Apart from numerous religious educational institutes like Dar-ul-Ulooms, Darsgahs, Maktabs,etc, spread across the length and breadth of valley, there are certain unconventional sources of education in valley like Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Wakf Board run educational/professional institutions, orphanage schools and various other trust run educational institutions, Police public schools, Army’s goodwill education, Shia community run religious and other educational institutions, etc,. Army run or army administered education (schools) in the valley is commonly known as Goodwill education and these institutions are known as AGPS or army Goodwill public schools. These institutions are an alternative form/source of education besides the common modes of government run or private run education. Such alternatives like wakf education or Goodwill education have certainly been able to change the discourse by enabling access to the marginalized to a good education that too either free or at a minimal/affordable cost.
Having studied ‘Muslim Endowments and Society in Kashmir’ thoroughly, I have surveyed Muslim auqaf and waqf sponsored educational institutions in the valley. As a researcher my observations in various religious or English medium educational institutions like darsgahs, darul-ul-Ulooms,waqf schools,Wakf Board aided Islamic university of science and technology, Bibi Halima college of Nursing, etc, I have had close interactions with the staff and students which unfolded interesting facts and stories. I learnt how such massive and potential institutions despite huge issues and challenges contribute a lot to the ailing society but continue to remain uncelebrated and invisible. The Student enrolment in Wakf run (13) chain of Schools in Kashmir is above three thousand (Boys 1627 & Girls 1605) and at the moment thousands of students from socio-economically backward sections of the society benefit from these institutions. Despite a good education, a nominal amount is charged from students as tuition fee and all the educational requirements are made available by the Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Wakf Board (JKMWB) which certainly proves as an alternate source of education in its own limited capacity.
It is my objective observation that, despite a variety of schools in Kashmir, the educational situation in the valley is grim in terms of quality, content and attendance. Some major reasons for poor standard of education in the state according to researchers are elaborated as absence of myriad of school facilities like ventilation, drinking water, light, toilet, and proper space facilities that have badly hit and battered the scenario of education in schools. The other reasons are poor investment in education, dearth of motivated teachers, poor educational infrastructure, lack of monitoring and evaluation mechanism and above all the political instability commonly known as Kashmir conflict that has laid a disastrous impact on the holistic education especially since 1989. To boost the capacities and quality assurance, there is a definite need for alternate models of education that are getting applied worldwide so that the discourse in terms of empowerment, mainstreaming and above all a good education can be changed. Besides Goodwill education, institutions like Wakf Board and other independent waqfs running schools or seminaries, Shia community run Bab-ul-ilm Schools, other Shia association run quality religious institutions, play a major role in promoting education and creating a safe and sustainable school environment to enable children, youth and adults learn in conditions conducive to peace. Goodwill Education or army run education in Kashmir is one such alternate model besides Wakf run education that I see as a functional model and hope of future Kashmir.
Concept of Goodwill Education as per army works with a vision that is “To be an institution of excellence dedicated to the children of Jammu & Kashmir, to develop them into responsible citizens and leaders of tomorrow by imparting quality education to them in an environment which is caring, stimulating and challenging”. How far they have succeeded in their mission, only the time will tell though critics call it militarization of education in Kashmir. While Army’s commitment towards providing quality and futuristic education to the children of Army personnel resulted in establishment Army personnel and created Army Welfare Education Society in the year 1983, the academic challenges faced by the children in the State of J&K, stimulated the Army that was deployed for Counter Insurgency Operations, to evolve an approach to address this challenge. Goodwill education as a concept came up in 1990s to ensure that education remains a priority and is accessible in the conflict zones of the country in the time of crisis as much as during times of stability.
Though for numerous reasons and constraints, it cannot be denied that there are millions of children who have been deprived of quality education in different conflict affected zones of India including the State of Kashmir, yet education failed to occupy a prominent place of concern. Kashmir, a subset of the overall conflict torn population of the country, needs an education that facilitates peace building, harmony, development of future leadership and market oriented. As the conflict stabilizes, many fatal challenges are surfacing which can be addressed only by good and quality education which still seems a big challenge to achieve at a larger level. Therefore alternate forms of education must proliferate and meet the increasing need.
The National Curriculum Framework for School Education (2000), echoing the National Policy on Education (1986), lamented the “erosion of the essential social, moral and spiritual values and an increase in cynicism at all levels.” Against this backdrop, the framework advanced a plea to integrate value education into the curriculum. The framework prescribed an integrative approach. Value education and education about religions should be “judiciously integrated with all subjects of study”. Such value based content is essential in curricula as it can connect and relate the masses to their context and ethos. Therefore education for peace must focus on ‘citizenship education’. The emphasis may shift, thereafter, to ‘peace as a lifestyle movement’. Students can be made aware of the need for lifestyles conducive to the integrity of creation and stability of society. Education for peace is holistic and a long-term proactive strategy to nurture peaceful persons who resolve conflicts non-violently. It embraces the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social growth of children within a framework of human values.
