it may be a failed attempt as is the case with good number of existing private colleges of UT.
There is a powerful demand to modify the fundamentals of the EIP to revitalize aphorism of education. It is suggested that instead of looking for private players, Govt. should increase expenditure on education and focus on existing institutions (including newly established ones) by developing world-class infrastructure & human resource, culture of innovation & research, impartiality in recruitment, and no compromise in quality. Moreover, the new subject areas, disciplines & streams need to be introduced in these institutions. For expanding educational opportunities, intake capacity should also be increased as per the demand. The Govt. should be very serious about the stringent and well-organized supervision of these institutions so that entire clientele are attracted. Govt. must also frame new guidelines, regulations, and monitoring which are essential to stop biased practices and ensures observance. Vigilant monitoring system for existing private institutions should also focus on structures that support in making them commercially practicable.
Thus, privatizing education has become 'Edu-Business Though Public Good' which may be the violation of basic human rights. EIP has given an impression that Govt. wants to shun the responsibilities of providing education to its people. When Govt. is admitting that institutions in place are failing to give desired results why are these not put into the task?
Dr. Mohammad Sayid Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor in Department of Education at Central University of Kashmir.