Education and social character of Jammu

Rajeev Kumar Nagotra
For our education policy to bring about a transformation in our social character, it has to move beyond its oft-highlighted focus on literacy and skill development. It is of academic as well as general interest to examine as to how, if at all, the high literacy rates of Jammu district have influenced its social outlook. A wide angled view of two striking characteristics of Jammu –  the impressive literacy rate and the unenviable crime rate – reveals that either the education policy followed hitherto has its focus misplaced or its fruits will take another 70 years to trickle down to the ground level. The latter seems to be the less likely case because 70 years is quite some time for any policy to fructify for that matter. So, the questions we ask here are these – Is there a correlation between the rising crime rate and the robust literacy rate of Jammu district? If there is one, then what are our policymakers doing to plug the gaps in our current educational framework? If there is none, then when will we have a policy that covers, identifies and eradicates the criminality from our social conscience?
The Jammu district has an overall literacy rate of 83.45% (89.08% male literacy and 77.13% female literacy) – the highest in the state and notches above the national average of 74% according to the census 2011. And, we also have the dubious distinction of having the highest crime rate in the state – 4419 cases registered in the year 2014. In comparison, the literacy rate of Srinagar district is 69.41% (76.25% male literacy and 61.85% female literacy) and the number of criminal cases was 2877 (in the year 2014). What makes the comparison even more shameful for Jammu is that the Srinagar records also include the terrorism-related crimes of 150 odd militants always active in the valley apart from the crimes committed by the civilians. If the crime data for the year 2009 is treated as an outlier and put aside, the average change in Srinagar’s crime rate has been an annual decrease of 2.6% over the past ten years. In contrast, the same for Jammu has been an annual increase of 4%. These numbers, therefore, tend to neutralize the strides we have been making on the education front and belie the claims that Jammu is a more peaceful region compared to the valley. Also these records indicate that our rather high literacy rate is little more than a lifeless statistical number.
The fundamental objective of an education system is to humanize and civilize the society and prod it towards the higher pursuits, the pursuits that can uplift the collective conscience of humanity and improve the global thought. Instead, as highlighted above, our focus has been confined to issues like literacy and vocational training. Not that the ability to read or write, to run a machine, to treat a patient, to count the numbers or to code a computer is less important. Not that the literacy and skill development should not be a part of our education. Indeed it should be, but, it should be just that – a part of the education system. It should not be the be-all and end-all of the system. The race to secure a certificate, a diploma or a degree has simply obscured the real motive of the process of education. No surprise then that we are seeing rampant corruption in politics, judiciary, bureaucracy, health services, police and, most worryingly of all, in the field of education. If a society has incompetent, ill trained and unmotivated teachers having fake degrees serving in the schools, there is little hope of a shift from the status quo and a departure from the vicious circle. Our current education infrastructure fails to instill moral values and ethical conduct into the hearts of the students. Therefore, they end up entering the professional world with fine academic credentials but diminishing morality. Unfortunately our so called competent authorities such as the State SSB and the PSC cannot care less. Their examination system is not designed to ascertain the character or attitude of an applicant. They can only manage an objective comparison of the numbers scored. And, this is how people of different intellectual levels ranging from brilliant to bleak get selected for a given position.
The case of one Rehbar-e-Taleem candidate failing to write the essay on cow and do primary level mathematics despite securing 82% marks in his 10+2 exam is very well known now. Less known, however, is another case where a serving HOD in a private engineering college in Satwari area assaulted one of his faculty with a chair and left his face severely bruised. The poor victim left the college humiliated and disappointed whereas the HOD continued to keep his job despite a criminal case against him in the court. What kind of leadership, academic or moral, are such people going to provide to our highly impressionable young boys and girls? What kind of role models is this education system producing? The rudder of our future lies in the hands of people who are literate and possess fancy degrees but are morally and intellectually uninspiring. In the developed countries where accountability is integral to the social character, young graduates volunteer for years together serving as teachers without seeking any remuneration just in order to cultivate the right aptitude, fine tune their conduct and learn the craft of effective delivery in a classroom. Many a time, the selection process of a school teacher is more rigorous than that of a university professor. After checking and approving a prospective candidate’s academic credentials and criminal background, he is invited for non-professional interactions such as a lunch or a tea break where his demeanor is thoroughly scanned in a subtle manner. The candidate is often given a tour of the school and challenged to manage a live situation on the campus. It is only after passing such grilling tests that he gets to serve in a school. In contrast, the yardstick that we adopt here while selecting a so called Rehbar-e-Taleem is his level of literacy and his ability to remember answers! No wonder that this Rehbar then drags his entire class of students to the private tuition centers where he mints more money for the same amount of teaching. Unfortunately, by this time, he has already lost the authority to deliver a lecture on character building, professional accountability, peaceful coexistence, tolerance and morality. The current ministry of education has taken two steps in the right direction – (a) banning the private tuitions by the government teachers and (b) conducting a screening test for the ReTs. Indeed if a government teacher is, in general, paid more than a private academy teacher, he has no reason to get into tuitions. Moreover he must be taken to task when the performance of his school is poor in comparison to the private schools of the same area. As for the screening test, this is a bare minimum requirement for the selection of a teacher. How can a stay on this step be defended in the court of law? In fact, if the minimum qualification required of an ReT is 10+2, the syllabus of this test must not be confined to that of VIII grade. Nor should the qualifying percentage be less than 75%. If an ReT barely manages to score 55% or 60% in this exam, and the department proudly retains him, we are holding the bar too low for those who he goes back to teach. Therefore, let us not dilute our expectations of those who opt for this most noble and important profession.
The competence as well as austerity of our teaching fraternity is all the more vital because the parents’ personal involvement in a child’s holistic education (which is obviously more than mere literacy) is fast declining. The literacy and skill driven education system has enabled them to secure a job each and the lure of money has proved to be more pressing than the needs of their child. They would rather spend huge sums of money on their ward’s schooling, tuitions, conveyance, gadgets and the visits to the malls than spare time for him at home or in a playground to nurture him emotionally and intellectually. The same education system is in many ways responsible for the culture of nuclear families that has deprived the children of the valuable mentoring they could have otherwise received from their grandparents. An unattended and bruised childhood is a breeding ground for a criminal and disturbed mindset. The institution of family is in shambles in the developed world too but their education system is more than making up for that failure and the children are assiduously trained to take pride in abiding by the law. In our society, on the contrary, people love to take pride in breaking the law. Such is our upbringing that we all act in the same unbecoming manner while driving on the road or while waiting in a queue, we all treat our juniors/subordinates rudely, we all deny an equal footing to someone who holds a different opinion or a different status, we all discriminate on the basis of gender, race, caste, language, region and religion, we all seek undue favours, we all abuse our natural and public resources and we all have no control over our temperaments and temptations. This is the genesis of crime. So, what good is this half baked policy of education that guarantees financial security as well as technological advancement but fails to ensure a harmonious living? G. B. Shaw admonished: “Now that we have learned to fly in the sky like birds and dive in the sea like fish, only one thing remains – to learn to live on earth like humans”. Certainly, our literacy rates are not representative of our social character and our education policy will, therefore, have to look beyond this index. The parents and the community have a large role to play in this process, but the role of teachers is totally uncompromisable. After all even a child born to criminal parents can become a healthy and liberated citizen if he enters a classroom and meets a noble teacher.


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