Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Educating one and all

How far are we still from realizing this dream?

Syed Maajid Rashid Andrabi :
Education, a future shaping tool, holds immense importance in the lives of people for that it moulds their behaviour to good.  It is also considered to be the storehouse of luck for those countries which value its contribution in their development and always work towards the path of educating one and all for their effective growth and sustenance. Nations which aspire to become prosperous and wish to stand upfront among others, are the first to recognise the significance and value of education in addition to exploiting the opportunities where they could get the most out of it. Education makes nations technologically developed and intellectually blessed. It is through education that humans realize their dream to flourish themselves with time and play their part in the betterment and progress of their countries. Without education one cannot become conscious of his abilities and would always encounter problems in accomplishing his goals and objectives. Education not only serves as a pathway that facilitates the overall development of individuals but also plays a pivotal role in the advancement of countries. Without education no nation can move forward and achieve excellence. Education imparting mediums are the heart and soul of any nation as they are responsible for inculcating the true spirit of education among the people and support them so far their aspirations are concerned. Any nation can improve and step forward to attain brilliance by virtue of educating all its citizens. Considering the importance of education and glancing at the present scenario in our own state, one gets upset to see an unpleasant scenario where the dream of educating all, still seems to be a distant one.
Census 2011 reveals that the state of Jammu and Kashmir holds 30th rank among other states so far the literacy rate is concerned but keeping in view the efforts that the state govt has put in this cause it doesn’t  seem to delight one, as the outcome is not worth the pains taken. It is not only astonishing but an indication of improper implementation of policies and lack of efficiency that still prevails in the system. It simply means that the dream of educating all is yet to be realized effectively. Continuing with the statistics of census 2011, the population of Jammu and Kashmir stands to be 12,548,926. Out of which the percentage of male population is 53.11% whereas for females the percentage is 46.89%. The male literacy rate stands at 78.26% and the female literacy rate stands to be 58.01%. However it is pertinent to mention that the overall literacy rate of Jammu and Kashmir is 68.74%. The Urban Literacy Rate stands at 68.75% as compared to the rural literacy rate that stands at 53.61 %. Looking at the figures it becomes clear that the literacy rate among the males is more than that of females whereas the population residing in urban areas is more educated than the ones residing in rural areas. May be it is because of the relatively larger number of schools that are situated there or the access that the students are able to get, that facilitates their path of seeking knowledge. As per the policy of the state govt to make education accessible to all, it is mandatory that every primary school should be situated at a distance of 1 Km whereas the upper primary schools should be located no far than 3Km apart. Similarly for high schools and higher secondary schools, the distance has been fixed as 5 Km and 7 Km respectively. If the same criteria holds good for both urban as well as rural areas then why this distinction between the literacy rates of both the areas. It is quite worrying and alarming which needs to be checked timely to remove this difference. It is a word of caution for our state govt.  Discussing about the literacy rate, from the statistics of the department of education, Jammu and Kashmir, it is highest for Jammu (83.98%) followed by Samba (82.48%) and then by Leh (80.48%). Kargil occupies the fourth spot with a literacy rate of (74.49%). Likewise Srinagar also appears in the list with the literacy rate of 71.21% and Anantnag and Pulwama share the literacy rates of 64.32% and 65% respectively. The lowest literacy rate goes with Ramban (56.90%), Bandipora (57.82%), Budgam (57.98%), Kishtwar (58.54%) and Reasi (59.42%). Apparently, there seems to be a significant difference in the literacy rates among districts which raises a serious question about the implementation of policies and the way they are followed in different districts. Since the guiding principle is same for all but still then this variation in the literacy rate is an abnormal and needs kind attention of authorities immediately. Several centrally sponsored schemes such as Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), Sarva Shisha Abhiyan (SSA), and Inclusive Education of the Disabled at Secondary Stage (IEDSS) have rendered their help in this cause but the matter of fact that the lack of dedication and proper implementation creates hurdles in the path of achieving the desired results. SSA seeks to open new schools in those habitations which do not have schooling facilities and strengthen existing school infrastructure through provision of additional class rooms, toilets, drinking water, maintenance grant and school improvement grants. But we still have such schools in place where improper sanitary facilities as well as under developed infrastructure prevail. We often encounter situations where only a few number of teachers are available to address a large gathering of students but still the administration demonstrates its helplessness. Girls’ education an important component of SSA deserves more attention in order to have more coverage for all girl children within the ambit of SSA. Significant pains need to be taken for catering the need of the girls’ education so that their enrolment, retention and learning enhancement increases. Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) which is the most recent initiative of Government of India to achieve the goal of universalisation of secondary education (USE) also needs to be implemented in letter and spirit so that its intended motive gets fulfilled which would further enhance the quality of secondary education in the state.
Talking about the colleges and universities that cater to the ever increasing influx of students, the situation does not seem to change too much. Limited number of intake capacities has become a nightmare for the students who have to let their pains go waste on account of shortage of seats. Till now no significant up gradation has taken place in these universities and colleges that could have reduced the worries of the students and made them better prospects. Even though the students too dream to get educated like others who get themselves admitted in these universities but the matter of fact that they are being robbed of this opportunity, by the unfortunate and unacceptable limitation on intake capacity, raises a serious question about the education policy that our state has adapted to serve the rising demands for higher education. Naming a few universities such as University of Kashmir, Islamic University of Science and technology, Baba Ghulam Shah Badhshah University, they, although provide quality education to their students but the fact that there is an acute insufficiency of intake capacity, lower their contribution, which otherwise could have been more, if the number of students to be admitted to these institutions would have been increased. Not only this but we have only a meagre number of engineering colleges in our own state that deprives thousands of students from getting admitted there and availing the benefits. Had the govt swung into action timely, the scenario would have been different. Apart from attaining elementary education, higher education is must for any individual so, that he could work in the area of his expertise and bring glory to him and his nation. But what we see in our state is careless attitude of our own govt which is unable to provide ample educational avenues to the students so that they stand abreast with the students from other parts of the country.
As special schemes have been formulated for universalisation of the elementary education, the present situation demands the same for higher studies keeping in view of the ever increasing number of students qualifying for that. Everyone needs to get a fair chance of getting educated without feeling betrayed by the system for its inability to increase the intake capacity of the few universities and colleges that our state has. Moreover the brain drain that occurs as a result of the students migrating outside needs to be kept in check. It can have a disastrous impact on the state as it can have to forgo the benefits and glory that these students could bring by virtue of their talent. Providing them with ample opportunities and avenues would restrict their movement and would thus, retain their talent within the boundaries. The state govt needs to allocate sufficient funds for this cause which is the only way to honour and keep hold of valuable human resources that our state is blessed with. What is more important is the change in teaching pedagogy which would attract more and more children and thus, help in educating one and all for the betterment of the society and of humanity in general. Further the efficient implementation of the centrally sponsored schemes for the universalization of elementary education need to be encouraged and followed with right faith and dedication to get the desired results. 
Tail Piece: - The state government’s efforts towards the cause of spreading education are quite commendable but still there is a long way to go to achieve the dream of such a society where all are educated enough to realize their dreams. What is required is to devise, such policies that would increase the momentum of education in the society and magnetize others who are still far from this blessing. The right to education can thus, be accomplished when one and all become illuminated with this boon.

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