A visionary educationist

Yoginder Kaul
Tyndale Biscoe left an indelible mark for his contribution in the field of education since late nineteenth century in Kashmir valley. The Church Missionary Society founded a school at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar in 1880 which later got a chain of schools established in the poor localities of Srinagar and Anantnag to impart quality education then. C.E. Tyndale Biscoe from Britain was detailed around 1890 to look after missionary work and the schools. The education imparted was mostly in oriental languages in Sanskrit and Persian then. Mr. Biscoe gave a fillip to it after analyzing the overall socio-economic condition of the students besides reading and writing, including modern Sciences, Geography inculcating in them the human values and sensitivity to surroundings. Certain traits had got ingrained in the social set-up in Kashmir because of continuous suppression by foreign invaders which had made local youth timid with no modification in their attitude and behavior which had caused enormous damage to their outlook that had hampered progress and development of children. This entire society in land locked valley had become backward and human assets not properly taken care of.Today Biscoe’s glorious services are recalled who gave more thrust to educate masses than missionary work and laid a path which was followed by his successors.
A big challenge was taken up by Biscoe,then Head of the Institution who had deep sense of bringing up local children who had become inactive, lazy to outside changes which were taking place in world then. There was no concept of games which he thought could bring a visible attitudinal change among the students. The students would generally come to school in “Pherans” an overall and wearing wooden clogs in their feet as no school uniform was then prescribed.He introduced initially a game of Football , at first the boys were hesitant to touch football believing it to be unholy but on a second warning whistle , few boys touched the ball and thereafter all “Pherans” and wooden clogs were flying in air with excitement, chasing the ball. This concept of team spirit and physical activity brought a holistic change in their physical bearing and camaraderie.
Few sections of society who were afflicted with skin and chest diseases in valley those days were subjected to social isolation and neglect. He made students to understand their miseries and advised them to improve their personal hygiene and prescribed certain do’s and don’ts and made students to empathize with them, lend helping hand by visiting them to make them feel a part of them, that brought cheer and joy to their lot. A small contribution by way of collecting poor fund to meet their bare immediate needs was encouraged .The cruelty to animals was largely seen, being pack animals to carry loads on long distances often sustained injuries and were sick. They were offered medicine, dressing, caring and compassion. Smoking was admonished and critically observed to prevent its spread.
There were frequent fires in Srinagar city because of building material consisting mainly of wood with thatched roofs of birchbark covering which was highly vulnerable to minor spark .This would result in total devastation of the area causing enormous material and economic loss. Often neighbours and passersby’s would act as a mute spectator cursing their luck and attributing it to the result of their sins committed. They never thought of extinguishing fire by jointly making efforts with the available water. He introduced water pump and made students to learn how to put off fire in case of emergency in the school vicinity. He established long vertical polished polls to descend from upper floors to the ground within few seconds on a sound of bugle in school. This improved their reflexes, to assemble and disperse in shortest time to overcome laziness and sloth and minimize response time in any unforeseen eventuality.
Valley and Srinagar being a city on the bank of River Jhelum had a number of water bodies, streams and lake adjoining it. Generallylow-lying area oftenwere prone to floods causing enormous casuality and physical loss annually. He introduced swimming a compulsory subject for both teachers as well as students. Annual Dal Cross swim and recross was a regular feature, a distance of three and half mile and seven miles respectively at a stretch, besides cross country run to Shankracharya hill, gymnastics, crossing obstacles, cycling, making human Pyramids etc. was more a fun to be enjoyed to keep body and mind fit.
As an adventure exercise he took the boys for long route trekking to see and familiarize with natural beauty to sanitize them about local conditions in interiors of valley to see flora and fauna of the area which was documented. A number of glaciers, mountain peaks, water bodies above snow-line were discovered in valley which nature has bestowed it. As curiosity developed among students and teachers a few ofthem later became famous keen bird watchers, trekkers, skiers, mountaineers besides inculcating in them the sense of preservation and maintaining ecosystem.
Special classes with regard to awareness of world affairs, focusing on latestnews/events and praying for peace was a routine. The institution got encouragement and support from the then state ruling dispensation and thereafter. Montessori way of teaching to toddlers, skill development in using available raw material of vicker , carpentry etc. was introduced in subsequent years to make students multitalented to earn their livelihood if they would like to carry it further.
Not lagging behind in girl education Madam Mallinson a part of Biscoe institution, was quite active during those days who laid emphasis on girl education as an important input in elevating the society and empowering them as they had negligible role then. She established schools for girls, initiated and motivated the parents to send their daughters to school to improve their quality of life which was simple drudgery then.
The concept of Biscoe was ‘In all things Be Men”, as only reading and writing could not improve quality of education till human traits in a society is aroused which can make them live with dignity and help others. This led to emancipation,sense of empowerment and empathy among students who came across Biscoe’s way of education and latter contributed significantly to the society. The students of the school most of them later became successful professionals, Teachers, administrators,eminent socialworkers, sports personnel’s etc. His vision was a challenge toinbuilt social dogmas whichprevailed and had hindered hidden potential among youth which needed a spark, to unlock and perform.Those traits got inbuilt subsequently in them as service before self and the traditions survives.
People of Kashmir owe a lot to Biscoe’s efforts in modernizing education, chiseling and grooming perfect human assets among teachers and students of the institution. The respect for teachers got enhanced who were a team of devoted, dedicated lot, who upheld the motto of “In All Things Be Men”. Mr. Biscoe mentioned in his memoirs “Kashmir in Sunlight and Shade” about hisfavorite teacher, Pandit Shanker Koul.” What is known to Shanker is worth knowing” who was by choicea teacher though being a graduate of that era. The selected teachers were not only selected on the basis of academic qualification but other attributes of a social reformer were considered, if fulfilled, he had a chance to serve the institution. Generally old boys as teachers were preferred, who would shape students as per the Biscoe method and carry forward mission in letter and spirit.
Today there is mushroom growth of education as a industry with English as medium in every nook and corner of our state and most of them flourishing. They have become more as corporate houses as commercial ventures. Very few can be named to have risen to that level, but majority of them have pure academic role not anticipating the present needs of human touch as empathy for first generation literates,under privileged, physically challenged and other marginal sections of the society. The crime rate among children is on rise with rampant intolerance, impatience, road rage, eve teasing, bullying, drug abuse, smoking,depression, obstinacy, pollution, stunt biking, littering and many more evils are visible. Children spent most of the time on computer in smart class rooms which made them to have only virtual society, least regard of human sensitivity with access to all latest gadgets in this cut throat competition era. Our education to contribute towards harmony and need for strengthening values of democracy and secular way of coexistence needs a big push for participative activity. Individually today children have advanced intellectually but as a group they are far away from nature and society as a cohesive group.
Todays children are Torchbearer of our future, whose responsibility is further to refine our society to get us out of present issues afflicting us. That will improve our gross human productivity that needs selfless service, leadership qualities, Role Model Teachers of Mr. Biscoes vision, which will bear future shocks. It will be in true sense, Right to Education that needs spread with urge to uphold our cultural values, laying strong basic foundation to addressour current issues. Teachers and Educational Institutes have toplay a great role todayand lead us from front in present cyber world.