The annual examination result of 10th class students, declared on Saturday, has once again shown that the poor state of government-run schools in Kashmir. While the pass percentage of the students in non-government schools is around 85%, government-run schools lag largely behind. The overall pass percentage of students in government-run schools is around 63 percent. Thirty seven percent, who failed to qualify, is by no means a less figure. It is rather a disturbing gap. The performance of private schools, where around 90% have been declared successful, is though encouraging but there is need to lessen the gap further. Private schools are definitely capable enough for it. But the indifference and apathy one witnesses in government-controlled education sector is and should be a matter of concern for all.
That the learning in government schools in Jammu and Kashmir is abysmal is a widely recognized truth. Despite big claims by the government in recent time, it still remains the trickiest proposition. Take the case of much-hyped rationalization of government-run schools. It is going on a sluggish pace. The so-called project has been undertaken almost three years back but the government is yet to streamline the pupil-teacher ratio in the school. Latest figures show that over 1000 schools at primary level are still run by single teacher whereas there are many schools were number of teachers is more than the students. The rationalization was started, last year, after 124 government schools were found with no students on the rolls. However, these schools were functioning for years in one- or two-room accommodation. It needs well-designed planning in tune with the needs and requirements to change the system. The people responsible for correcting the system would take refuge in the turbulence that has swept the valley over years. But the pass percentage in the most turbulent zones like Pulwama is the highest followed by equally turbulent zones of Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag. That speaks that the malaise in government schools is from the within. And the worst part of it is that the concerned authorities do not even use common sense to identify and fix the problems.
They rather add to the problems by their ‘intellect’ and ‘authority’. When Kashmir erupted in revulsion in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing, voices were raised that the education of children has become the casualty. They have now maintained criminal silence when the government itself shuts down schools more-often-than-not. At the slightest provocation schools, colleges and even universities are shut in the name of maintaining peace. The practice of closing down the educational institutions has become a weekly affair. Every other day educational institutions in one or the other district—on occasions all over the valley—are shut for one or the other reason. Internet service is the only other sector that shuts and runs like our educational institutions in the valley. Add it to the condition of schools we have. The average (government) primary school is a dingy, dilapidated spaces (in many cases rented place) without electricity.
A recent study has shown that 80% schools in Kashmir are without electricity. Imagine a scenario where students would be made to sit and taught in a building without windows, electricity and proper infrastructure in a shivering or humid temperature. What could be the concentration level of the students and teachers? Few would dispute with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has a legacy of weak schooling for its young because education has never been on the political agenda in the state. Reckless teachers, is another issue that is taking toll of quality education in government schools. No doubt, Government schools in Jammu and Kashmir have the highest qualified teachers who, as against private teachers, get handsome salaries. But most of them are suffering from the chronic disease of not-working. Many of them have teaching (in schools) a side job. They are doing other businesses. In rural areas majority of fruit dealers come from teachers’ community. In cities and towns, they have set up shops and business centres of their choice. They ‘buy’ postings of their choice (where they have no work or accountability) from concerned offices and officers and rarely perform the duties they are paid for by the government. The rot is from top to down. Removing it needs overhaul of the entire system with a sense of honesty and sincerity.