Under a uniform academic calendar, March Session has been reintroduced in Kashmir. Concerned citizens believe it will deprive students of around 70-days of learning and teaching and eventually can reduce the impact and better outcomes of NEP-2020, according to a memorandum submitted to the Raj Bhawan says, days ahead of the policy shift
Every second day, interesting videos surface on social media showing the trainers teaching the educators how to teach the next generation. While for countless people these small training videos are bits for entrainment and humour, the larger reality remains that these capsules are indicative of the change that Jammu and Kashmir is currently going through. Jammu and Kashmir was perhaps one of the first territories in India that implemented the NEP-2020.
A copy of the Western system of basic education, the NEP-2020 aims at competing with the rest of the world by integrating the patshala with the Montessori system where English, the global language must be basic to a student the same way the mother tongue is. Though the private sector had made impressive strides in making it happen much earlier than the “academicians” in governance structure thought of, Jammu and Kashmir has remained on the wrong side of the robust and modern learning systems, at least to not less than half of the student population.
In Kashmir, it is a joke that the Valley had to wait for 23 long years to get Neutrons in its textbook atom. Even Plato survived in Kashmir textbook solar system till it faded away everywhere across the globe. The NCERT and JKBOSE textbooks printed and distributed are perhaps the vintage texts in vogue anywhere on earth. Designing apart, it still has to take a call whether it wants a British English or an American one.
The NEP-2020 is aimed at addressing all these things with emphasis on early English and established new systems of teaching. Though Jammu and Kashmir was amongst the first territories to adopt this, NEP-2020 still hangs in balance in many states across India, apparently not because of the policy shift but because it takes away most of the authority that states would enjoy in a federal India.
A pre-2019 Jammu and Kashmir might have taken more time in implementing the policy. However, in absence of local governance, it was simply implemented by executive order – so far, so good.
It is too early to predict how the implementation of the NEP-2020 will change the ground realities in learning processes in Jammu and Kashmir. How it will be followed up and if there are any more policy shifts in the offing is still not known. However, the new system is expected to improve the situation as NEP-2020 is advanced and global.
Right now, the training is taking place at district and block levels. The actual impact of the implementation will be visible after almost five years when the students in class-I will be ready to get into the Middles.
Baghwan Sahai Report
The emphasis, right now, must be on how to ensure the new generation picks up the new skills. For that, they need to have enough adequate time for learning. It is against this backdrop that the change in the academic calendar is being talked about, now loudly.
The government formally announced the Uniform Academic Calendar for the Schools in Kashmir and Jammu regions on basis of the recommendations made by a Committee that had been constituted on April 30. The committee, reports appearing in the media said, has recommended that the theory examination will be conducted from the first week of March except in difficult areas of the Jammu region and some areas of the Kashmir region, which will be examined in the second week of April.
“Even though if examination in these difficult areas shall be conducted separately, the result of these examinations can be declared simultaneously, as although the difficult areas constitute approx. 30-35% of the area of the UT, the total number of students from these areas is not more than approx. 10-12%, since the areas are sparsely populated and the evaluation of Answer Scripts shall take less time,” the order reads. “Students, who are declared unsuccessful in the results, shall be permitted to continue their studies in Class 11th and 12th till the result of the biannual /annual Private examination are declared. In respect of the candidates who fail to pass the Bi-annual examination, provisional admission shall be cancelled.” Now, BOSE will identify the hard zones.
Flagging the Issue
There is a flip side to the decision-making. In anticipation of the order, former Additional Chief Secretary, Mohammad Shafi Pandit, who now heads, a Group of Concerned Citizens submitted a detailed memorandum to Raj Bhawan suggesting the decision be revisited in the interest of the students. A detailed document annexed to the memorandum suggests the change in the academic calendar will reduce the number of teaching and learning days from the existing 200-213 days to 137-150 days if shifted to March thus impacting the education of the new generation.
The changing of the academic session to March is not the first such exercise that has been undertaken in recent history, a detailed note informs. Till 1974-75, the note suggests Jammu and Kashmir was following the March session only but it was shifted in 1975 itself.
“Before 1974 -75 schools in the Kashmir division including the winter zone areas of the Jammu division would begin their academic session around March, the schools would run till the third week of December close for about 75 days of winter vacation and then reopen in March. The full month of March and almost two-thirds of April were utilized in holding examinations and preparing results,” the note written by Bashir Ahmad Dar, former Secretary of the Jammu Kashmir Board of School Education reads. “The total number of teaching days in all cases ranged between 100 and 120 days.”
