For a long time, education in Kashmir remained the exclusive domain of a section of the people. This helped them to become the tools of governance for successive regimes for many centuries.
While they became a ‘class apart’, their position in the decision-making helped them to deny many things to the commoners that included education.
Thanks to the Christian missionaries, for the last many centuries they have been visiting Kashmir and trying to do their bit, be it in the healthcare or the education. They set up their first school in Kashmir 130 years back in 1880. Now there are five reputed schools across Kashmir run by Catholics and Protestants.
Post partition, the government made education free and accessible by opening a network of schools. Right now, education is one of the top priority sectors but the quality of education is still an issue. This has made these missionary schools be at the apex of the education pyramid in Kashmir.
Though the better economic profile of the people will enable them to invest in the education of their children the ‘reputed’ schools do not have enough space.
Turmoil contributed its own bit to the mess. While part of the workforce migrated, the situation disturbed routine and shifted priorities. It had an impact, that was initially adverse.
All these conditions, however, were adequate for any private sector intervention. And it did take place. There were hundreds of ‘budget’ schools operating across Kashmir already and during the last two decades, hundreds of young men and women joined them, both as teachers as well as entrepreneurs. And the experiment succeeded. These schools invested many hundred crores in new infrastructure and now results are showing the progress they are making. There would hardly be any school in the private sector that has under-performed. This has proved wrong all the nay-sayers that say Kashmir lacks the capacity of delivering.
Little known schools challenging the mighty names in the market is a watershed development in the history of Kashmir. But problems remain. Kashmir does not figure anywhere if compared to places like Jammu or outside. The private sector in education has enormously grown from pre-school area to the university level. But this much of growth in an era of the overwhelming situation is by no means negligible.
The growth is at a stage where the policy interventions are required. The government, at least in the urban part of J&K, should stop adding to the numbers as far as setting up of new state-run schools goes. Instead, they should encourage private investment and strengthen the mechanism of monitoring. The well-established schools have a right to emerge as brands and must be encouraged to expand in the periphery, compelled to set aside berths for students from the underprivileged class and improve the wages of the staff. They should have the right to utilize part of the public kitty as far as upgrading the infrastructure goes and there is no time to delay.