The J and K Government is synchronizing the academic session with the national academic calendar and move to a single calendar putting forward that adoption of uniform calendar system would not only enable the students from JK to compete with students in rest of the country for admissions to top institutions but also save valuable time. This would result in shifting the process of conducting exams from October-November to March-April in Kashmir division. The move has stimulated varied opinions and arguments among the academics and intellectuals in-favour and against the move. The parents and students do also watch it with their individualistic perspectives.
Those who strive for the shift from conventional pattern put forward their reasons in support. But, let's first analyse and see why the system already in place needs not to be disturbed.
The foundation of the arguments against the shift primarily rests upon the specific geographical make up of the valley. In fact, topographical characteristics have determined the cultural, psychological and economic patterns of life in Kashmir.
Education too has not been independent of the cluster influence of Kashmir's geography. The life with all activities remains undoubtedly tough during the winters. So remains the formal schooling as well. The argument in favour of the change in academic session is termed as unnatural. Those who are against the new idea say that the months from March to October are inherently all potential. These months provide compatible and comfortable opportunities to carry out productive social, psychological and agricultural activities in a fairly and friendly weather. The formal academic process, to them, can't be seen as a separate activity from the aforementioned operations.
Winter in Kashmir begets a bunch of problems and hardships. Among all is the common issue of interrupted supply of electricity. So, this seems to be valid point that in the darkness and frosty months, the students shall have to pass the tough test of chill before they could appear in the actual exams in March.
One more opinion against the move is that our schools are yet to be equipped with all those facilities and infrastructural support which could protect the students and staff from the indiscriminate wrath of harsh winter- ChallaiKalan. The situation in rural and hilly areas is still tougher than what is being seen in city, towns or in plains. They remain snow bound even in the month of March.
Since the common entrance tests are mainly held in the months of April-May so the aspirants get an opportune time in winters to prepare. The logic is also being put forward against the shift of academic session that students are free from double stress of routine academic exams and the compitative exams and entrance tests. With the beginning of March, the collective psyche of the people of Kashmir is refreshed by the life giving gentle spring breezes. They get freedom from the full-blown bone chilled winds of winter. So the time is apt to utilise it for academic activities not to be used as a fear psychosis of exams. The compatibility is quite natural which must be maintained.
Now, we shall turn to the arguments, reasons and justifications being suggested in favour of shifting the academic session to March. The foremost factor being pushed to change the session is to ensure the uniform pattern of examinations and academic activities. Two separate sessions do exist in two divisions of the same political entity not to mention the issue viz a viz other states. Resultantly, Kashmiri students do have to wait for months together to appear in Professional Entrance Examinations.
Exams are now universally held in March in almost all the states of India. So the aspirants prepare equally to appear in different tests after achieving the eligibility following the uniform pattern of exams. The students of Kashmir obtain the eligibility much before others but do have to wait for a long time to appear in NEET, JEE Mains, JEE Advance etc. Disparity in academic calendar and its brunt on the students could be avoided if the change in session is effected. The excuse of winter chill has to be shun now as the new move enthusiastic supporters plead.
It is heard that the government is seriously thinking over to provide centrally heated system to all the schools in a phased manner. If the dream comes true, the practice of winter vacations would be reconsidered. The thought has emerged out of good results of winter coaching being provided at government schools before the eruption of Covid-19.
If the uniformity in academic calendar is adopted, it would considerably discourage the practice of private coaching to the larger extend which has in most of the cases become nuisance for routine subjects. The owners of the tuition centres project their business as social service. If it is a selfless service, they would not sell their "services" at exorbitant rates, by the way.
In the conventional calender, it has been seen that after the exams are over and the results declared in the month of November upto the class 9th, the students rarely turn up to schools. They are so conditioned that after hearing the results, they unofficially take it as the announcement for a long winter break. This way, they lose 40 to 45 days of schooling which needs to be accepted as a fact. If the exams are held in March-April, at least these precious days would be utilised better in the continuous schooling till the winter vacations are formally announced or so.
One more issue related to the traditional academic session is that the students after passing 10th or 12th exams routinely take admission in varied educational institutions for new classes. Then in the middle of the session they lose the fee amount they had already deposited in colleges for pursuing non profession degrees if they get selected for professional degrees or diplomas. The money lost matters for all and for the downtrodden it matters more than that.
Another significant opinion has cropped up that the October-December season in rest of the states is the peak season for culture and sports activities. The students of Kashmir can't participate in these events and competitions because of the annual exams they are engaged with or preparing for during the season. I think the opinion is based on merit and a valid reason for poor sports culture in Kashmir.
My personal perception in the midst of debates and observations is that both the sessions need to be put in operation. The view is not strange or confusing. From the primary classes to class 9th, the academic session conventionally in place is by and large suitable because of specific geographical and other factors of the valley.
However, from class 10th to all higher education degrees, the session needs to be brought at par with a uniform calender already in operation to avoid the inconvenience and academic loss being experienced by the students of Kashmir division. Because, there is no reason to remain aloof from the uniform and wide range of global impacts of education and connectivity. We need to be very much conscious and futuristic about our career; and it has now become inevitable to affiliate with rest of the educational patterns and systems. We must admit that we are still not so strong in educational front to evolve or argue for an independent mechanism of our own to survive in the educational dynamics being witnessed around.
(The author Regular columnist of Rising Kashmir and can be reached at email@example.com)
Box: We must admit that we are still not so strong in educational front to evolve or argue for an independent mechanism of our own to survive in the educational dynamics being witnessed around