Needless to say that Violence in Kashmir post 1989 had worst effect on the educational infrastructures. Army launched its initiative in the field of education in late 1990s. Starting with four schools in 1998, four in 1999, four in 2000, a total of 30 Schools were established by 2010, ranging from primary to secondary and senior secondary level of education. These schools were set up at remote and inaccessible places within Kashmir and other parts of the State where there were no schools at all or where the academic infrastructure has suffered irreparable loss.
Army schools are not dominated by traditional hierarchical structures but by dynamic networks and the demands of local and global cooperation in promotion of sustainable and safe environment. About 9000 students are enrolled in these schools and over 600 men and women are employed as teaching or administrative staff as per the army sources. Army maintains that since these schools were created as means to provide quality education at reasonable or affordable costs, the meager revenue earned through collection of fees from the students had to be supplemented through Sadhbhavana funds so that essential academic infrastructure, technological support, and assets contributing to creative environment could be created and maintained.
On visiting some of these schools as a part of my research to compare goodwill with wakf run schools. During my fieldwork, it was heartening to see the students of these schools belonging to remote and underdeveloped areas .On interacting I found them articulate, enthusiastic and hopeful and with a good futuristic vision. No doubt, with peace sustaining, few good schools have come up in the Valley but they are far and few, and beyond the geographical as well financial reach of the parents. “I believe Goodwill Schools are not only the centers of excellence for education and personality development, but also the institutions for promoting and supporting the symbols of glory in Kashmir”, says a local teacher.
Army also maintains that it is also supporting education of large number of students in boarding schools beyond Kashmir. The scope of these interventions was enlarged from 2014-15 onwards and presently there are 431 students availing scholarships and studying in some of the best schools of the country. Year 2014 also saw few special initiatives such as Kashmir Super 30 and Kashmir Top Achievers; the credit goes to the former Srinagar based 15 Corps commander Lt Gen Subrata Saha (Now India’s DGMO).
“Kashmir Super 30 prepares students from poor and under privileged backgrounds to crack entrance tests for IITs and other top Engineering Colleges. Through the first batch run in 2013-14, out of 23 students who were provided coaching, one student cracked IIT, seven NIT and nine went to other Engineering Colleges. In next batch, three cracked IIT, seven went to NITs and 23 students got through other Engineering Colleges. Even an effort of this nature, if continued for next ten years, can create enough number of youth who could provide technological leadership to Kashmir”, says an army spokesperson. He maintains that the Kashmir Top Achievers was meant to infuse competitive edge for entrance examinations for professional technical education and high end jobs such as officers in Armed Forces.
The role of Army’s Goodwill Schools in the prevention and intervention of safe and sustainable environment related issues is enhanced when they incorporate safety concept to the curriculum, school policy, school ethos and values, interpersonal relationships, effective partnerships with parents and services in the wider community.
These schools plan facilities for teacher professional development by organizing workshops and teacher exchange programs and Student development by organizing various curricular and curricular activities that result in building Confidence & Communication Skills, Inquiry and Reasoning, Spirit of Adventure, academic excellence, competence and Sportsmen Spirit in the students. This helps promote talent among students.
Goodwill schools engage in Sustainable Development by getting engaged in learning for the future by inviting students and teachers to enter a culture of complexity by using critical thinking to explore and challenge, in clarifying values, reflecting on the learning values of taking action and of participation revising all subjects and the pedagogy in light of Safe and sustainable Development.
Out of the total funds available in Sadhbhavana, the allocation towards education sector varied from 4.9 crore in 2001 to 23.9 crore in 2015. It is very evident from this data how Army’s efforts towards education were gradually increased with peace prevailing in Kashmir. Bulk of these funds were utilized towards providing quality infrastructure like smart boards, libraries, labs, computer rooms, and Modern technology, hygienic toilets and drinking water facility. Army’s investment in education must serve an eye opener to the state government.
As a result of the thrust imparted towards quality, these schools have been giving extremely good results. Performance of goodwill schools can be evaluated with its Board Results which is rising throughout with 70% in 2009-10 to 82% 2013-14 and 100% in 2015. Comparing the Class 12 performance of Goodwill Schools with other schools, while the pass percentage of Government and Private Schools combined was 71.8%, the pass percentage of Army Goodwill Schools was 94.62%. Apart from this there are many success stories of the students who passed out from Goodwill Schools who have made a mark in their lives.
