Jammu & Kashmir: Irrationality Is Rationality In This Corner Of The World
By Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat
26 May, 2015
After assuming the charge of his Office the Honorable Minister of Education, Naeem Akhtar, is working tirelessly to reform the education system in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. After Late Dr. Ghulam Nabi, looking Naeem Akhtar, seems the only Education Minister that Jammu and Kashmir ever had. He looks serious and having a will to reform the education system in the state. However, there is still a lot to be done and undone in the sector. Many steps already taken are unscientific and dangerous not only for the education system but for the society at large. This write up aims a sociological apprehension of government policies besides making sense of some actions, albeit in lighter vein.
One of the toughest undertaking before the newly formed coalition government in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is, reformation and rescue of the education system. Everything in the sector is in the mess and disorder. The present education Minister, Naeem Akhter Sahab,seems very worried and concerned of the sector ,simultaneously appears confused. He promised to reform and rescue school education system and talked about improvement of “quality” in education; promote creativity, inquisitiveness, rationalization of teacher pupil ratio and so on. However, it appears that he has been confused by diverse and different theories put forth by educationist, sociologists and psychologists with regard to education. The different ways and approaches identified by scholars for reformation of education placed him between devil and the deep blue sea.
It was only possible after many deliberations, discussions and debates that government has found a solution, a remedy and a way to reform the education system in the state. The solution is nothing but rationalization through irrationality.
The solution has not been borrowed from the philosophy and ideas of Plato, Rousseau, Ibni Khaldun, Nayer, Gandhi, Illich,Paul Ferrari, John Dewy, but found in the ideas of American Poet Robert Frost. His poem “The Road Not Taken” appears very influential in influencing the policy of Ministry of education. The circular (No.DDc/Bpr/2015/P5/21-78) circulated (29/04/2015) by District Development Commissioner Bandipora speaks loads about it and gives backdrop and rational of activities and actions carried out so for by the government including education Minister himself. The circular reads “all students should be helped to memorize the following last stanza from Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” to introduce them to the world of English literature
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I..
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference”
The above lines are taken from the order circulated by DC Bandipora with mistake committed in the circular. The same officer on his “inspection” to a School at Hajin Sonawari, “caught” a teacher with wrong spellings “Fingure” for “finger”, not only the concerned teacher was embraced infront of staff and students but another teacher was called and asked, whether the spellings written are correct or not? On his (other teacher’s) inability to figure the spelling error both the teachers not only embraced and suspended but the whole teaching community was embraced and disgraced by calling the press. Let me try to make a sense out of it albeit in a lighter vein without intending to embrace any one.
On the mastery, capability, hold and competence of DC Bandipora over education, Naeem Akhter Sahab, Education Minister of Jammu and Kashmir assigned a special assignment of teaching to DC Bandipora. After working hard throughout day and night to do justice with the task he (DC Bandipora) has been assigned. He dictated the poem “The Road Not Taken” to students and wrote it on the blackboard, asked students to copy. All the students copied as it was written on the blackboard. Next day teacher (DC) checked the notebooks of students. He recommitted the mistake by giving his signature to notebooks without identifying his mistakes, feeling jubilant over the performance of students, their ability of copy paste; he called the media to highlight his competence and the performance of students. The news became headline in electronic media and got front line in print media. Everyone started to praise the new teacher (DC) and discuss incompetence of teacher community in the state forgot the role of socio, economic and political factors on teaching - learning process. A poor man from a remote village while flipping news papers found a mistake committed in the poem. Not believing himself his eyes the poor man called the experts and accessed the original script of the poem, still he was not ready to accept a mistake has been committed in the script of the poem as the poem was transcribed by one of the most competent authority. After a deep thought over the issue, the poor man mustered the courage to share his thought with the teacher and visited him to his office but faced lot of odds and resistance in meeting him. Finally, an idea stuck his mind he ringed local Member of Legislative Assembly and on his intervention the poor man was allowed to meet the Officer (teacher). In a beefed voice and broken tone again he mustered courage to say, “ Maehaz Bassaan Poem manz che dash na ke dot, dot” ( I think it is dash rather dot in the original script of the poem). The Officer (teacher) glared him from nail of the foot to head, smiled and in a very confident and elitist tone and asked, did you ever read the poem? Looking the confidence of the Officer poor man started sweating, hardly able to breathe, with his dry mouth he replied, I have called many experts of the subject and accessed original text also. The officer now asked poor man to have a seat. He rang the bell and asked peon get a copy of the book from the market. After discovering the mistake, the officer like Americans who are habitual of killing innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan called it an “error”. He thanked the poor man and said “you have proved your intellect and understanding of the education system by not going public and press in highlighting the error. The pressed would have made it a big issue and given it frontline and shook the confidence and moral of all officers besides disgraced them in public”.
After having a humor, said to be good for health let us revert to the order circulated by DC Bandipora. It is worth to mention that the order directs teachers to memorize children the part of poem even at primary level. And according to Annual Education Status Report, 2015, more than Eighty Percent pupils enrolled in government schools are unable to identify alphabet A to Z.