On April 1, 1972, the Jammu and Kashmir government appointed an 8-member committee led by Baghwan Sahai to examine the problem the education sector is facing and recommend suitable policies and programmes. It has veterans – G Parthasarathi (VC, JNU), Dr MS Swaminathan (Director Indian Council of Agricultural Research), JP Naik (Adviser, Ministry of Education), NK Mukarji (JK Chief Secretary), Mahmooda Ahmed Ali Shah (Principal Government College for Women, Srinagar), Professor Aga Ashraf Ali (University of Kashmir), and Professor Satya Bhushan (Jammu University) as members. Sahai was governor of Jammu and Kashmir between May 1967 and July 1973.
The Committee looked in different aspects of education in Jammu and Kashmir and submitted its 150-page game-changing report in January 1973. For all the subsequent years, this formed the bible of school education in Jammu and Kashmir. The school curriculum was drastically changed, the national curriculum was adopted and BOSE came into being.
One of the landmark recommendations made by the Committee was about changing the academic session for the Kashmir division and winter zone areas of the Jammu division. “The academic calendar in the State should be reorganized in such a manner that the number of institutional days in a year would not be less than 150,” the Committee recommended. “In view of a large variety of climatic conditions in the State, the schools may even adopt a different academic schedule for school classes keeping in view the local needs.”
The Commission found that the number of instructional days, on which actual teaching is done, was very low – about 100 to 120. “The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is perhaps even more unsatisfactory and it has been estimated that the number of instructional days in a year is often as low as 80 to 90,” the report said. “This is due to the long winter vacation necessitated by the climate, the excessive number of holidays provided and the undesirable practice of holding of annual examinations during term-time. We, therefore, recommend that the academic calendar in the State should be reorganized in such a manner that the number of instructional days in a year would be not less than 150. This can be achieved if the duration of vacations is slightly curtailed, a full six-day week is adopted, and the examination work is rescheduled to coincide with the vacations.”
Invoking the climatic conditions, the Committee suggested the academic year must begin on March 1, and conclude on December 15. “The examinations should begin on or after 15th November. All institutional examinations should be completed and the results declared by the end of November. The new classes should begin in the first week of December and the long winter vacation should begin only after the students have been introduced to the new class studies so that they can profitably use their vacation time for self-advancement,” the report recommended.
Gul Shah Intervention
In July 1984, then Chief Minister Ghulam Mohammad Shah ordered the shifting of the academic session back to March on the plea that this will allow rural students to help their parents during the October-November harvest season. So Jammu and Kashmir moved back to the March session. BOSE conducted examinations in March 1985 and declared results in July.
Jagmohan, who was Jammu and Kashmir governor between April 1984 and July 1989, knew the ground realities. In 1986, he ordered the discontinuation of the process and the education system went back to the October-November session. “Having already conducted the annual examination of classes X, XI and XII examinations in March the Board held one more annual examination in October-November,” Dar wrote in the note.
In 2004, according to Dar, the issue of the March session cropped up again and the education department convened a meeting of all stakeholders at Amar Singh College. The interaction led to the continuation of the status quo. It actually suggested a reduction in the number of working days for the education sector.
“The question of having a uniform academic session again came up for discussion in 2007,” Dar wrote. State Advisory Board was constituted under the leadership of Prof JR Rathore, former BOSE Chairman on August 3, 2007. “The Committee didn’t support the idea of having a uniform calendar and instead recommended retention of the October–November session for the Kashmir division including winter zone areas of the Jammu divisions,” Dar’s note reads. “It recommended two different academic sessions for the two divisions because of their difference in topography and climatic conditions.”
No Committees or Commission constituted after 1973 like the Round Table Conference of 1975, the Educational Conference of 1976 and the L K Jha Committee of 1978, Dar recorded “recommended shifting academic sessions in the case of the Kashmir division”.
In the March session, Dar calculated on basis of the earlier exercise, reduce the number of working days from 200-213 to 137-150 days. This will offer no time for students to travel, do social work, contribute to small projects of their choice or offer time for preparing for major national competitions.
It is against this backdrop that Pandit requested Lt Governor to give due consideration to the facts and put on hold the decision about implementing March Session – a request not acceded to. How it will eventually play on the ground needs to be seen.