Of late, many educational institutions in Kashmir are switching over from the J&K Board of School Education (BOSE) to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in search of quality education. Though some believe that the switchover is to “saffronise education in Kashmir” and to mint quick bucks, there are many who argue that BOSE has failed to update itself with the changing times. As many outside school franchises like Delhi Public School and GD Goenka Public School have given the Valley-based schools a run for their money, it is argued that the switchover was inevitable.
One of the respondents in this debate says that affiliating with the CBSE was the need of the hour so that the Kashmiri students could compete at all-India level examinations. On the other hand, a former BOSE official says that India’s Human Resources Development ministry wants to have a direct control over the educational institutions in Kashmir “to fulfil the designs of the RSS,” the alma mater of the ruling BJP.
Indeed, the BOSE has many shortcomings that it has miserably failed to do away with. Those who want to reform it are given the boot and transferred to some remote place of Kashmir division. Many believe that the BOSE is infested with corrupt practices to such an extent that it is beyond reform. The vicious circle, they argue, is beyond anybody’s control. The biggest hindrance in its reform, some say, has been the reason for BOSE’s outright denial of third-party evaluation.
At the same time, though, the argument that the CBSE is only to impart quality education in the Valley needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. We have seen how the apartheid regime in South Africa used education as a tool of oppression rather than liberation. The oligarchic system always employs education as a tool of oppression. That is what Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and theorist of critical pedagogy, wants to convey when he says that “the interests of the oppressors lie in changing the consciousness of the oppressed, not the situation which oppresses them.”
In July last year, an RSS-affiliated educational institute sent the National Council for Education and Research Training (NCERT) a five-page list of recommendations on how to make school textbooks less “biased” and more “inspiring”. One of the demands in the list was to remove a sentence from the textbooks about the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, which says “nearly 2,000 Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002.” That the BJP government in New Delhi has no such designs for Kashmir is tantamount to living in a fool’s paradise. Having said that, Kashmiri students can’t be denied quality education, no matter when and where they find it. Therefore, the burden lies on the shoulders of the educationists to strike a balance: providing a platform for quality education as well as foiling any sinister move aimed at “saffronisation of the education.”
Let’s go to the experts:
M Y Wani
Chairman, Green Valley Educational Institute, Srinagar
Affiliating with the CBSE is the need of the hour for Kashmiri schools. We must not lag behind other institutions in imparting quality education to our children through this board. Though the curriculum and books are the same in both the BOSE and the CBSE, the examination pattern is altogether different that compels both the teacher community as well as the students to work hard for the national level exams.
Our school felt the need to affiliate with the CBSE and no one should have any problem with our decision. We are doing it for the betterment of our students. You need to realise that up to Class 7, we have a set pattern for our students. And when they sit in board examinations in their 8th grade, they find the pattern totally different from their previous classes. This hampers their educational growth. That is why we switched over to the CBSE to make the educational journey of our children smooth from day one of their school.
All parents desire that their children qualify NEET, JEE and other competitive exams. We are sure that our job will be easy after switching over to the CBSE pattern.
There is a misconception that the schools opting for the CBSE have full independence to do whatever they want to do, with no restrictions from the state. This isn’t true. Even after affiliating with the CBSE, we still come under J&K’s educational setup.
It is true, however, that the CBSE board is a bit costlier than the local board. The reason for this is that the schools have to pay a certain amount of fee to the board for the affiliation. That is why the extra charge.
Dr Sheikh Bashir Ahmad
Throughout India, all schools, whether affiliated with state boards or the CBSE, follow the recommendations made in the National Curriculum Framework-2005. The syllabus and textbooks based on it are being used by all the CBSE schools and many state schools. So those who say that they are doing some good service by switching over to the CBSE are dishonest. There is no difference between curriculum of most of the state boards and the CBSE. I have been a member of the academic council of the CBSE. So no one can tell me that the CBSE is better than the BOSE.
The question arises that if both are the same, why are the schools hell-bent on affiliating with the CBSE? The simple answer is that they want to fleece Kashmiris, with no one to question them or stand up against them. They have already misled a number of parents and they continue to mislead others.
Besides, the HRD ministry wants to have a direct control over Kashmiri schools, and for that they have found the CBSE the best tool. Earlier, they could only dream about having a say in the educational affairs of our schools.