If we have a close examination on the activities and actions of the education department including the Minister it becomes clear crystal that education ministry is following the road which has never been taken before. The road educationists, sociologists and psychologist not denounced but threatened of dire consequences. Take the example of rote memorization; it is widely discouraged by educationists, sociologists and psychologists. Ivan Illich, Paul Fierrire, Gandhi and many others termed rote memorization a method of killing and curbing a talent and a tool to monish critical thinking. In United States of America (USA), National Science Education Standards,(set of guidelines for science education in USA) focus on critical learning.
While having a glance at the activities of the government it is being affirmed that government had adopted a policy, never followed before. It is travelling a road that has been less traveled. The road risky, full of dangerous and threats, take the example of education minister visiting schools and occupying the chair of a teacher and forcing him (teacher) to stand infront of children. It may look a normal action to lot of people but sociologically speaking there is a lot seemingly unseen which is neither good for education nor for society at large. Another and the worst example is, disgracing a teacher in front of students by asking him questions, exposing his/her errors and making media the witness. This is the worst damage one can do to education and society at large. Self is not personal but social, said Mead. Whatever we are we are by means of interactions by interpreting the actions and symbols of others. The collateral and lineal damage has been caused to teacher and student relationship. After returning a week from my duties I was checking the English notebook of my nephew studying in “prestigious” private school of the District Barahmulla even of India, I found some mistakes and asked for the explanation from him,(nephew) without wasting his time he said “ Madam chee likhnawaan galat” ( it is the wrong committed by teacher). In past I had been checked his notebooks and figured mistakes and asked for reasons and explanation but silence was the only response I always got. What did happen that not only silence has been broken but replaced by blame? It may sounds fictions but believe me it is reality that I was coming out from Masjid after evening prayers one of my friends came across and a walk and talk begin. In the chit chat he said that he checked the Mathematics notebook of his son and found that all the questions he had done were wrong. Next day he visited the school and asked for the explanation from the teacher, sorry was the only response which he got, he said. Teachers are not teachers they can’t write the cow they can’t answer a simple question, he added. I have never heard him saying that he checked notebook of his son or daughter and visited school. What made him check the notebook and visit the school? Although checking notebook and visiting school apparently seems a positive outcome but to know the intentions and context are very important. Moreover, more than ninety percent students enrolled in government schools are first generation learners. What about them? Who will check their notebooks and visit their school?
If I am not wrong just a few days before Naeem Akhter, Education Minister said that he would initiate the process of rationalization of teacher-pupil ratio in schools. He also denounced and criticized the policy of compartmentalization of education system and said “compartments cannot be afforded in this crucial sector”. However, the developments in the system are really confusing me and making me unable to understand his policy of “rationalization of pupil –teacher ratio”. Following the policy of “rationalization of teacher- student ratio” in government schools many “transfers” has been brought into place in the department and district Bandipora has been no exceptional. The Chief Education Officer Bandipora in his order dated, 15/05/2015 to “rationalize” the pupil- teacher ratio ordered “transfers” of many teachers in the district.
I have been working on the theme since last 7 years including for my academic degrees M.Phil and PhD degree in district Bandipora. Through my interactions and observations it was found that on average two teachers are appointed at a primary schools and four at upper primary level. The observations also reveal that on average there are 28 classes to be managed/given/hold at primary level by only two teachers and 46 classes at upper primary are to be handled by four teachers. That means each teacher has to give 14 classes every day at primary level and this ratio is 11.50 at upper primary level while as the fact is that one teacher can only give only 8 class a day by working without a break from10 AM to 4PM (opening to closing).
The close examinations of the order and data (of schools) reveal that “rationalization” of pupil-student ratio is carried out through the process of irrationality. Take the example of a middle (upper primary) school where about 102 students are enrolled with total strength of Five teachers, (before the transfer orders) on average each teacher had to give nine classes and with the transfer of one teacher the figure has jumped over eleven (the reliability of the above provided data could not be verified but agrees with the data collected by the author during his field visits in 2013). Take another example of Primary School Yarbalpora Hakbara, where total enrollment of students is 40 with only one teacher, through the policy of “rationalization” he has been transferred to another school leaving the school with 40 students without a teacher (the data of presented above has been verified by visiting the area) . This is perhaps the best example of the policy of “rationalization”.
This is the road which has never been taken before. The road denounced by educationists, sociologists and psychologists.
The Minister of Education just a few days back said that “education system has been compartmentalized and one of the major initiatives of the present dispensation has been to put these in one basket, as compartments cannot be afforded in this crucial sector”. However, after getting the copy of the order (circulated by CEO Bandipora) I was unable to grasp term like “RRT” and asked a teacher, what is the full form of “RRT”? With a smile he replied, “Maen caste, (My caste) it is our caste”. Even after five years of suffering, hardships and regularization, stratification is created among teachers they are divided in water tight compartments. I have read and heard caste as a form of social stratification and some scholars calling it is the worst form of stratification. After looking the division and differentiation among so called literate and educated people I have to update my information and believe that stratification among teachers in the state is the worst form of inequality. It is here where a caste (group) of teachers is attending court for treating all teachers equally when it is of promotions and incentives. It is only here where despite spending most of the time together under one roof (in school from 10-4) people are separated in some cases even not talking to each other. A think these thing do not happen in caste system, I have never heard or read that a Brahmin is not talking to Shudar!!!.
Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, is a student of Sociology, social activist and currently teaching Sociology at Government Degree College, Banihal, Jammu and Kashmir, India. He is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
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