Analysis

Opinion: Why Kashmir’s education system lacks spirit of questioning

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Our children literally carry the burden of this useless education which can directly be assessed by the weight of their bags.

A video that my mother showed me sometimes back set me thinking. It was about some distant village school where students—well dressed, polished, disciplined—are standing in an assembly and singing in perfect chorus a song they’ve been freshly taught.

There’s no mistake in the song. The singers are melodious, voices in perfect sync and the tune is catchy that would stay in one’s brain as soon as one listens to it.

It was a song about a new government policy: “Valivgaamgasov, valivgaamgasov (Let’s go to village).”
To me it looks like an advertisement. Only it is not a corporate company but a government’s masterstroke product.

My mother also tells me that back in 1980s when she was in college, Begum Abdullah had to come to Govt Girls Higher Secondary Anantnag and women were made to prepare for the cultural and dance programmes long before four months.

The moment takes me back to my school days—the assembly, the drill, the mindless discipline, the cramming, the data reproduction we do in these institutions in the name of education. Sad, I murmur to myself.

Let’s look at the curricula in our schools. We don’t have chapters on what partition did to our part of the world, our valley. Besides missing chapters on K-history, we hardly have any local legends in our texts.

But then we cram years in which wars happened across the globe. We qualify competitive jobs by knowing when the war with so and so happened. But we never are made to ask why did these wars happen, who benefitted from them and why were they driven to desperation. Also, why were there famine in so and so areas then, and why were farmers committing suicides. Such questions are dismissed as “out of syllabus”.

In this flippant system, we never learn about identities and the privileges and non-priviledges that come along with being born in our respective identities. Why are certain identities marginalised, most of us would never know.

If only schools had taught us to ask such questions, that would have been our real education.

The truth, at the end of the day, is that I never in my life used that last exercise of Trigonometry chapter I’d crammed for my 10th boards. When refugees go homeless and policies are made to justify their extermination, I never used my quadratic equations, neither my algebra. And when Muslims were made to prove their humanity in their own country, school had never taught me what to do with such a situation.

But I was still very privileged to be in a private school. The only thing worthwhile it taught me was the popular language. Other than that I can’t think of a thing this school system taught me of importance that would help me even imagine this world as a less miserable place to live in.

Speaking specifically of Kashmir, why didn’t my school teach me about my reality, my history. Why didn’t my school books have stories of my people. In Government schools, I see students trained for the voyeuristic gaze and entertainment of the privileged and powerful.

On cultural functions, I see the children of my people singing promotional ad like songs. The army-like assembly discipline is a dangerous display of mindless obedience which later, especially in government schools, translated to making children unquestioning automatons for promoting a linear thinking.

If we look at world history, we will see obedience has done more harm than good. The racists who slave traded in human flesh were obeying the racist law makers and culture at that time. The men who treat women as sub-human are obeying their versions of religion and patriarchy. The women who burnt in their husbands’ pyres were also obeying the authority so were the women genitally mutilating each other for tradition.

The schools which were supposed to be the building blocks of education in our initial years inculcate in us a thought process which regards obedience as sacred. These institutions, their internalised and imposed obedience therefore render us automatons who forget we had an autonomous thinking, questioning brain of our own.

When we are toddlers and growing up, remember the time we curiously ask a lot of questions regarding anything and everything? That is what sort of a brain humans are born with, an epistemophilic brain that has a love for knowledge, knowing the world, a brain that likes questioning.

The school systems kill this basic progressive human trait and make us mere automatons who then go on reproducing these systems of control and domination.

Powerful always use institutions like schools and seminaries to sustain and continue their domination. Cinema, on the other hand, runs their toxic and hate polarising films coming one after the other.

Colleges are degraded even more with the curricula that also further demonize already marginalized identities.

Our children literally carry the burden of this useless education which can directly be assessed by the weight of their bags. Now they have to learn five languages at kindergarten level. Won’t a child get confused if it has to remember five names in five languages for, say a cat!

Then there are other subjects that we hardly make of use in life. The most thoughtful years of children’s lives are wasted in data reproduction, which anyway computers are for now.

And that’s what machines should do, not humans. Humans should question, interrogate and challenge powerful to hold it accountable at every point to make sure coercions in the world are minimised and we live to see a world where human beings are not sub-humanised due to the identities they are born in.

 

Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position and policy of Free Press Kashmir. Feedback and counter-views are welcome at editor@freepresskashmir.com. 

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