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Changing Academic Calendar in Kashmir: Background and the challenges

In view of the obvious benefits of existing academic schedule the government is requested to kindly NOT shift the existing academic schedule in respect of Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division, writes Bashir Ahmad (Formerly Director Academics & Secretary, JKBOSE)

As per media reports the department of School Education, government of Jammu and Kashmir is changing the Academic session of schools in Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division and holding annual examinations of various classes including class X ,XI and XII examinations in March, 2023 when schools reopen after about 75 days of winter vacation. It is also reported that for future Kashmir division and winter zone areas will have March session to bring academic schedule at par with most of the States in the country.

 

It is pertinent to recall that Jammu and Kashmir had March session till 1974-1975. The academic schedule was changed in 1975. While uniformity in certain areas and aspects of education is not only desirable but necessary changing academic calendar has very serious implications for teaching learning process. It will considerably lower the number of working days and hence reduce the instructional time needed to transact the new curriculum.

Before 1974 -1975 schools in Kashmir division including winter zone areas of Jammu division would begin their academic session around March, the schools would run till third week December close for about 75 days of winter vacation and then reopen in March. The full month of March and almost 2/3rds of April were utilized in holding examinations and preparing results .The new classes would start from third week of April for classes 1 to 9. In respect of classes X, XI and XII the University /Board examinations would commence in March and conclude in second to third week of April. The results of class X would be declared somewhere in second week of July and class XI session begin in second week of August. The total number of teaching days in all cases ranged between 100 and 120 days.

The year 1974 -1975 witnessed huge transformation of educational system as a consequence of implementation of the major recommendations of Baghwan Sahay Committee (Baghwan Sahay was Governor of the State) recommendations constituted by Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 1st of April, 1971. The school curriculum was drastically changed and national curriculum adopted /adapted. The Board of School Education was reconstituted as per Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education Act, 1975. One of the major recommendations of Sashay Committee was about changing the Academic Session for Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division.

The Committee recommended that: “The academic calendar in the State should be reorganized in such a manner that the number of institutional days in a year would be not less than 150.

In view of a large variety of climatic New Calendar conditions in the State, however, it will be for the School necessary to adopt different academic Year years in different parts of the State in keeping with local needs.

“A copy of the recommendations made by the Committee in respect of academic schedule is reproduced below for perusal:
Begawan Sahay Committee Recommendations;
{ 87. The Education Commission pointed out that in the Indian Educational System the utilization of facilities generally tends to be minimal. This is due to a variety of reasons such as the large Calendar for the number of holidays and the long vacations which reduce substantially the number of working days in a year and the considerable loss, even of the small number of working days, for purposes of instruction due to examinations, school functions,
The Commission found that the, number of instructional days (i.e. days on which actual teaching is done) in a year was thus very low—about 100 to 120. The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is perhaps even more unsatisfactory and it has been estimated that the number of instructional days in a year are often as low as 80 to 90. This is due to the long winter vacation necessitated by the climate, the excessive number of holidays provided and the undesirable practice ot holding of annual examinations during term-time.

We, therefore, recomend that the academic calendar in the State should be reorganized in such a manner that the number of instructional days in a year would be not less than 150. This can be achieved if the duration of vacations is slightly curtailed, a full six-day week is adopted, and the examination work is re scheduled to-coincide with the vacations.

Owing to the large variety of climatic conditions in the State, it is necessary to adopt different academic years in different parts of the State in keeping with local need. In the Kashmir valley, the academic year may begin on the 1st of March and end on 15th December. There will be two vacations; a long winter vacation of 2 months from 15th December to the end of February and a short summer vacation of about 15 days given at a suitable mid-year stage. The examinations should begin on or after 15th November. All institutional examinations should be completed and the results declared by the end of November.

The new classes should begin in the first week of December and the long winter vacation should begin only after the students have been introduced to the new class studies so that they can profitably use their vacation time for self advancement. The students who have failed can also use the long vacation for self-advancement if a system of holding re-examinations for them at the opening of the new school year is simultaneously adopted.

The refresher courses for teachers can also be conveniently arranged in this long vacation. In the case of the public examinations at the end of classes X and XI/XII, care should be taken to see that they are held and completed between 15th November and 15th December and that their results are declared by the end of January.

Similar reforms should be carried out in Jammu with only such changes as are needed to meet the requirements of the differences in climate. The cold regions of Jammu will follow the time-table given above for Kashmir. But in the hot regions, the academic year should begin on the 15th of July as in the States of North India and close on 30th of Aprtl, thus giving a long vacation of 2 months. In addition, there may be a short winter vacation of two weeks in October-November. The institutional examinations should be completed between 1st and the 15th of A pril when the students should be promoted to the next class. The public examinations at the end of classes X and XI/XII should be held between 1st April and 30th A pril and their results declared by the end of June.

