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September 13, 2022 10:48 pm

Beyond NEET, Why Kashmiri Students Need Scientific Career Counseling

Kashmiri students appearing in their annual exams in this KO file photo

‘Today, an army of our PHD scholars are sitting home when the Class 10th or 12th certificate-holders would previously get government jobs due to political favours. Time has changed and favours have faltered, but lack of career planning is still dooming us.’

By Farzana Bashir

Days after the announcement of the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) results, many Kashmiri students who failed to qualify the popular exam are literally finding themselves at the crossroads. While many of them are reappearing next year with a fresh resolve, others are finding it hard to pick and choose new careers/streams. Behind their indecisiveness, experts say, is a “tunnel vision” with which they’re being groomed in Kashmir till Class 12th.

Sheikh Inayat Ullah, who runs a Srinagar-based career-counseling school called Move Beyond, believes that Kashmiri students have plenty of options available to them. “But all they need is a timely guidance,” Inayat says. “Career counseling is important for one’s career and will determine whether one becomes a professor at Kashmir University or at Harvard.”

Inayat, who in collaboration with NIT Srinagar is reaching out to the student community for career guidance, says that Kashmiri students need to go beyond the twin streams. “There’s an obsession for Science and Engineering in Kashmir, but we need to fulfill the needs of the times,” he says. “It’s all about staying relevant.”

In a chat with Kashmir Observer, the career counselor talks about the new trends and Dos and Don’ts for Kashmiri students.

Sheikh Inayat Ullah.

Is it true that parents mostly dictate career choices in Kashmir?

Yes, it’s true—a South Asian delusion, in fact. Parents do that because they mostly think about themselves and end up pressurizing children to take a particular subject or career.

So, does this “delusion” shadow the student dream in the valley?

Well, after failing to qualify their parent-dictated exams like NEET, students become some burden for betraying the trust. It happens in majority of cases. It’s not that these students don’t toil to cement their places in these exams, but while doing that—of course to please their parents—many of them end up giving up on their dreams.

Therefore, they struggle with their careers after Class 12th. One can’t blame them as we hardly prepare them to handle a life without NEET or IIT.

Does that mean that either Kashmiri students have no say or end up choosing a wrong subject after Class 12th?

Sadly, that’s how it is in Kashmir. After Class 12th, students easily get swayed by their friend’s subject preferences. They also keep their family interest in mind. But career option is a scientific process based on one’s interest, caliber, creativity and determination. It’s totally influenced and unscientific choice in Kashmir.

How should one break this jinx?

See, students in Kashmir have different priorities in the order of Science, Engineering and Humanities. Although it’s changing slightly, most of them still don’t follow a scientific method. They need to rise above the random-picking.

That means they need to seek expert guidance for some clarity?

Yes, but Kashmiri students hardly go for counseling.  They only seek it when they don’t get any seat in Government colleges or want to study outside the state or the country. It’s just that they’ve something in their minds and they go for that. None of them follow the scientific method. That’s why Kashmir has an employment issue.

Most of these students end up as employees rather than employers. They religiously follow JEE AND NEET exams based on their high percentages in their budding years. While low-rank holders go for Commerce or Humanities.

But then the same subject-line develops tunnel vision in Kashmiri students?

They do, but we need to understand that students are always stressed to perform or perish in Kashmir. The whole learning system is somewhat brutal. Children are often left at the mercy of the system.

And what’re the academic opportunities for students at the end?

Academic opportunities are very limited in Kashmir.

There aren’t many central institutions here. IIT isn’t complete, while IIM is in process. We’ve NIFT though, but it’s not for everyone.

The only way to simplify this career complexity is to catch them young. We need to prepare students beyond Medical and Non-Medical till Class 12th and beyond. We need to expose them to the newer careers.

But how many students excel in their choicest careers in Kashmir anyway?

Not many. And one should blame the existing educational infrastructure in Kashmir for that. There aren’t any drama schools here, neither many choices for engineering. Plus, there’s a lack of research in Kashmir.

If someone, for instance, is doing B.SC, does he even know his field opportunities? Did he see any jobs where only a B.S.C graduate is needed? There is nothing like that. Students only want to follow the fields full of opportunities. Most of them queue up for banker jobs or Class-IV jobs at the end. This is sad, because it defeats the whole purpose of their careers and courses. Why to occupy, let’s say, a Media Masters Program at Kashmir University, if you only want to become a probationer officer in bank tomorrow.

So, that means a career counselor becomes a go-to person here?

Of course, students need to figure out what’s best for them and only a counselor can help them out. Taking a career is a huge decision. Any mistake can ruin it. For example, if you’re a professor at Kashmir University, with a caliber of Harvard, then a timely career guidance can do wonders for your career.

Today, an army of our PHD scholars are sitting home when the Class 10th or 12th certificate-holders would previously get government jobs due to political favours. Time has changed and favours have faltered, but lack of career planning is still dooming us.

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