School Education in Jammu and Kashmir has three distinct sectors: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Elementary Education (EE), Secondary Education (SE) and Higher Secondary Education (HSE).
Each of these areas is equally important. While success in ECCE is important not only for equity and quality of education but also for universalization of elementary education (UEE) – secondary education is the outcome of elementary education. Similarly, higher secondary education is the outcome of secondary education and feeder base for tertiary education. As such each of these is an area of priority for us and needs urgent attention for improvement.
Related with each of these areas are issues of Equity and quality; Curriculum, Teaching Learning Materials; Assessment; Teacher Preparation; Regulation, Control and Management; Education of Girls and Gender Equality, Impact of Globalization on Education; Emergence of Knowledge Societies; New and Newer areas of Knowledge, Moral Education, etc.
We are also obliged to fulfil our commitments under the Dakar Framework for Action for providing quality Education to All by 2015, which not only covers elementary education but also focus on literacy goals, gender equality and quality concerns. We are committed to take necessary action to achieve the following six specific goals under Dakar Framework of Action:
Therefore, whether we like it or not, we need to take a holistic view of our school education system at the time of prioritizing issues/areas of concern which have a bearing on the quality of school education as such.
For emphasis some of the priority areas and related issues mentioned above are dealt with briefly hereunder:
Early Childhood Care and Education:
“A society can be judged by its attitude to its youngest children, not only in what is said about them but how this attitude is expressed in what is offered to them as they grow up (Goldschmidt and Jackson).”
ECCE is of crucial importance in the educational development of children. Children who attend ECCE attend primary schools and most of them complete primary education. The period between the birth and the age of three is one of rapid cognitive, linguistic, emotional and the motor development stages, with exponential growth in vocabulary starting around 15 to 18 months. Development from age three is marked by the emergence of increasingly complex social behaviour, problem solving and pre-literacy skills that build on earlier achievements (Harvard University Centre on the Developing Child, 2007; National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2007). This is indeed a critical period for acquisition of the cognitive skills that will carry children through school and influence their life chances in adulthood.
Taking into consideration the child population of the state, only a miniscule minority has access to quality ECCE programmes. ECCE, as a matter of fact, is not a priority in the public sector. In order that all young children are nurtured in safe and caring environments that allow them to become healthy, alert, secure, and be able to learn the state (Jammu and Kashmir) needs to enhance the access to comprehensive ECCE programmes, focusing on all of the child’s needs and encompassing health, nutrition and hygiene as well as cognitive and psycho-social development. The state has the primary responsibility of formulating early childhood care and education policies within the context of national EFA plans, mobilizing political and popular support, and promoting flexible, adaptable programmes for young children that are appropriate to their age and not mere downward extensions of formal school systems. The education of parents and other caregivers in better childcare, building on traditional practices, and the systematic use of early childhood indicators, are important elements in achieving the goal of “expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children” (Dakar Framework of Action) and hence achieving EFA .
In ECCE following issues need be addressed:
Universalization of Elementary Education
The Mid-Decade Assessment of EFA in the state showed that more than 4.8% of the total population of children in the age group of 6-11 year and more than 7.95% of total population of children of 11-14 year age group is out of school. The assessment has identified the following factors as the main impediments in Universalization of quality elementary education:
The Mid-Decade assessment has also shown that notwithstanding the constraints and impediments substantial progress has been achieved in universalizing elementary education, proving that Education for All is a realistic and achievable goal. Universalization of elementary education of standard quality is a key area of concern and needs immediate attention for “ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.” (Dakar Framework of Action)
Issues to be addressed:
Universalization of Secondary Education (Rastriya Madhyamic Shiksha Abhiyan)
Sequel to enhanced access to elementary education and eventual Universalization of elementary education coupled with the demand for people with post basic education schooling the demand for access to secondary schooling is bound to grow. As of now access to secondary education in the state is unequally distributed. Fundamental changes are needed if the next generations are to have a better chance of enrolling beyond Grade VIII, and a more equitable opportunity of attending effective and affordable secondary schools.
The state will have to plan for a major expansion of secondary education in the event of achievement of full or near full retention under SSA and set up a new mission for secondary education, on the lines of SSA.
Universalization of Secondary Education will need to fulfill three major criteria, namely, universal enrolment in the 9th and 10th grades, universal retention achieving zero dropout rate, and universal performance at a predetermined level, at least 60 per cent of the students of the 10th grade will achieve 60 percent mastery over subjects and other learning tasks. Initial questions that need to be resolved are: achieving universal access, equity and social justice. Whereas universal access may be possible to achieve through expansion of schooling facilities in the formal and unconventional modes, special efforts will be required for achieving equity, social justice and performance of all the diverse groups of learners. Universalization of secondary education is a long journey and may take more than half a decade of committed effort in a mission mode approach. Success in accomplishment of this goal will be determined by the quality of planning and execution backed by political will and support.
Planning of secondary education will have to be based on reliable data and information. Unlike elementary education where comprehensive and reliable database has been developed, secondary education does not have such authentic data with annual updates. In order to develop a sound and dependable planning framework for secondary education, it will be necessary to develop SEMIS (Secondary Education Management Information System) with disaggregated data at the state, district and block levels.
Issues to be addressed:
…To be Continued
(Author is former Secretary, JKBOSE)