The recent decision of the J&K Board of School Education (BOSE) to ensure a common curriculum in government and private schools is a welcome step towards bringing uniformity in the curriculum of government and the private educational institutions affiliated with the JK Board.
The JK Board recently issued a notification to all its affiliated private schools with the directions to prescribe textbooks published by the Board, for classes 6th to 8th from the upcoming academic session (2023).
The Board has also warned the private schools of action if the directions will not be implemented on ground.
The instructions have come at a time when the private schools are accused of fleecing parents by prescribing text books of private publishers to students in different classes which are sold at exorbitant rates in the market.
Few days ago a viral video on social media highlighted how the management of a school was fleecing parents by selling textbooks at exorbitant rates. The textbooks were being sold within the premises of the schools in complete violation of the government orders issued from time to time.
The school was selling one set of textbooks for a 3rd primary student at Rs 5300. The parents made hue and cry over the price forcing the school management to stop the distribution of textbooks.
It was surprising to see the school selling the textbooks for the next session when the kids are yet to appear in their Term II examination of the current session.
Such incidents expose the intention of the management of such schools who under the guise of imparting education are actually running a business out of it and fleece the parents.
This was not the only incident wherein the schools were seen resorting to illegal profiteering but over the years it has become a routine here in Kashmir. Ironically, the government action in this regard has always remained confined to papers and nothing was done beyond this to stop this business.
The fact is that every year, text books worth Rs 300 to Rs 400 crore are sold in Kashmir and the J&K government has failed to regulate the price control which has resulted in fleecing of the parents by the top notch private schools.
The nexus between the private publishers and private school owners is deep rooted due to which the top notch private schools have started selling these text books in their school campuses in gross violation of rules.
A set of text books for a 1st primary student costs Rs 4000 or more, which otherwise would cost around Rs 1500 to Rs 1800 if kept in the open market.
The textbooks are sold at exorbitant rates because the concerned schools and publishers take a huge commission out of it as the prices are fixed by the publishers and school owners as per their own wish.
The nexus is deep rooted to the extent that a text book is sold at Rs 200 which, if kept available in open market, will not cost more than Rs 80.
Both publisher and school management share the undue profits while the parents are left at the receiving end.
The publishers with support from school management enjoy full freedom to fix the prices as there is no government agency to check the price.
Over the years, there has been a massive outrage against the top notch private schools for fleecing parents for compelling them to purchase textbooks from school premises or at a specific book shop or within the premises.
Besides fixing price as per their sweet will, the private publishers publish the blasphemous content without following any checks and balances.
Last year, text books of a few private publishers were banned for publishing blasphemous content in books. There were back to back three incidents wherein it was found that some private publishers had published blasphemous content in textbooks evoking massive criticism from stakeholders.
In such a situation, having a common curriculum in both government and private schools is the only solution to stop illegal profiteering by these private schools.
So the initiative taken by the JK Board should be supported keeping in view all the aspects. No doubt, after taking this decision, the JK Board has to come up to the expectation in terms of maintaining quality of paper as well as the content published in the text books prescribed for the schools.
To begin with, the private schools have been asked to adopt and prescribe the text books from class 6th to 8th from the upcoming session. With this the students from class 6th to class 10th in all government and JKBOSE affiliated private schools will have a common curriculum from class 6th to 10th as the JKBOSE published textbooks are already prescribed for students from class 9th to 10th in private schools.
The government is also planning to introduce a common curriculum in primary classes for which the process will be started in the next academic session (2024).
So it is also expected that the Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK) will also cooperate with the government and ensure that the business of selling textbooks by schools is stopped once for all.
The private schools have a right to put forth their opinion keeping in view the larger interest of the students.
Notably, the decision to have a common curriculum in schools comes months after the J&K government implemented National Education Policy (NEP)-2020 and shifted the session to March in sync with the national academic calendar.
While the government has taken the initiative, the parents, being one of the main stakeholders of the system, have to play their part and ensure that the initiative of having a common curriculum in schools gets implemented in letter and spirit.
In case any school forces the parents to purchase books other than those published by JKBOSE they should contact JK Board and the other competent authorities and discourage any such practice which is against the interest of the students.
In 2016 the then government had taken a decision to introduce a common curriculum in government and private schools which however died a silent death with no compliance on ground.
So the fresh decision should not meet the same fate as was witnessed in the past. It obviously will discourage the parents and give a free hand to private schools to run their business prior to the commencement of the new academic session.
It is a fact that the JK Board has improved the paper quality and content of textbooks as compared to the previous years.
The introduction of a common curriculum in all schools will be a good step towards ending the monopoly of private schools which fleece the parents by prescribing unnecessary textbooks to school children.
The move will lead to providing a level-playing field for all students regardless of their place of study.
Now that the decision has been taken, all eyes are on the government to get the instructions implemented on ground. It will be seen seriously that the BOSE authorities will be able to implement the decision on ground.
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.