Death to Education!

Basharat Ali

Last year I met a Kashmir University Professor in New Delhi who advised me to study “…this book by some Fukou (no he did not mean Foucault at all) in which he says history has ended…” Initially, I was confused as to what he was referring to, but as soon as he uttered ‘history’ and ‘end’ed, I understood he was talking about Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the Last Man (1992). As he proceeded with his understanding of Fukuyama’s arguments, I realised that he had not read the text. I heard him with patience and nodded in affirmative to everything he said. I assumed he has heard of the book somewhere and may soon read it. (I hope he read that)

A few months later at a conference at Jamia Millia Islamia a professor from Kashmir University was to deliver a lecture. Just one day before the conference this Professor called up a Kashmiri research scholar from the host university and asked him if he could write the paper.

Such is the state of higher education in Kashmir (this is not a generalisation) that I often tell myself“it so easy to draw a four or five figure salary.” But then there are people who make me realise that it is never going to be so easy.

That’s higher education. The primary education has a malaise of its own.

The recruitment policies are generally faulty and procedures mainly corrupt. Therefore, the standard of education has gone down. The state has brought death to education as easily and as willingly as it has brought it to people.

The recent debate over the proficiency test for close to 65000 ReTs has put a question mark on the entire education system in Jammu and Kashmir. The policy of appointing ReTs for five years at a salary of Rs 1500 (which was later increased to Rs3000) was bound to fail from the start.

This policy reduced the competition to Mohalla level. Schools were opened after every second street. In one way this helped the cause of spreading education by taking it to places far and wide. But at the same time it allowed mediocrity a place.

Now the proficiency test for these teachers is a kind of self-goal by the establishment, a question mark on its own abilities. Had the policy been well thought through and critically examined and evaluated a decade back, the state would not be face to face with such an astronomical problem. But the all policies are devised to score a political goal, to appease people and to create a façade that this government is better than the last in at least creating the jobs.

The idea of a proficiency test was first proposed by the Srinagar High Court after a teacher failed to solve a 4th standard mathematics problem and write an essay on The Cow. In Kashmir the decision taken by judiciary cannot be seen separately from the interests of the political class. Over the years the nexus between the two has grown in size and depth, with the closest of kins of many judges finding easy way into politics.

Proposing a proficiency test for ReTs after more than a decade seems to be the most unintelligent of ideas. Besides, it is a mockery and insult to those people who have served the government for years on pittance.

The only viable and respectable way out at this juncture is to impose a blanket ban on such recruitments. Secondly, the undereducated people recruited earlier should be provided with avenues and opportunities to study further.

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