As the higher education setup gradually returns to offline mode, Director Education, Kashmir Tasaduq Hussein talks about the challenges the education department has faced over the past two years
THE LIFE OF CASHMERE (KL): Kashmir is seeing a wave of Covid19 again, although not alarming, but if it accelerates it could be dangerous. So what are the challenges you face?
TASADUQ HUSSAIN (TS): It has been two years since our children have been to school physically, except for two weeks in March. In every developed or developing country, education is a very important aspect and for this we take many initiatives to stay in touch with children. We started giving lessons in real time using the Zoom app, but the main issue we faced was that kids who only had one smartphone at home couldn’t keep up. For this, we set up a system of deferred mechanism called LMS through which we could record the lessons and give the students as well as the teachers the full freedom to access the information through it.
The second problem was the follow-up of the children. We didn’t know if the child was actually there or if he had just joined the class and left. We have therefore set up monitoring systems for both the teachers and the school head. Not only for the students, we have implemented this system to keep an eye on the teachers as well. And it worked. We had this system in place at the zone and district level as well. During this period, we received many complaints from teachers who did not join classes. But with this LMS system, it was a great convenience for us because every evening we would check if the education system was going well and the delayed classes were also helping the children.
We have six Lakh children studying in public schools and nearly 12 Lakh children studying in private schools across Kashmir. And with the help of LMS, we found that 40% of those kids didn’t have phones or the internet to start with. To remedy this, we have launched radios and teleclasses. We have started recording lessons and uploading them daily for grades 5 to 12. We used to record four lectures a day. And by the grace of God, we’ve completed almost 90 percent of the total program.
But the main problem was the practical work that we couldn’t do online, especially for the tenth and twelfth kids. To address this, we started running offline courses with 50% attendance. With this, we bridged the educational gap that was between teachers and students and gave students the opportunity to receive their education properly.
But I would like to say officially that the online courses do not have as much impact as the physical mode of teaching.
KL: When children started owning smartphones, cases of phone abuse and eye diseases arose. Kashmir has vast expanses of land and parks, have you ever considered giving outdoor lessons to children?
E: This is a real problem. We see children abusing these devices. For this, we urged parents to keep an eye on them all the time when using certain gadgets. It is a responsibility that they will have to assume.
Second, a young girl tweeted about the eye issues she was facing while attending so many online classes. We kept 3 to 4 lessons a day so that these children do not tire their eyes by staring at their devices all day.
When the number of Covid19 started to drop, we started a community and outdoor classes and these are going really well. We have set up teams to reach the outskirts of Kashmir to teach children outdoors. Although rural areas are the best places for community courts because of the open spaces, this has yet to be done in densely populated urban areas.
KL: What are your plans for holding the 10th and 12th jury exams?
E: The education department and the School Education Council held a meeting about this and we decided to go for the offline exam mode with a 30% reduction in the program in the month of November for which Council authorities are preparing. If people follow the proper protocols for Covid19 and somehow it stays at a lower rate then inchallah we will perform them in offline mode following all SOPs.
KL: There is a lot of confusion about the new education policy in Kashmir. Can you kindly explain this policy?
E: The new education policy called NEP2020 was released last year and has a timeline until 2030. The main objective of this policy is to prepare children up to 3 years old to enter the mode. online study.
Second, it has a continuous evaluation system.
Thirdly, we strive to make the whole educational process joyful, because without it there will be no interest in arousing the interest of the younger generation.
With this, we have focused on self-assessments, teacher training, innovation and communication. It is a good document overall and we hope to implement it in a timely manner.
KL: Will this new policy affect the traditional way of entering schools at the right age?
E: No, it’s a process. We insist on how we are going to prepare these children in three classes, pre-kindergarten, LKG and UKG, and until a child reaches the first class he will be six years old, so no change in the traditional way to learn.
KL: Do you need a lot of infrastructure and human resources to add three classes before the first primary?
E: We had no notion of pre-primary. So we started to create online resource people in the field of early childhood. This training is in the final phase. We will start next year and admissions will be at the age of three. We have also created additional classrooms. Right now we already have 2,000 classrooms and we are creating 5,000 more this year.
KL: Your department is quite populated. Could there be a lot of human resource issues?
E: Our people, despite the pressure, are doing a great job. On the one hand, they are faced with constant inspections, on the other hand, all the problems related to the pandemic, they also fought, so they do an exceptional job.
The main concern for them was salary increases and promotions. We have solved the salary issue and with the help of our Principal Secretary, promotions are also given to deserving candidates. About 1,100 people have been promoted so far.
About 50 percent of schools and educational institutions were beheaded and let me note that our new principal secretary worked very hard to get promotions and motivate workers for all the good work.
(Sarmad Dev processed the interview)