By : Syed Rizwan Geelani
Recently the J&K government changed the academic session of schools in the Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division. After holding thorough deliberations with experts, academicians and officers, the government ordered shifting of annual examinations of all classes including classes 10th to 12th in March 2023, after the schools reopen post 75 days of winter vacation.
The decision was taken to sync the academic calendar of J&K with the National Academic Calendar. Notably, Jammu and Kashmir had the March session till 1974-75 which was however changed post 1975. No doubt the uniformity in the academic calendar is necessary keeping in view the various aspects of education but it has its other aspects as well, which are not talked about much.
While the government is gearing up to hold the annual 2022 examination in March 2023, the issue is caught in official wrangles as well. While a good lot of academics had earlier opposed the government decision of shifting the session to March, other stakeholders were in favour of the decision. But it is also the fact that the student community which is the main stakeholders of the School Education Department (SED) was not taken on board.
Now with the change in the session, some practical difficulties are likely to create impediments in smooth implementation of the March session of examination in J&K. It is a fact that the summer zones of Jammu were already following the March session however it will be a new experience in Kashmir and winter zones of Jammu.
As per the order, the government has decided that the Annual examination will be held in mid-March in plain areas while the exams in snow bound areas will be held in mid-April following the announcement of results in June for all the areas simultaneously.
Now the government as well as J&K Board of School Education (BOSE) is gearing up for holding the annual examinations in March 2023. There are apprehensions of some major challenges to be faced by the government in implementing the decision.
One major challenge is whether the JKBOSE will be able to notify the same date sheet for the students of summer zones of Jammu and Kashmir including winter zones of Jammu. Citing the past experiences, the officials at the helm of affairs believe that it will be difficult to have a common date sheet across J&K because of different weather conditions.
As we have seen in the past, at times the winter season prolongs till March ending or April because of untimely snowfall which has often resulted in postponement of all JK Board exams in Kashmir and winter zones of Jammu. On the other hand, there are no apprehensions of such weather challenges in Jammu summer zones.
“Notifying a common date sheet for summer zones of Jammu and Kashmir is a challenge because you can never predict when you will have to postpone the exams because of any inclement weather conditions in Kashmir but in Jammu we do not have such problems,” a top official says. Any change in the weather conditions will prompt the Board to postpone the exam in Kashmir and it will also result in postponement of the exams in Jammu, just because of having the same exam calendar.
“At times we make announcements for postponement of exams at the 11th hour and there are several technical problems involved in it as May be people in Jammu will oppose the decision to postpone the exams,” the official said. And if students in Jammu will go ahead with the examination on the scheduled date, all the question papers and other stationery distributed to exam centres in Kashmir will go to waste.
“And it will be problematic to frame a new question paper within a short span of time, get it printed and send it to the exam centres across the Valley,” the official said. In view of the apprehensions of such challenges, the JK Board is these days busy in deciding the best possible solution for it. Some are in favour of having different date sheets while some officials are in favour of having a single date sheet across J&K.
So, in such cases, change in the academic calendar has very serious implications which somehow have been ignored by the authorities. Besides the apprehensions of challenges in conducting smooth exams, there is another apprehension of disruption in academics in schools while the evaluation process of the answer scripts will be started by the JK Board.
Ideally, the exams were held in November month and the teachers (evaluators) deputed from schools would evaluate the answer scripts during the winter break. But, following the change in session, once the teachers will be deputed for evaluation of answer scripts, it is likely to leave schools teacher deficient which will ultimately result in academic disruptions in schools.
On an average more than 500 teachers are deputed for evaluation of answer scripts of the students. Not only this, the evaluators will be hired for re-evaluation of answers scripts as well. Besides the conduct of examinations, there is every apprehension that shifting of session to March will reduce the number of working days in schools in view of the prolonged winter in the Valley.
In Kashmir we have often witnessed early onset of winter which later prolongs till March ending, and in case of such weather conditions, the working days in schools will be reduced in the Valley and also reduce the instructional time needed for the transaction of new curriculum.
Prior to 1974 -1975 schools in the Kashmir division including the winter zone areas of the Jammu would start their academic session in March and the schools would run classes till the third week of December and would later close for about 75 days of winter vacation and later reopen in March.
The academicians say that during that time the schools would only get 100 to 120 working days in school. The officials believe that the academic session will be reduced to five to six months unlike previous years, for higher classes. After the culmination of exams in April, the classes for higher classes will commence in June-July till November-December only.
Now that the government has again shifted to the March session, the academicians are apprehensive of losing the working days. Recently the director school education Kashmir stated that the classwork in schools will continue till the last week of December, provided weather conditions remain favourable.
But given the conditions of the schools it is really a challenge for the government to even continue the class work in early December. The authorities concerned must immediately address all the possible difficulties and impediments which may arise in the way of smooth implementation of the March session.
Practical difficulties have to be plugged in advance to avert any chaos before or during the conduct of simultaneous exams in Jammu, and Kashmir, in March 2023. Deliberations among all the concerned departments including the BOSE must begin without any delay so that viable and timely solutions are explored.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.