Of Higher Education & Academic Gridlock

The recent incident at Baramulla Women’s College served as a blessing in disguise since it exposed the unflattering reality of the higher education system in Kashmir. Despite the fact that this problem had been existing for a while, the vast majority of people became aware of it as a result of this repulsive event.

There is no doubt that a number of higher educational institutions in Kashmir may have supported this archaic culture where, in the absence of the relevant faculty member(s), classes used to be taken by non-expert faculty members in order to keep the students ‘engaged’. However, the official directive from the college administration served as the cherry on the top while revealing the harsh reality and garbled functioning of colleges’ administration in Kashmir.

   

As I remember, there used to be a similar culture when I was in secondary school. Without the assigned teachers, we would have either remained idle in the schoolyard or occasionally been engaged in unrelated lectures by our non-relevant teachers. 

And during that entire duration, hardly anything about the subject matter was discussed; instead, other issues were brought up, such as how higher education hasn’t made any significant changes in the area of quality education or how the education system in Kashmir is woefully inadequate, etc.

But few days ago, when I came across the news story published by Greater Kashmir newspaper in which the head of the college administration defended the action, it sent shock-waves through the academic and non-academic sectors, and I was astounded beyond belief.

More unexpected  was the college administration’s justification for the self-styled circular. Interestingly, many took the college administration’s justification as absurd which stated that the non-subject expert teachers were merely keeping the students engaged during class and were not actually imparting knowledge on the subject matter? Bizarre          

For argument’s sake, consider how a teacher of mathematics might engage students in philosophy at a time when the two disciplines are diametrically opposed. Or even how an instructor of education could teach students in the study of political science without having a firm grasp of political theory, international relations, or political thought. The same is true for other social science courses that the college principal gave science teachers to teach. It appeared as though a woodworker had been given the duty of a cardiologist.     

Ironically, the justification and defense of the contentious order served to highlight the dysfunctional state of affairs in Kashmir colleges. In a culture that values civility, this will undoubtedly be seen as illogical. I want to briefly address two issues in this context.

The first is that I find it confusing how the college administration used the term “engage” in a brazen attempt to justify the unacceptable. The college administration in our part of the world may not be generally aware that a section of students take their studies more seriously than others, and that this subset of students will not be tricked into attending a sixty-minute class for just nothing.

This group of students feels more duped when their syllabus is not covered and only they are being ‘engaged’ and subjected to moral lectures instead of covering the pertinent subjects of the syllabus that could actually help them in the semester exams.

Second, if the colleges opened on February 15, 2023, and students have been flocking there ever since, why didn’t the college administration at least bring in guest faculty teachers for those subjects, at least where permanent staff was unavailable, even after a month had passed?

The college management ought to have felt guilty for wasting students’ time and deceiving them in an effort to keep them ‘engaged’, but instead, in their overconfidence, they defended their behaviour as being sacrosanct.

Another ugly incident at Sopore Women’s College, where a group of irate students shared their anguish over not having the contractual teaching staff since the college is reopening this year, serves as confirmation of the failed state of college affairs in Kashmir.

The administration of Sopore Women’s College did not involve them in the same way that Women’s College Baramulla did. However, they spent their entire college day on the college lawns instead of attending any classes. Pathetic!

Tailpiece: At the end of the day, a wise society should never consent to this bizarre educational tendency in colleges because it dilutes the true purpose of the higher education system.

Similar to this, our society has also demonstrated the greatest courage by refusing to accept this circular of having non-specialized teachers into engaging in activities in the name of the arrangement. It should come as no surprise that the West will also view this system through the lens of Asiatic Academic Despotism.

The author has done her master’s in Sociology from Aligarh Muslim University

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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