Education is essential for nations; it determines their rise and fall and from harnessing of resources—both natural and human-made—to achieving glory and greatness, it is education which plays a pivotal role in all spheres of life of a nation. Overall, education is the platform that makes it possible to defeat all barriers.
Investing in education means investing in human capital; in fact, it is raising a good human being —the one who proves a good neighbour, a good social member and a good benefactor for society — which is more important than raising a public servant who is lacking in care and concern for people. Education is not passing examinations and securing high grades; education is an institution which creates beliefs, attitudes and morals among people, gifting them with the light of knowledge. Education gives us an understanding of the world around us and offers us an opportunity to use that knowledge wisely.
Enriching hearts and minds with positive things that produce humans who behave with noble morals is more important than producing employees who endeavor to secure only one goal, raise their own status and feather their own nests at the expense of others. Yes, seeking high statuses, wealth and becoming icons is not bad but if these objectives are achieved at the expense of others, conflicts sow their seeds , plunging society into the mire of chaos —and disharmony.
The rat race for achieving high marks percentage has reduced primary and secondary education to the level of something despicable and avoidable. 90% students show signs of withdrawal and depression for the fear of memorizing dozens of contents to score in tests and examinations. For parents, school grades are more important than what their child has learnt. Moreover, the system in vogue prioritizes merit- read marks percentage for employing people and ranks the talent of people on the basis of marks or grades. That sets a trend of gaining success, not excellence and our students mainly seek good grades by hook or by crook.
With our educational system grade-oriented, a majority of students (who are the products of that system) are likely to prove self-seeking and oblivious to public good and social progress. Education must guide people and teach them in such a manner that information becomes a part of their mind; it is, however, seen that the knowledge gained from books and institutions primarily aids in enhancing a person's professional achievements.
There is no gainsaying that enhancing a person's mental and moral horizons and enabling him or her to uphold the truth, maintain calm and composure despite all odds — all remains a subject of academics. At the elementary level, morals need to be inculcated without any concern for passing or failing. When students are only concerned with marks and grades, they prefer memorizing information, which slips their memories once the exam/test completes; thus understanding and internalizing information/ contents loses significance and our system churns out people who show poor understanding regarding the importance of operation of moral, economic, administrative, cultural and political aspects for a nation to be prosperous.
Speaking of the relationship between teachers and students, it ought to be favorable, sympathetic, cooperative and of mutual respect. The role of teachers should be restored as the builders of character and transmitters of morality. Ideas, thoughts, and questions should freely be discussed with tolerance for the difference of opinion. By that, we can create intellectuals out of them. The Department of School Education (Jammu and Kashmir) faces a lot of criticism for not fully living up to the expectations of the public. Every year, in annual results, it is the private schools which excel, leaving government schools far behind. A question arises: why is the government sector, with the better infrastructure and highly skilled workforce, unable to perform better than the underfunded and underpaid private sector?
The answer lies in the standards of academics, goals of academics, values, methodology of the teaching- learning process, work culture and management in the private sector schools. It has rightly been said that a group of horses led by a lion could defeat a group of horses led by a horse. As government schools provide food, financial aids and books to the students, most parents have developed an attitude of dependence for non-academic support on these schools. Thus, a child's education loses focus.
It has never been heard or seen that the parents of a locality have visited a government school to know about the performance of their children and to offer their kind help to the teachers in improving the performance of their children. Nor, I think have they ever convened a meeting at their own level to discuss the problems and issues facing a school and its staff.
Unless, a holistic approach, one focusing on both administrative and non-adminstrative flaws in the format and form of imparting education in govrnment schools is practised and parents cooperate seriously with the school authorities, an improvement in the performance of the government schools is unlikely.
For a start, transfer of all categories of teachers, after two or three years, is vital for exposing them to newer environs. The National Institute for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog’s School Quality Education Index (SEQI) report 2019 —exposing loopholes in the school education quality in Jammu and Kashmir— has revealed that J&K is yet to implement the practice of transfer of government teachers through the transparent online system.
Moreover, it has to be seriously and jointly pursued by administrators, educationists and academicians that the focus shifts from mere memorizing to understanding the contents so that students know what they are learning. Knowledge imparted must sink in. Students basically are learners. They have receptive minds and aspirations to learn.
(The Author is a Teacher and RK Columnist. He can be reached on: Sheikhshabir518@gmail.com)