2022: Year of academic transformation

The year saw many new initiatives by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir to create a conducive academic atmosphere across the UT
"Besides taking up various reformative decisions, the J&K government took a lead in implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 from school to University level."
"Besides taking up various reformative decisions, the J&K government took a lead in implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 from school to University level." Mubashir Khan/GK File

Year 2022 has been truly described as the year of academic transformation in Jammu and Kashmir. Right from school education to higher education, the academic institutions not only witnessed a fruitful academic session in terms of number of working days but also a significant season for extracurricular activities and policy-making.

In 2022, the Kashmir University (KU) saw first the woman academician becoming its Vice-Chancellor for a period of three years. Prof. Neelofer Khan took charge of the University on May 20.

She has previously served as Dean Students Welfare and Dean College Development Council of the KU, apart from Director, Institute of Home Science and Founder Director, Centre for Women’s Studies and Research of the University. The VC held several meetings with students to listen to their grievances.

The KU in 2022 also implemented the National Education Policy-2020 in its Affiliated Colleges, thus becoming the first University in the country to do so. Former Principal Secretary, Higher Education Department JK Govt, Rohit Kansal said at a function that J&K UT has become first place in the country to implement the NEP-2020 and the curriculum for the UG programme has been prepared by Kashmir University (KU).

The University of Kashmir successfully restored the academic calendar which was dysfunctional over the last few years. The University issued all UG date-sheets at the start of the semester which prepared all stakeholders like students, faculty as well as parents for the coming semester.

The examinations were held as per fixed timelines and all UG exams were concluded in the month of December. It is the first time that all UG exams were finished well in time, thus sparing students from appearing in the exams during winter vacations.

The UT government issued a uniform academic calendar according to which admission for UG first semester was to start in July, classes from August and examination in December. Kashmir University is the only University in UT to have followed a uniform academic calendar and conducted the exams of UG NEP in December.

Till May 2022 University of Kashmir was the only institution in UT to be completely absent from the National Academic Depository, however within no time KU has successfully uploaded more than 6 lakh records on the  NAD and is successfully marching ahead. Students had to wait for years to receive degree certificates.

However, in a commendable move Kashmir University dispatched degree certificates to all passout students to their respective degree college within one month of declaration of results thus ensuring students do not have to travel down to KU.  The results of professional courses like LLB, B.E were declared within days of conducting examinations to ensure degrees are completed on time.

During the inaugural session of the Sonzal-2022, the J&K LG, Manoj Sinha, praised the Kashmir University for positioning itself as a centre of excellence in the country. He said the KU, because of its academic excellence and high rankings, is today being talked about across the country and not only in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Controller of Examinations KU, Dr Majid Zaman, told Greater Kashmir that on directions of the Vice-Chancellor, the Examination wing will soon establish a state-of-the-art Student Facilitation Centre to register any grievances of students and redress them in a time-bound manner.

“The work on this facility has already started,” Dr Majid said, assuring more examination reforms in coming days. He said the billing system for payments related to examination paper setting, conduct, evaluation and other logistics has now been made online for greater transparency and efficiency.

Besides taking up various reformative decisions, the J&K government took a lead in implementation of the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 from school to University level.

J&K Higher Education Department (HED) implemented NEP-2020 from the academic session 2021 after threadbare deliberations among stakeholders. Given the challenge to implement the new policy, the successful transition to NEP-2020 can surely be considered as a major breakthrough or achievement for HED.

Following the implementation of the NEP-2020, the HED also implemented a uniform academic calendar, HED was prompt to prepare ground for the smooth transition across J&K.

Not only this, the HED witnessed a major achievement in 2022 in getting NAAC/PAC accreditation of the majority of the degree colleges, securing impressive grades including A, B+ and B.

The department also introduced a three-step feedback process at Student, Faculty Level and College Level and the process starts with student feedback which is processed through a structured questionnaire.

During the year 2022, the HED successfully integrated its database of employees with the Employee Performance Monitoring (EPM) portal, designed to capture the monthly work performance and the appraisal thereof by their respective Reporting / Controlling Officers.

As the J&K Government had already declared 2022 an year of academic transformation, the government took various decisions to realise all the initiatives.

During the year 2022, HED successfully integrated the Samarth project, implemented by University of Delhi (DU), which aims at creating an open source, open standard enabled robust, secure, scalable and evolutionary process automation engine for higher education institutions.

Also, the government launched the Learning Management System (LMS) in March 2022 as a pilot basis in 11 colleges of J&K.  The system involves on boarding of teaching, learning, evaluation, inspection and administration among a host of other activities of education institutes on an online platform.

