IN a recent meeting with senior administrators of the Union Territory, Dr Arun Mehta, the Chief Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir, emphasized updating the school curriculum by August 31. It is good to update books and keep track of the emerging facts, but in Kashmir, the use of obsolete books is not the only factor that hinders the education of school-going children. In essence, in most schools of the valley, teaching methods are a problem in itself.
Unfortunately, Kashmiri students are not motivated to think critically; they are expected to remember things. Yes, to remember things for exams and getting grades. Rarely are they encouraged to question the validity and production of facts that books carry. And sadly enough, a cross-question to a teacher is taken as an insult to him or her. There’s a cliché that teachers in Kashmir use “Don’t argue.” What is the problem with argumentation? If a student disagrees with a view that a teacher proposes, then (s)he has every right to contest the idea of his/her teacher. In other words, every student should be able to argue. Argumentation on literary issues is a step towards critical thinking. And that’s what school-going children should be trained in from a certain point, to think critically.
Now, here’s another example to understand methods of teaching in schools of Kashmir. Most students in Kashmir learn about the “ grammar” of the English language. Students most commonly learn about nouns, pronouns, articles, verbs, adjectives, tenses, and forms of sentences. What they grasp through grammar training is how to remember different parts of speech than how to use them during communication. The true essence of learning grammar is to improve communication skills, but here in Kashmir, it is taught to pass exams.
Until reflective thinking is not encouraged in schools of Kashmir and students are not allowed to argue on literary issues with their teachers, updating books will not have much of an impact. Thus, steps should be taken to improve teaching practices in the valley.
Suhail Ahmad Khan
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