Education System has Strayed into Unproductive Areas: Akhtar

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SRINAGAR: The Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar, on Thursday said that education system of the state has strayed into areas that in no way have contributed to the development of a child, his education or his intellectual growth.

“We’ve got to get this huge machine back on rails of what’s generally believed a system not exactly delivering for what it has been created for,” he said.

The Minister was speaking at the three-day workshop entitled “Quality Education in J&K – Challenges and Ways Forward”, organized by the Directorate of School Education, Kashmir, in collaboration with Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan (SSA) and the J&K State Board of School Education, Srinagar, at the Banquet Hall, M.A. Road Srinagar.

The workshop was attended by a galaxy of dignitaries representing education, administration and civil society. Minister of State for Education, Ms Priya Sethi, Commissioner Secretary, School Education Department, Mr. Shaleen Kabra (IAS), Director School Education, Kashmir, Mr. Showkat Ahmad Baig, Director School Education, Jammu, Mrs Yasha Mudgal, Deputy Commissioner, Bandipore, Mr. Shah Faisal (IAS), Joint Director, Schools, Kashmir, Dr. Syed Abid Rasheed Shah (IAS), Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara, Mr Kumar Rajiv Ranjan (IAS), Vice-Chancellor Kashmir University, Prof. Andrabi, Vice-Chancellor, IUCT, Prof. Trag, Prof. Anita Rampal of Delhi University, Secretary, J&K Board of School Education, Kashmir, , Prof. Veena Pandita, academicians, intellectuals, educationists, scholars, researchers, Principals of various colleges, Chief Education Officers, representatives of various NGOs and a large number of teachers were present in the workshop were among those who participated in the event.

As Education Minister, Naeem Akhtar said, that his primary challenge was to get this huge machine going. “I wouldn’t subscribe to what the general belief is that everything about education is wrong, bad or dysfunctional,” he said. “The system somehow hasn’t acted per the goals, objectives or expectations laid out.”

The Minister underlined that in the process, the system guaranteed a casualty that of an unfortunate child as it strayed into unproductive areas not conducive to his intellectual growth: “The system has been employment-centric and infrastructure-centric, resultantly it has created a mess by way of opening hundreds of schools and recruiting an army of teachers,” Akhtar said.

“The teacher, unfortunately, has been swallowed by an administrative system where he’s not treated as someone who taught me or my colleague but someone whom the State has done a great favour by giving him a job,” Akhtar said. “My first focus has been to retrieve him from that position and accord him a degree of dignity and self respect and a freedom to function.”

Akhtar said it was not for him to do the necessary repair work but it was a challenge before the participants of the workshop and the academicians of the country at large.

He said the challenge lies in creating and sustaining teacher motivation and inquisitiveness among students. “At the same time the curriculum has to be revisited to imbibe local needs and job-intensive skills so that we produce enterprisers and not school pass-outs who hanker after daily-wage jobs,” he said and added that under the new initiative the Education Department would encourage community-based and school-based projects for work experience, associate local artisans/workmen in school activities, give primacy to cultural activities, art, sports, etc, ensure regular content based and motivational training for teachers, and look upon quality improvement as integral to holistic school improvement program.

Akhtar said the Department would also encourage teachers to frequently interact with pedagogy experts and other teacher educators to develop useful learning approaches for children. “The diversity of learning environments and learning approaches should be encouraged and teachers should have the freedom to experiment on a much larger scale with innovative ideas,” he said and added that effective interface of teachers and teacher educators is critical for developing a context specific intervention.

Akhtar said study tours and academic exchanges of students and teachers will be encouraged and NGOs with experience in pedagogy will be associated in developing capacity among teachers and students for innovative practices. He said the Department has already begun the process of introducing localized vocational courses in the educational institutions to produce enterprising human resource.

“While job-intensive courses like boutique technology, papier machie, food technology are being introduced in educational institutions in Kashmir, similarly courses on Basohli paintings, medical and aromatic plants and other such localized skills would be introduced in the educational institutions of Jammu region,” he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister of State for Education and Information, Ms Priya Sethi said that State has faced tremendous challenges in every field of life during the past and the education sector was most affected during the period. She said the present government has flagged this sector on priority and focused attention is being paid to provide quality education to the students.

Director School Education, Kashmir, Mr Showkat Ahmad Baig, in his inaugural address said that a sincere approach to devise strategies in order to induce quality in the education system was the need of the hour. “Our methodology is primitive thus outdated, and in order to infuse new spirit in the methodology of teaching, teachers have to be equipped with modern-day tools to make the process of learning effective,” he said.

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