Competitive Exams Becoming Tall Order For Kashmiri Students, Why?

A Kashmiri student appearing for exams during Covid times . KO photos by Abid Bhat

Despite crowding of coaching centres and growing race for competitive exams in the valley, why Kashmiri students end up losing time, money and mental calm?

By Al-Misda Masoom

Srinagar: A wannabe doctor from Srinagar, Tabiya Toufiq, 18, believes that competitive exam preparations in the valley differ in many aspects in comparison to that outside.

Kashmiri students, she says, lack avenues like career counselling, public libraries and economical coaching centres.

“Due to this, they lose time, money and even their mental balance,” Tabiya said. “All these factors are an additional burden when there’s already a pressure to qualify the exam. It takes a heavy mental toll on students.”

Competitive exam is the first step towards career-building for students. They go through various hurdles and prepare for months or even years to qualify for a single examination.

But in Kashmir, lack of educational infrastructure—like absence of a proper public library isn’t bringing Kashmiri students at par with the students outside the valley. “Even if one finds a public library, it lacks relevant books,” said Sadaf Shah, preparing for a Service Selection Board exam.

Kashmiri students attending offline classes after Covid relaxation in this file photo.

The lack of career counselling at the crucial stages of one’s career is equally playing a spoilsport and forcing students to make a compromise in the name of unpopular career choices. Most of the students feel compelled to do that in order to save their academic calendar year.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a doctor but due to the lack of career counselling I didn’t know how to approach the path,” said Sarmad Ali, who’s preparing for NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for two consecutive years. “It’s a top career choice in Kashmir and everyone is aware of it, but then career counselling is very much needed in it.”

From the beginning itself, students don’t know about the options or backups.

“Whatever little knowledge I’ve about the opportunities and competitive exams is from the experience and learning as I grew,” said Shaheen Bhat, a NEET aspirant. “Moreover, we don’t have many career options here.”

Lack of career counselling has a direct implication on widening the generation gap between children and parents. One such instance is related to Sajid Mir’s messy academic life.

Sajid was always interested in Physics and knew from the beginning that he could excel in the subject, but his parents didn’t support him.

“I used to solve Advanced Physics papers in 12th standard but now I struggle with one numerical,” Sajid said. “Had there been career counsellors available, my parents would’ve understood and let me choose my career path.”

Students in campus during Covid times

Moreover, there’s also an issue with expensive coaching centres in Kashmir. Students coming from lower economic backgrounds don’t get a chance to prepare as much as their competitors.

“There’re brilliant students out there who cannot afford coaching and due to that a lot of potential gets wasted,” said Haziq Misgar, a NEET aspirant. “I believe it needs to be changed. We don’t lack in hard work and talent, we lack in resources.”

The hiccups also stem from Kashmir’s disorganized education system lacking proper infrastructure. On top of that, frequent closure of educational institutions due to various situations adds to the disorganization.

“We’ve to grapple with frequent and sudden connectivity issues and other conflicting situations in Kashmir, creating hurdles in the preparations for these entrance exams,” said Basit Nazir, a JE aspirant.

“Due to fear of night raids, cordons and encounters, I’ve to turn off the lights at around 11pm and can’t even burn the midnight oil for these exams.”

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