On August 5, 2019, India witnessed a landmark decision that was taken by the Narendra Modi led government at the centre. Article 370, which rendered a special status to the state and rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, was revoked. The announcement of this decision was followed by a complete security lock-down of the Kashmir valley, and house arrest for several political leaders of the region.
This entailed a mixed bag of reactions coming from people across the globe. What remains to be seen are the changes abrogation of article 370 will bring to this former state, now a Union Territory. In this article, we intend to analyze the effects it would possibly have on the entire educational landscape of this place and the Kashmiri students.
Article 370, which rendered a special status to the state and rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, was revoked.
First and foremost, Right to Education or RTE was not valid in Jammu & Kashmir, in spite of being a fundamental right under the Indian constitution(Article 21-A). Article 370 was deemed to be partially responsible for it because it only allowed a process under which the President of the country could pass an enabling order, thus consequently, the state legislature would take the call. For years it had been a struggle to make RTE a fundamental right in J&K but with the abrogation of article 370, the Indian constitution will be applicable in J&K as well as Ladakh, which fundamentally means that children up to the age of fourteen will now have the right to pursue free education in the UTs.
The state of government schools in J&K is quite substandard because of various reasons. Apart from the social and political unrest in the region, there is a severe dearth of teaching staff in these institutions, wherein you would find only 2-3 teachers in a primary school that has 5 classes with an enrollment of 150 or more on an average. It implies that these teachers are required to teach 25-30 periods per day. Practically, it is next to impossible for the teachers to do it. Article 35A, a part of 370, forbade outsiders from permanently settling, buying land, holding local government jobs or winning education scholarships in the region. As the vacancies for government teachers in J&K and Ladakh can now be filled by qualified people from other states of the country, the quality of education imparted at these establishments is expected to improve significantly. As the law would now permit people from other states to work and settle in the newly formed two UTs, it will also facilitate a multicultural environment in these areas, which will, in turn, push the cultural diversity in classrooms. Diversity among students directly influences their performance. Studies reveal that students work better in a diverse setting, allowing them to concentrate and push themselves ahead when there are people of other backgrounds working together.
For years it had been a struggle to make RTE a fundamental right in J&K but with the abrogation of article 370, the Indian constitution will be applicable in J&K as well as Ladakh, which fundamentally means that children up to the age of fourteen will now have the right to pursue free education in the UTs.
To find better options for higher education, Kashmiri youth had to migrate to other metropolitan cities. They had to leave their home and take admission in colleges located in other states to pursue higher education. Due to ill-devised educational policies and lack of developmental programs for the sector in the state, the colleges in Jammu & Kashmir are not at par with those of the other states. The government at the centre, which has gained greater administrative and legislative power in both J&K and Ladakh, has made its intention of opening up new avenues of imparting quality education to the youth in the UTs like IIMs, IITs and NITs quite clear. The establishments would enhance the quality of education in the UTs remarkably.
Quite recently, Mukesh Ambani, chairman of the Reliance Industries Limited said that he would soon come up with investment plans for Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as a part of their developmental initiatives. Similarly, various other corporate houses such as Amul, Lemon Tree, Apollo, Tata Sons, etc. have expressed their interest in investing in J&K, which could be a turning point for the Kashmiri students and the education sector in general. If these corporates invest in the two UTs, it will generate thousands of jobs for the Kashmiri students.
Creating job opportunities for Kashmiri students is the need of the hour because even a Masters degree doesn’t guarantee them a job. Educational degrees don’t fetch Kashmiri students good jobs because there aren’t many in the region.
As the employment ratio in the region increases, it will automatically draw a lot of attention to making the education system a driver of employability among the Kashmiri youth. Reservation for minorities, which would now be applicable in J&K and Ladakh, could go a long way in taking the literacy rate of the UTs a notch up.
Although, there seem to be a whole lot of positive upshots of abrogation of Article 370 there are several other factors that would be highly influential in defining the future of education and Kashmiri students in the region. One of them is how will the people of Kashmir take this decision and whether or not they would be willing to align themselves with the new regime in this part of the country. If they do not take it well, the possible and projected beneficial aspects of revocation of article 370 could remain far-fetched. Last but not least, the government needs to make sure that this opportunity is utilized by the policymakers and administrative authorities most compellingly.