While goodwill schools are proving to be successful models for the other schools to follow, there is a need to adopt measures that can help other schools to benefit from the methodologies being followed by these schools. Government too is showing tremendous commitment towards education sector and coming together of the concepts, resources and processes can accelerate the growth of this sector. Simultaneous to this Army needs to acknowledge the success of this concept and boost the funding so that goodwill education becomes more effective at macro level.
Education for SocietyTeachers make the highest impact on quality in the classroom. They are at the heart of education but the status of overall teacher education in India is pathetic, to put it mildly. “Being a woman-dominated profession, it’s perceived as not being a demanding profession. But it requires as much planning, preparation and rigour as any other job. The overarching problem is the low status of the teaching profession. Our teachers aren’t empowered to think creatively and out of the box,” agreed Maya Menon, founder, Teacher Foundation”Being a woman-dominated profession, it’s perceived as not being a demanding profession. But it requires as much planning, preparation and rigour as any other job. The overarching problem is the low status of the teaching profession. Our teachers aren’t empowered to think creatively and out of the box,” agreed Maya Menon, founder, Teacher FoundationThe only way to solve the learning crisis is to get teachers who are “trained, motivated and who enjoy teaching, who can identify and support weak learners, and who are backed by well-managed education systems,” the report stated
Schools need to be seen in context of its linkages with the wider society and Kashmir is highly in need of that. Schools, be it goodwill or others must emphasize the elements of a good citizenship among students. We need an appropriate education linked to the surroundings, promoting peace, emphasizing skill up gradation using local products and expertise. We need an education that does not convey the message of imposition, overt or covert but promotes the emotional integration of the people.
I believe for the development of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the first requisite is peace and then a quality education. The students of J&K must have the right to dream differently. I think we must not be too pessimistic about the state of education in Kashmir but yes we need enough of training of teachers, interactions, capacity building programmes, student and teacher exchange programmes, and other exposure related activities along with an ample funding to boost education in Jammu and Kashmir. It is believed that since 2014 Goodwill Schools have enhanced the academic and scientific inputs that are required for building the future of Kashmir. The concept started in 1990s was given a major boost by Lt Gen Subrata Saha in multiple manners. In addition integration of capacity building tours and other Saghbhavana initiatives with these schools, bringing about a scientific temper in the curriculum and creative engagement through host of talent hunt opportunities are just few of the efforts that have been made, says army. The recent seminar on education organized by the Gen Saha itself reflects the academic mindset of the General and I wish that future Corps Commanders to carry forward the concept of Goodwill Education with the same vigour.
- The budget allocation of Sadhbhavana should increase so that more number of schools can be established at the places where there are no footprints of these schools. More so, the areas that are still disturbed need to be addressed.
- All the existing Goodwill Schools need to be upgraded to at least Class 10, and gradually to Class 12. Accordingly, the infrastructure and facilities will require to be added.
- Teachers of government school can be sent for IT and computer training to the Goodwill schools as the Goodwill schools have well equipped IT labs and trained staff.
- Transaction of curriculum and updated and upgraded contents and pedagogical skills can be imparted to the government school teachers in the Goodwill schools.
- Students of government schools can be sent to the goodwill schools to make use of library facilities every week.
- Students can also attend training in some sports and other activities in these schools.
- Students can be taken to the smart classrooms to get a feel of interactive teaching may be once in a month on rotation basis without disturbing the routine of the Goodwill schools.
We must abstain from politicizing education and instead start illiteracy free Kashmir movement to achieve hundred percent literacy and quality education in Jammu and Kashmir. Also I feel we must emphasize on the need for education in all schools and not merely training. Many schools train their students so that they have knowledge and skills but to be truly educated one has to have the ability to rationalize debate and critique which hardly prevails in the valley’s education system. It is important to throw up ideas and allow these to be negated or accepted through the power of discussion and debate. The importance of application of knowledge has to be the priority. Examinations are the least important element of education and must be designed to test application and not knowledge. Goodwill Schools or other alternate forms must be encouraged to follow such a line of education. It is important that our educational institutions do not strive for perfection or rat race competition but more for excellence. The importance of alumni networking and peer groups through modern IT networks is the future and more and more exchange of information and education through peer groups is the need of the hour. Kashmir needs many more good educational institutions rather than a few prevailing shopping malls of education.
(Author is a Delhi based Sociologist and Associate Editor for South Asia at Eurasia Review)