The J&K government has taken a good step towards bringing uniformity in the curriculum of government and JK Board-affiliated private schools.
In a fresh circular issued by JK Board of School Education (BOSE), all the private educational institutions affiliated with the Board have been asked to adopt the text books published by the Board.
The move comes 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.
The circular instructions in this regard have been issued by the joint secretary publication and procurement of JK Board in wake of a meeting convened with the Private Schools Association J&K (PSAJK).
As per the circular instructions, the PSAJK has been impressed upon to ensure that the textbooks published by JKBOSE are adopted and prescribed by all the Private Schools of J&K especially for classes 6th to 8th in the first phase.
"The Private School's Association, while expressing compliance, raised certain issues, mainly the issue regarding availability of these textbooks in the market," the JK Board circular reads.
In wake of this, the JK Board has asked the joint general Jammu and Kashmir division besides the deputy secretaries of all the sub branch offices of J&K Board to collect class-wise enrollment of data of the students for class 6th to 8th from all private schools under their jurisdiction.
"The data should be submitted to the office of joint secretary publication by June 5 to proceed further in the matter," the circular reads. The JKBOSE has decided to ensure availability of the textbooks in the market on the basis of the enrollment in the private schools.
An official said the initiative has been taken to ensure a common curriculum is followed in both private and government educational institutions across J&K. "Once the initiative takes a practical shape for class 6th to 8th students of private schools in phase-I, the process will get replicated for other classes as well," the official said.
This newspaper has earlier reported about the government's failure to introduce common curriculum in government and private schools due to which the private schools continue to prescribe books of private publishers to the students.
Earlier, the decision to introduce common curriculum in government and private schools was taken by the government in December 2016 but the private schools refused to abide by the direction, forcing authorities to shelve the circular.
Over the years, concern has been raised by the parents and other stakeholders over prescribing additional textbooks to students saying that it adds weight to school bags carried by small school-going children on their shoulders.
After two years, the J&K government in 2018 decided to take a review of the syllabus and the text books prescribed by the JK Board of School Education (BOSE) for government schools across J&K.
The decision to review the syllabus and textbooks was taken in wake of the demand for introducing a common curriculum in government as well as private schools. However the process was shelved for unknown reasons, leaving parents and other stakeholders furious.
The government in 2020 decided to introduce a common curriculum in all government and private educational institutions and directions were issued to private schools in Jammu district as well.
The directions for introducing common curriculum in all government and private schools were issued when private schools in J&K were forcing parents to purchase text books of private publishers sold at exorbitant rates.
While the previous initiatives turned an eyewash, all eyes are on the government to implement the latest decision taken by the JK Board. Joint secretary publication in JKBOSE, Wahid Makhdoomi when contacted said the private schools are given JK Board affiliation on the condition that they will prescribe Books published by JK Board.
"They give an undertaking for it at the time of affiliation but later do not implement it. So this time we have decided to strictly follow it and asked all the schools to prescribe textbooks published by the JK Board," he said.
He said the private schools have already adopted JK Board text books from class 9th onwards and the Board will ensure that the same process is implemented for class 6th to 8th as well from the upcoming session. "Some schools have already adopted JKBOSE books from class 6th onwards but majority were prescribing text books of private publishers because they earn a good commission out of it," he told Greater Kashmir.
"But we will ensure that all private schools will adopt text books prescribed by JK Board for all classes in order to end the discrimination between the government and private school students," he said.
As already reported by this newspaper, every year, textbooks worth more than Rs 200 crore are sold in Kashmir and the J&K government has failed to regulate the price which has resulted in fleecing of the parents by the private schools.
A source said that the nexus between the private publishers and private school owners is deep rooted due to which the schools have started selling these text books either from their campuses or are kept available at specific shops instead of keeping the books available in the open market.
"It is a huge business in which the private schools earn a huge commission by a margin of 40-50 percent of the MRP. A deal is fixed between the book seller and schools to distribute the commission," a top official said.
Also, the private publishers and the book sellers last year landed in trouble after some objectionable content was published in several textbooks of private publishers. Following this, the J&K BOSE barred the private schools J&K and Ladakh UT from using the textbook of Urdu for class 5th and 3rd primary published by Oscar Publications Srinagar and Franklin International New Delhi.
Now that the JK Board has asked the private schools to adopt their textbooks from the next academic session, all eyes are on the government to get the instructions implemented on ground.
As compared to previous years, the JK Board has improved the paper quality and content of textbooks as well. If all the private schools adopt the BOSE prescribed text books it will be a good step towards ending the monopoly of private schools which fleece the parents by prescribing unnecessary textbooks to school children.
It is a step in the right direction to move towards uniformity in curriculum in government-run and private academic institutions. It will lead to providing a level-playing field for all students regardless of their place of study. However it remains to be seen how seriously the BOSE authorities will be able to implement their fresh directions on the ground. That only time will reveal.