The School Education Department is determined to shift the academic session to March
Exploring the ‘March Session’ The School Education Department is determined to shift the academic session to March and is working out the modalities and overcoming the hiccups which may create any impediments in adopting the uniform academic calendar.
While the Higher Education Department (HED) has already shifted the academic session to July in line with the National Academic Calendar, the SED is in process of finalising the modalities for the same.
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The exhaustive exercise is being done after the J&K Chief Secretary (CS) Dr Arun Kumar Mehta in April this year said the Jammu and Kashmir will fully implement the National Education Policy (NEP-2020) from the current academic session and will also move to a uniform academic calendar which in turn will be synchronised to the national academic calendar.
In this regard, the SED had constituted a high level committee to suggest modus-operandi for shifting the November session of exams to March from the current academic session.
“The government has already taken a decision to shift the academic session to March. The committee was only tasked to suggest the ways and means on how to go about it,” one of the committee members who wished anonymity said.
The committee however has enlisted the concerns raised in the past as well as during the previous regimes which had initiated a process for shifting to the March session of exams. The initiatives never materialised because of the geographical disadvantage of some areas in Kashmir and also some winter zones of Jammu.
The previous PDP-led coalition government had decided to shift the academic session to March but the decision was shelved because of the tedious topography of several snow-bound areas which remain cut off for four to six months.
. The SED in 2018 had constituted an expert committee to suggest measures and modus-operandi on the basis of which the government would make an official announcement for shifting exams to March.
The private schools’ body had also extended its support to the government on the decision to shift the exam session from November to March.
The present committee has however suggested a certain mechanism by which the Government can shift the academic session to March while considering the weather and climatic conditions of snow-bound inaccessible areas.
These areas include Keran, Machill, Karnah, Gurez in Kashmir besides some areas of winter zones of Jammu division which remain cut off from Valley for several months.
“Whatever the options we could explore, we have mentioned them in our report and submitted it to the government for further course of action,” the committee member said.
It is obvious that neither the government nor the committee can ignore the topography of some snow bound areas but it is also mandatory for the government to come out with some out of box solution to adopt the uniform academic calendar.
“We enlisted concerns raised by the stakeholders in the past on account of geographical conditions of certain areas,” he said. But the government has been given the choice of taking few measures by which it can successfully shift the academic session to March, the member said. One of the options is to go ahead with the exams in March month in plains while the exams in snow-bound areas can be conducted a month later.
“Given the determination and efforts of the government, there is no option to say no to March session and it is also true that only 10 to 15 percent areas are snowbound which has raised concerns over shifting of the academic session to March,” the committee member said. The committee report is under consideration before the government.
“There has to be some small variations in it. If the government can facilitate the students and the exam conducting body then we can go ahead with the March session of exams even in tough situations,” the committee member said.
While suggesting an operational mechanism for shifting to the March session of exams, the committee has also laid stress on ensuring adequate number of working days in an academic session citing the academic losses faced by the students during the past two years.
. While the government is indecisive over shifting to March session, the students have been left in a dilemma, even as the parents are equally anxious.
The students and the parents are anxiously waiting for the government to clear the air on the issue as HED has already adopted the National Academic Calendar.
“We cannot compare Higher Education with School Education as we have only 150 degree colleges across J&K and there are 28930 schools with an enrollment of 24.46 lakh students,” the committee member said. It Colleges are located at specific locations while the schools are established in cities, towns, villages and far off areas as well and it is indeed a herculean task for the SED to ensure smooth transition from November session to March session of examination.
The Principal Secretary SED Bishwajit Kumar Singh earlier said the decision about shifting to the March session of Board examination will be taken soon as the deliberations are going on in the department. However nothing has been finalised yet.
He said the implementation of NEP-2020 was a continuous process and many components of the policy have been implemented in J&K as well. It is believed that the government is holding deliberations over shifting to March session and the final decision on shifting academic session in Kashmir schools is expected soon as the department is in the process of finalising modus-operandi.
While the government is yet to take the final call on shifting the academic session, it has however incorporated other components of the NEP-2020 in the J&K’s education sector.
The department is focusing on competency based learning in which each DIET (District Institute of Education and Training) is generating at least five competency based questions in each subject for students through online and offline mode every month.
It is helping the students for better understanding of concepts and better capability to apply those concepts in real situations. The initiative aims to facilitate students to shift from rote to conceptual based learning.
The SED has established pre-primary classes in around 9000 Primary Schools with Kindergarten in around 2700 schools under Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) initiative which is one of the major components of the NEP-2020.
Also, 2500 additional pre-primary schools are under conversion to KG and Aganwadi is also being given hand holding in other areas by the SED.
As envisioned under NEP-2020, Vocational Education is being introduced in classes from 6th to 8th from the current academic session.
. Around 9643 schools having 6th to 8th classes have been mapped with adjoining High and Higher Secondary schools where students will get knowledge about basic life skills like carpentry, plumbing, home furnishings on Bag-less days.
The SED will also hold job fairs for pass out students in August this year for ensuring their employability. These initiatives reveal that the SED is not lagging behind in implementation of the NEP-2020 and adopting the components in the academics and the functioning of the schools.
To cap it off, while the department has already adopted certain components of the NEP-2020 it becomes imperative for the officials at the helm of affairs to clear the uncertainty and chaos among the students and make the official announcement about shifting the academic session to March.
In absence of such clarity, it is the student community which is going to suffer the most. This suffering will directly impact the government’s goal of translating the year 2022 as the Year of Academic Transformation.
The SED must come clear on this serious issue so that students, who have already borne the brunt of Covid-19 pandemic, do not suffer more on account of any further academic disruptions. Sooner the final call is taken, better it is for all the stake holders
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