One of the priority areas of HED-J&K in the recent past has been the creation of a research and skill development ecosystem. In this respect, hub-and-spoke model was used wherein some colleges serve as hubs with several spoke colleges under them to inculcate research and innovation acumen among students.

The HED also took a much needed initiative of rationalisation of staff to ensure proper usage of available human resources, rationalization of staff is underway.

The colleges are encouraged to conduct faculty development programmes on a regular basis.

The HED also started various skill and vocational programs at the college level to enhance the employability of students besides giving efforts to inculcate the spirit of creativity and innovation among the students. In this regard HED is lending full support to the colleges to establish or maintain Incubation and Innovation centres where students and faculty alike can put their skill set to practice.

Following the successful implementation of NEP-2020, HED emphasised on the role of career counselling and placement cells in the colleges to lend early guidance to students, depending on their aptitude, as they embark on a new journey of discovery.

Besides witnessing various reformative decisions at higher education level, the School Education Department also witnessed a fruitful academic session in 2022.

From the highest number of working days to mainstreaming of Out of School Children (OoSC), the year-2022 started with fresh hope among the students post pandemic situation.

The year was cherished as a year of “Academic Excellence” in a real sense.

During the year 2022, the schools witnessed a session of over 220 working days as per the requirement under RTE-2009. Also, the department implemented NEP-2020 to infuse a new lease of life in the education of children.

The class work and syllabus pursuit went uninterrupted in the schools while the schools witnessed increase in the enrollment of students as well. There was an increase in enrollment by 14 percent in J&K UT and 19 percent in schools across Kashmir division. For this, the department launched an initiative called “Aao School Chalien” by which was backed up with digital technology to bring back the OoSC children to the schools. The government started a programme called Talaash to identify OoSC and around 93,000 children were identified and almost 40 percent of them were enrolled back to schools.

The pre-primary schooling witnessed a fillip during 2022 and almost 2000 Kindergartens and Balvatikas were being established while the department took various interventions in Foundational Literacy & Numeracy (FLN).

The schools also cherished the curtailment in the dropout rates to a larger extent.

The schools witnessed a fillip in terms of digital and online education during 2022 as schools were equipped with ICT facilities.

More than three lakh students were reached under the initiative of Mental Health Wellbeing of students taken by the department in collaboration with IMHANS and UNICEF along with the school teacher counsellors.

The year 20222 witnessed a transformation in Assessment following the introduction of a new scheme of School based Assessment called Student Assessment and Evaluation Scheme (SAES) up to class 8th students in government and private recognised schools across J&K.

As per the scheme notified by the J&K SCERT, the result of classes 5th and 8th will be prepared mainly on the basis of academic performance of the student throughout the year. Uniform question papers will be prescribed by SCERT for Year End Assessment for students of classes 5th and 8th. The potential learners will be identified on the basis of performance and competency in assessment.

Under the scheme, potential learners will be promoted to next class on a provisional basis with arrangement for special teaching of two to three months during vacations or beginning of next session followed by re-assessment for grade appropriate competencies.

Taking a cue from the 50-year-old Kothari Commission Report to boost school governance, the school education department has formulated School Complexes across J&K UT for "efficient resourcing."

The Complex School system has been formulated in terms of Part-I, Chapter 7 of National Education Policy (NEP)- 2020 which mentions "Efficient resourcing and Effective Governance through School Complexes/Clusters" for effective sharing of resources.

The government schools were also equipped with Atal Tinkering Laboratories in 2022 while under the Atal Innovation Mission Background NITI Aayog’s flagship program, Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) including Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) is Government of India’s endeavor to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The department established Eco Clubs in Schools to encourage students for sustainable development and environmental preservation. Under this initiative 11618 Eco clubs were established in the schools across Kashmir. This year, the School safety program and Peace Education programme was launched with Save the Children.

Challenges Ahead

No doubt lots of reforms have been initiated in 2022. However most of these initiatives are still in their infancy or on papers and thus need to be translated into action on ground.

There are infrastructural deficiencies in peripheral schools which need to be plugged in 2023. Otherwise it will be very difficult to reap the benefits of new initiatives and policies. Recently the JK Public Universities Bill 2022 met with a lot of criticism in Jammu's academic circles.

The bill was supposed to be tabled in the recently held Parliament session, but it is believed that the same was not tabled after LG assured that concerns expressed by stakeholders related to it will be addressed and accommodated.

Such matters should be left for discussion in the public domain before being implemented so that all relevant stakeholders are able to give their feedback beforehand.

Further, 2023 should continue to be another year of academic transformation with clear focus on infrastructure development in rural areas so that the real objectives of National Education Policy are achieved.

Lots of efforts are required by all stakeholders to make the education system in Jammu and Kashmir  truly benefiting students who have immensely suffered in the recent years due to the pandemic.

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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