Why should we bring a Delhi-based board to Kashmir when we have our own? Do we want our children to do yoga and ‘suryanamaskar?’ If this is the reason then go ahead with it. Our doctors, engineers, educationists, and other intellectuals studied in the same schools where BOSE curriculum was implemented. What has the CBSE given to Kashmir? Nothing.
I want to make another equally important point. The BOSE needs to improve in more than one areas to make itself relevant in the present times. I do know that many schools were so much bothered by the BOSE that they opted for the CBSE. The first thing that the BOSE need to improve is the public relations. There is absolutely no communication with the public. That is something that the BOSE need to worry about.
The other important thing that the BOSE should do is to make the recognition process easy for the schools. You would be astonished to know that the schools needed to get 20 ‘no objection certificates’ to avail a BOSE registration. Thankfully, that has been reduced to 12. There is a joke that a local school had no transport of its own, yet it was forced to get an ‘NOC’ from the RTO that the vehicles are in good condition.
Also, the BOSE should get its progress and performance assessed by some third party.
Research fellow at Kashmir University
Education scenario has drastically changed in this digital era. The curriculum we teach and study needs to be updated on daily basis. In this regard, I would say that the CBSE is better than the BOSE in many respects. The big advantage of CBSE is that it is conceptual in nature rather than theoretical and fully covers the content. For me, the CBSE is a futuristic board that deciphers the changing educational scenario and calibrates the curriculum accordingly.
As far as the NCERT books are concerned, they are dull and peppered with grave mistakes. No proper up-gradation is done. For example, what I learnt as a student in school some 15 years ago in these books has remained the same since then, with little or no change. Some books have ‘padshah daleels’. Which explains why our children won’t come to terms with modern realities.
Besides, our students need to prepare themselves for national level exams like NEET, JEE, etc., from early on. However, it is very difficult to prepare for them if you don’t have the CBSE pattern. The only hitch one can find with the CBSE pattern is the hefty amount that the parents have to shell out to buy non-NCERT books with supplements. If this thing can be sorted out, many children from low-income families may avail the chance to study at the CBSE-affiliated schools. But it is a sorry state of affairs that the schools affiliated with the CBSE are asked to use NCERT books.
In nutshell, schools opting for the CBSE in Kashmir have a bright future while those who have reservations with it will find it difficult to impart quality education in the present era.
Ashiq Hussain Masoodi
Chairman, Oasis Group of Schools, Srinagar
For me, the CBSE is best suited for our State for myriad reasons. The first and foremost reason I would cite is competing in national level examinations. In the CBSE pattern, a student is prepared for such examinations right from day one. The curriculum and the examination pattern are designed in such a way that the students feel neither stressed nor disinterested in studies.
The other important feature of the CBSE is its March-to-March session. Since most of the competitive exams across India take place in summers, the students find it easy to go for it with the momentum already generated for the final examinations. This way the students perform well and results are better.
The only hitch that I can guess the parents may be having regarding the CBSE is its fee structure. Here I want to tell you that charging fee varies from school to school. Those institutions that have opened their shops in the name of education only to mint money and fleece poor parents will definitely charge heavy fee for the CBSE. For me, spreading quality education and making it affordable to all sections of the society is my goal and mission. While other schools charge a student 5500 rupees for the CBSE course, I will charge much less than that.
President, Private Schools’ Association Kashmir
It is a myth that the CBSE is better than BOSE. Those who promote this myth are liars and need to be exposed. First of all, the schools wanting to switch over from the BOSE to the CBSE are diluting Article 370 of the constitution that debars India from imprinting its educational policy on Kashmiris. Since CBSE comes directly under the HRD ministry of India, it wants to make inroads into Kashmir schools through these glamorised boards.
Besides, there is no difference in curriculum taught in the BOSE or the CBSE. Those who say that it is different are incorrect. It is all the same.
The wave to switch over to the CBSE that has gained momentum in Kashmir is a well-hatched plan for the ‘saffronisation’ of education here. This we must understand and repel with full force. It is a ploy to fleece parents by forcing them to buy expensive books from private publishers.
Take the case of Delhi Public School Srinagar and Delhi Public School Budgam. They fleece parents, as the state government has no say in their governing. These schools are being directly governed from Delhi and have created a disparity among Kashmiri children. When the government announces that all schools should remain closed, these schools remain open. DPS has become more of a political institution rather than an educational institution.
