Kashmir students on the horns of a dilemma

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Kashmir University (KU) students have joined the band wagon of ongoing student protests. The issue at stake is exams. Earlier, class 12 students were aghast at the prospect of exams being held. Now it is their seniors that are protesting. It may be stated that KU has decided to upload study materials on its website to aid the students in their learning and then probably hold exams.

Students are essentially saying study materials are not enough and that they have lost time since the past four months. Moreover, not all students have access to the internet wherein they can access and learn from these study materials. While KO is loath to stake a clear cut position on this issue, but we firmly believe that the matter is of grave and serious import.

Education has both utilitarian and moral components. In this day and age, from a utilitarian perspective , it is only through education that youth can aspire to productive lives and be productive members of society. Morally, education is both a public and social good; it enhances and expands individuals’ mental, intellectual, moral and ethical and even emotional horizons – all these lead to better human and moral beings. Both components- moral and utilitarian –lend themselves to the education is absolutely vital for both individuals and society at large. And exams are an indelible part of the educational process. There, however, is a level of abstraction involved here.

In prosaic and practical terms, education and its concomitant needs an ambiance and environment that is conducive to both. Kashmir, which has been witnessing protests and curfews since that past four three months, has had a systemic breakdown wherein all domains and sectors of life have come to a stand- still. In this “broken environment”, expecting students to turn up for exams is rich and does not hold water. Uploading learning materials on websites is no alternative to teacher aided learning and instruction. There is also the psychological and emotional dimension: the conditions in Kashmir have taken a psychical toll on young minds and taxing them through exams does not sound prudent at this stage.

But, having said this, at the same time, deferring and postponing exams means students lose precious time at critical junctures in their educational trajectories. Moreover, the momentum of education and learning is broken. This lag is a burden and a problem that lends itself to no solution. All this leads to a conundrum: what are students to do and how are the authorities to deal with this condition and situation?

One possible way out of the conundrum is to adopt what is called a “stakeholder” approach to education at this critical juncture. School admins and university authorities can reach out to both students and their parents and involve them in a process of decision making about how to both impart education and when and how to hold exams. This, besides giving a sense of involvement to the wards might also lead to some solutions and consensus after brain storming the issue. Unless the decision to hold exams is political, there really does not appear to be a way out.

Our youth are our future and education is the most significant part and evolutionary process of their lives. How they get education – the nature and quality of this education- how they are examined, and learning outcomes thereof will determine whether they will be productive members of society. This will also determine the quality and depth of their moral worth. The issue of their education and the  important concomitant of the educational process, examinations, is not a trivial issue that can be handled frivolously. We need sober minds and prudent approaches to deal with this all important issue. Let us then come together and come to the assistance of our youth in a manner that redounds to their overall benefit and future(s).

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