Kashmir Indepth

Private schools in Kashmir hold annual exams, but classrooms remain mostly empty

Azaan Javeed 

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Srinagar: Private schools in Kashmir — some of which started holding annual examinations for Classes I to V from this week — recorded poor turnout of students Tuesday.

The move to hold the annual examinations was aimed at bringing children back to schools at a time when the Valley is in the midst of a civil shutdown against the Modi government’s August 5 decision to scrap J&K’s special status and bifurcate it into two union territories.
The situation in primary government schools also remained the same as students continued to stay away. A very small fraction of students, however, turned up at government higher secondary schools to finish laboratory work as exams for Classes X and XII are starting from 29 October and 30 October, respectively.

The J&K Board of School Education (JKBOSE) conducts exams for Classes X and XII for both the private and government schools. For the rest of the classes, the schools conduct the exams themselves. But poor student attendance has left education officials worried about conducting the board exams.
Parents still worried about security situation
After the scrapping of Article 370, schools and colleges were shut down in the wake of a massive security clampdown. They reopened after nearly three weeks in phases. The attendance of students has, however, remained dismal, with parents concerned about the safety of their children.

Several parents ThePrint spoke to said that even though the government had lifted restrictions and maintained that normalcy has returned, they were apprehensive about the security situation and, therefore, barred their children from attending school.

This prompted several schools to publish advertisements in local newspapers, asking students to collect assignments, which were introduced to make up for the loss of classwork. The students or their parents were supposed to collect the assignments and then submit them to the schools after their completion.
Parents were, however, not happy as they said assignments could not possibly make up for the loss of learning in a classroom.
‘Schools should have promoted the students’
“The management of the school where my daughter is studying informed us that the exams are going to take place. We were expecting that the exams will happen but given the situation, the school administration should have promoted the students,” said Shahnawaz Ahmed, who had come to drop his son studying in Class I to his school.

Manzoor Shafi, another parent, told ThePrint that it was difficult for his daughter to sit for the exams after not attending school for over two months.

“It has been more than two-and-a-half months that my daughter has not been to school. It is difficult for her to stay at home for such a long time and then suddenly appear for the exams,” Shafi, whose daughter studies in Class I at a school in civil lines area of Srinagar, said.

A teacher of a private school, which is conducting exams, said they would take a decision on the absentees after considering the situation on the ground. “We understand that the situation is still not 100 per cent normal,” he said.

Parents want syllabus be reduced
A government official said they are concerned about conducting the board exams as there are several issues that need to be addressed.

“There are many issues, for example transportation. With public transport off the roads, we are concerned about how parents will bring the students. The state administration is in talks with management of various schools to ensure some sort of transportation is arranged on exam days,” the official added.

For the parents, however, transportation is not the only concern. There is the problem of the location of examination centers, security after reaching the centres and, most importantly, the syllabus.

According to a senior official from the Directorate of School Education (DSE), Kashmir, nearly 40 per cent of the syllabi was left to be completed when the clampdown started.

Parents said the schools, despite losses of classwork, did not reduce the syllabi.

“We were expecting a reduction in the syllabus. Students did not study the entire syllabus and even though assignments were given, the losses of classwork cannot be compensated by writing assignments at home. This will affect the marks of children. But is there anyone who would listen to our concerns,” asked Abbad Ahmed, whose son studies in Class X.

According to a state administration source, JKBOSE had asked the education department that the syllabi be reduced to help students clear exams.

The Print

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