Besides this, the session in which the CBSE conducts exams isn’t favourable for Kashmir. Therefore, the CBSE is a big no for us. Its other ill effect is that it drains our economy. Why should we pay a Delhi-based school board our hard-earned money and make our state board suffer? Add to the list the extra burden it puts on students. There are supplements after supplements that the student needs to go through to prepare for exams. Should we not unburden our already burdened students?
Having said so, I would like the BOSE to rethink its policies and re-evaluate its performance for better results. The BOSE should be open for a third-party evaluation. Kashmir is in dire need of this.
Chairman, Global Islamic School, Srinagar
I have a slightly different take on this debate. For me, neither the BOSE in its present shape and form suits us, nor the CBSE. As far as the BOSE is concerned, we have time and again given it suggestions to improve its standards so that it becomes the first choice of the schools in the state. We suggested them to empanel some world-renowned educationists to better the output of the board. I hope the board will be thinking on these lines. I must say that we are going through a critical juncture of our educational phase. The BOSE must think, rethink, and introspect about its future, lest it will be left behind the times.
Having said so, I am equally vocal against switching over to the CBSE mode. It has all the ingredients that will rob us of our cultural and religious heritage. The CBSE will induce moral degradation in our children, and we must resist it tooth and nail. A cursory look at the content of the CBSE English books would suggest what kind of ideas the board wants to inculcate in a child’s mind at the very threshold of his/her educational journey.
School owners of Kashmir must bear one thing in mind: no board, no matter how good it is, can be superimposed in Kashmir. It has to be contextualised to suit the Kashmiri settings. The reason is that Kashmir is a conflict-ridden place and things aren’t normal here.
In such a scenario, the only option left with people like me is to switch over to an international board like the Cambridge Examinations International, and tune it with the local settings. It has one big drawback, though. It’s very expensive. But, for a person like me who has a missionary zeal of imparting quality education, I would charge parents a certain amount and would pay the rest from my own pocket.
Teacher at Tyndale Biscoe School, Srinagar
It’s a fact that most of the private schools in Kashmir Valley follow the CBSE pattern up to to seventh standard. And it is only from eight standard the schools face a dilemma — whether the BOSE curriculum be taught or the CBSE. According to me, the CBSE pattern has certain shortcomings but great benefits. Among the shortcoming is that it can’t accommodate our regional languages — Urdu and Kashmiri. Barring this, the CBSE is full of advantages for the students as well as teachers. The whole pattern of the CBSE is student-centred and inculcates among them a sense as to what stream they must opt at an early stage. It must be borne in mind that the subject selection is a big matter in today’s education. This is some thing that isn’t to be found in other boards.
This approach has opened a new window for the students, and we find many a student coming forward for Arts, IT and other streams positively. The binary choice of either medical or non-medical has thus ended to some extent. Society needs to move forward from producing only doctors and engineers, and I find the CBSE a platform for making this transformation.
Besides this, the CBSE syllabus is aligned in such a way that the students find it easy to prepare for national level competitive examinations. Presently, the parents want their children to face these examinations with ease and they have found the CBSE to be the best platform to achieve this goal. That is the reason why many schools in Kashmir Valley are these days switching over to the CBSE pattern.
Teacher at a government school
There is only 20 per cent difference in syllabus between the CBSE and the BOSE. However, as far as the CBSE is concerned, it’s best suited for those students who want to opt for Science stream in their future. That isn’t to say that other students who want to opt for other streams shouldn’t go for it, but what I want to say is that the CBSE is calibrated to best suite Science stream.
The other good thing about the CBSE is its March session which suits the students the best. While our students are busy with exams in October-November session, the national level sports competitions are taking place during that period. This way the students have to either sacrifice their academics or eschew sports activities.
Also, the CBSE curriculum is designed in such a way that it enhances the comprehension level and logical reasoning power in a student. In 2016, when most of the schools remained closed due to the agitation, the BOSE asked the students to prepare only 50 per cent of the syllabus for the examinations. This way the year was cut in half. However, this can’t be expected from the CBSE. Come what may, the students have to appear for the full syllabus of the year. This is one of the reasons for many parents to opt for the CBSE for their children.
The BOSE has many problems that hamper the educational growth of the Kashmiri students who are virtually forced to search for other options. The books printed by the board are pathetic as far as the printing quality is concerned. Sometimes the text is completely illegible.
The piece appeared in January issue of Kashmir Narrator. For subscribing to hard copy, contact KashmirNarrator@gmail.com for details