Debating the session

Embedding advanced technology in the process of learning will hold the key in the success of proposed change
The exact cause of reversing the decision was not given, but the harsh weather conditions in winter was assumed as a major impediment to carry on with the March session. [Representational Image]
The exact cause of reversing the decision was not given, but the harsh weather conditions in winter was assumed as a major impediment to carry on with the March session. [Representational Image] File: Mubashir Khan/ GK

Some two weeks back, the Jammu and Kashmir administration made its intentions public to shift academic session from November to March for primary to higher secondary level from this year.

At the moment the proposal is in active consideration of the government and can see the light of the day any time. It is just a matter of final announcement as the government has indicated that the proposal is almost through and needs a formal order only.

The government has a ‘valid’ reason to shift from the traditional exam session of November to March. The government said: “Despite taking their Class 10th or Class 12th exams in November, students who want to enroll in professional courses out of J&K have to wait until the new academic term, as those universities start their session in July. Due to the November session, the precious time of students gets wasted.”

As far as the official logic behind the intention of shifting the session to March is concerned, it holds ground today. Over a period of the last one decade, we have witnessed an enhanced appetite of parents to send their children outside J&K to other states of the country for higher studies. Currently, the shift to other regions, of course, wastes the time of local students as there is a clash of academic sessions in the rest of India.

But, the move in the offing has ignited a debate where stakeholders, especially the local experts in the education system, dub the shift in academic session to March as a harsh step.

Some point out that the shift will prolong the stay time of students in the existing class by six months. Others pick harsh winter months in Kashmir to impact the students’ study time.

We have already witnessed this kind of shift in the academic session in the early eighties when the October-November session was shifted to March-April. But it was revoked within a year or so and dubbed as a failure.

The exact cause of reversing the decision was not given, but the harsh weather conditions in winter was assumed as a major impediment to carry on with the March session.

What were the factors that forced the government to shift academic session from November to March session in the early eighties, and then reversing the same just after one year? I think shifting back to the November session just after experimenting it in one academic session failed to hold on.

Maybe, it was a bad decision to shift the academic session for the lack of proper infrastructure to withstand such radical change. However, the immediate revocation of the decision after implementing it made it the worst.

Now coming to the present situation. The stage has been declared set for another move to shift the academic session from October-November to March-April. Surprisingly, the move is equated with an eighties episode. But, times have changed since the eighties.

During this period we have observed radical changes in systems and policies of the government at regular intervals. Most of these changes have been progressive in nature and enabled us to board the platform loaded with modern era where advanced technology rules the roost.

Over a period of time many traditional systems became redundant and were replaced by state-of-the-art technology driven systems. All these changes have summed up in our convenience.

When it comes to the education sector, we find delightful platforms with a host of opportunities for students to shape up their careers in the fast changing environment. The technology has made the students to get networked in real time to any place of the world – a global village. However, the advantage goes to those students who belong to a system which has already aligned itself to the system prevalent in other geographies. Precisely, the academic session in the given situation matters. If it matches with rest of the geographies across the country or beyond, then the wastage of time is not a concern.

It’s surprising to project harsh winter as a pretext to oppose a shift in academic session to March. Harsh winter is not something which has emerged in recent times. It’s the most important ingredient of our geography. It may be harsh for an outsider, at least not for us, because we are well equipped in our own way to negotiate the severity of the weather, especially in winter.

Let me take your attention towards the devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us know the pandemic is a never-seen-before catastrophe in human history as it consumed millions of lives and brought the engine of the economic wheel to a grinding halt.

However, despite all the adversities, it threw open opportunities to the governments across the globe to innovate for betterment and plug loopholes in their systems of governance which had remained unattended intentionally or unintentionally in pre-pandemic time. In a way, the virus provided an opportunity to convert the losses into gain in the long run for the benefit of human existence.

The point to discuss the impact of the pandemic is just to understand that even this kind of high magnitude human crisis didn’t make the world remain stagnant and stuck to the traditional systems which succumbed to the power of virus. While fighting the virus and halting its invasion on human habitations, we saw innovations taking place in every sector where ‘change for better’ became the global slogan.

As far as the education sector is concerned, the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic created the largest disruption of education systems in the history. However, we simultaneously witnessed radical changes in the education system during the pandemic years. A United Nations document - Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond – merits a mention. The document reveals that the pandemic affected nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94 per cent of the world’s student population, up to 99 per cent in low and lower-middle income countries.

Despite all the adverse impact on the education sector, the crisis has stimulated innovation within the sector. “We have seen innovative approaches in support of education and training continuity: from radio and television to take-home packages. Distance learning solutions were developed thanks to quick responses by governments and partners all over the world supporting education continuity,” reads a part of the UN document.

Meanwhile, the growing use of innovative technology is transforming the education system very fast. It will not be out of place to mention that the embedding of the technology in the learning process is reshaping the entire education system.

Now the digitally empowered classrooms over the internet are acting as key drivers of the change. The advanced technology such as mobile applications, audio and video platforms like YouTube, Podcasts, E-books, Movies, etc. has made it possible to deliver lessons to students anytime and anywhere.

This technology intervention has made the learning process more engaging and interesting for students as well as teachers.

This advanced technology is all weather proof and can be used to continue the learning process amid any weather disruptions.

So, in this environment where change is the key, pitching harsh weather conditions as a roadblock to change in the academic session seems vague and doesn’t hold ground. In fact, we should pick opportunities in a crisis.

Of course, the shift of academic session from November to March would result in a loss of a few months to the students. But over a period of time, this loss will translate into gain.

It will simply network them in alignment with academic sessions prevailing in the rest of the country. Let any change happen in the interest for the bright future of our students.

Last but not the least. The government needs to strengthen the infrastructure in schools at large scale.

Embedding advanced technology in the process of learning will hold key in the success of proposed change in academic session for schools from November to March.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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