Why Is Higher Education In Jammu and Kashmir Gradually Landing Into A Serious Crisis?

by Dr Rafi Ramzan Dar

The need of the hour is to set aside all these personal interests, take the matter seriously, and develop a decent mechanism as per standard norms of UGC so that the careers of thousands of students and teachers would not suffer anymore.

Contractual teachers protest for regularization in Srinagar

Gone are the days of our educated youth being viewed as a potential human resource waiting to be tapped. Nowadays, educational administrators at the helm of affairs produce students who lack efficiency, skill and the ability to cope with the ever-increasing societal demands. Never before has higher education in Jammu and Kashmir been treated with as much negligence as it has in recent years.

Students in government-run degree colleges across Jammu and Kashmir pay hefty fees every year but their academic competency is greatly compromised. The teacher-student ratio in government degree colleges is tragically high. Giving individual attention to students in general, and addressing the needs of disabled students, is next to impossible when teachers are already overburdened – attending to core subjects, skill-based courses and generic electives apart from their administrative over-occupations.

This neglects the core activity, the education – the syllabus hardly gets completed, except in the reports of college principals – and students get a substandard degree of graduation. Our colleges are acutely short of faculty, with more than a thousand teaching vacancies according to the UGC norms.

Exploitation

Despite the depressing financial situation of most of these families and lack of offline classes and examinations, colleges and Kashmir University authorities continue to fleece the full admission and examination fee, which is hardly fair. Since colleges officially opened for classwork on February 15, 2021, when will authorities hire teachers for them? Employing only one-fifth of the required faculty isn’t an example of great governance and concern for students.

Art Work by Malik Yasir

Instead of sorting out the situation and acting as navigators for students sailing in an already sinking ship, authorities are unwilling to understand the gravity of the situation. Permanent teachers are making excuses of extra workload due to lacking faculty and contractual teachers find their reasons for irregular engagement. In all this, students, who are at the receiving end, suffer.

The situation has been rendered more vulnerable by the bureaucracy involved in the education department from college principals to the Secretary of Higher Education. All the people in charge have developed a complex amalgam of self-centred motives and egos that are impacting the outcome of the key social sector.

Who is Responsible?

Assistant Professors have not been regularly recruited by the J&K Public Service Commission, creating voids in the system. These were supposed to be filled by the contractual faculty but meagre wages, as well as the irregular nature of the contract, has rendered the services of these teachers ineffective and generated disinterest amongst underemployed youth.

In order to overcome the menace of the temporary nature of their jobs and assure support for their families, these teachers pleaded before the court to ensure the continuation of their services, despite the fact that they produce an affidavit every year not to claim any regularization. The court gave them some respite in the form of maintaining a status quo, which added to the chaos.

It emboldened less meritorious candidates to explore the backdoor window of litigations, while greatly disincentivizing the need for higher qualification. Many teachers spent precious years doing research in reputed institutes while others joined the department with mediocre capabilities and later hijacked the system.

Had this problem been approached honestly and dealt with efficiently by the authorities at a proper time, fruitful results would have been witnessed and examples set. Unfortunately enough, it wasn’t taken seriously until it landed our whole system in a crisis. As a result of the inability of higher authorities, the careers of thousands of highly qualified and meritorious candidates are at stake. This has led to a lot of frustration and suffering for them and their families.

Dr Rafi Ramzan Dar

The day when the higher education system collapses is not far, and soon the worthless degrees so distributed would not be enough to fulfil the students’ requirements in the rapidly changing technological world.

The need of the hour is to set aside all these personal interests, take the matter seriously, and develop a decent mechanism as per standard norms of UGC so that the careers of thousands of students and teachers would not suffer anymore. Let us hope that better sense prevails for the sake of raising the standards of our higher educational system.

(Author teaches Geography at Government Degree College, Kulgam. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)

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