Suitable different dates will have to be fixed on the same broad principles for the schools in Ladakh. Here the academic year may begin on 1st September and end on 15th June.

If these reforms are implemented, the number of instructional days in a year will be almost doubled with a corresponding gain in the utilization of educational facilities and teaching efficiency. }
{Page 43 of Bagawan Sahay Committee Report published by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir on 01 January, 1973.]

Most of the recommendations of this Committee were implemented in letter and spirit by the Government including the one pertaining to Academic Calendar. Thus after 1974-1975 academic session in Kashmir division including winter zone areas of Jammu division started in November–December. The school examinations would begin around third week of November and results declared by end of November or first week of December in respect of classes 1 to 9. New classes invariably started in last week of November or first week of December.

Students were introduced to new courses before winter vacations which, depending on weather, closed for winter vacations in third or fourth week of December. The examination of classes X, XI and XII started in third week of November and culminated by the end of December. The Board utilized the winter break to have answer scripts scored and results prepared. Using technology for pre examination and post examination processes the Board declared results of class X, XI, XII mostly by the end of February paving way for new session to begin in first week of March . This arrangement gave schools 190 t0 200 days to transact the new curriculum . The new schedule helped tremendously in improvement of quality of education.

In 1984 July the then government of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Late Kh. Ghulam Mohammad Shah ordered shifting of the academic session back to March on the plea that this will allow rural students help their parents during October –November harvest season. Consequently schools held examinations of classes 1 to 9 in March and class work started from mid April resulting in huge loss of real instructional time. The Board examinations were held in March and the results were declared latest by second week of July.

In 1986 after reviewing functioning of Education department Shri Jag Mohan ; Governor of Jammu and Kashmir { the State was under Governors rule} ordered immediate shifting of academic session back to October-November. Having already conducted annual examination of classes X, XI and XII examinations in March the Board held one more annual examination in October –November.

The system; which had immensely suffered on account of an uninformed decision of shifting academic session by the then government; was back on rails.

In 2004 the question of having a uniform school calendar for the entire State came up for discussion. The department education convened a meeting of academicians including teachers across board, parents, students , representatives of Teachers’ Associations, Educational administrators and intelligentsia In Amar Sigh college .After detailed deliberations the meeting unanimously recommended that the academic schedule be NOT changed and the existing October November session allowed to continue. The meeting also recommended that the number of holidays be minimized to provide more working days to schools for quality transaction of the curriculum.

The question of having a uniform Academic session again came up for discussion. in 2007. For this the department of Education, government of Jammu and Kashmir constituted State Advisory Board headed by Prof J R Rathore, Ex Chairman Jammu and Kashmir State Board of School Education; vide Order No. 274 –Edu of 2007 dated 03-08-2007 to examine and advise the Government on formulation of a Policy regarding.

a] Grant of NOC to the private educational Institutions for affiliation with Central Board of Secondary Education; and b] Desirability of prescription of a uniform academic session for the two divisions of the State.
The Committee held wide ranging discussion with stake holders including teachers, parents, academicians, students and educational administrators on both the issues to be able to take an informed decision on the two issues before it.

The recommendations made by the State Advisory Board Committee also called Rathore Committee on “To examine and advise the Government on formulation of a Policy regarding desirability of prescription of a uniform academic session for the two divisions of the Board” didn’t approve shifting of the academic session from October –November to March . The Committee inter alia remarked “.. in case winter zone academic calendar is changed on the Summer zone pattern then the number of teaching days available for conducting teaching /learning programmes in the schools will be much less than the mandatory 200 days needed as per national curriculum Framework …”

The Committee didn’t support the idea of having a uniform calendar and instead recommended retention of October –November session for Kashmir division including winter zone areas of Jammu divisions. It recommended two different academic sessions for the two divisions because of their difference in topography and climatic conditions. The Committee prepared two academic Calendars –one for Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division and second for Summer zone areas of Jammu division.

A copy of the recommendations of this Committee submitted to the Government on 04-12-2007 vide No.SAR/2007 is enclosed herewith for perusal and reference ..
.
It will be pertinent to mention that none of the Committees or commissions constituted after 1973 like Round Table Conference of 1975. Educational Conference of 1976 and L K Jha Committee of 1978 recommended shifting of academic session in case of Kashmir division. Even the State School Education Advisory Board { SSEAB] constituted by the Government as per provisions of Section 22 of School Education , Act 2002 didn’t at any point in time recommend any change in the existing academic schedule. It is unfortunate that a thoughtless decision to change academic session is being thrust in Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division as was done in 1984 but reversed in 1986.

The likely harmful effects of shifting academic schedule are:

The number of working days{ 200 to 213] available now for classes X,XI and XII will reduce to 137 to 150 days;
The number of working days {200 to 220] available now for classes 1 to 9 will also get reduced;
The active instructional time available will considerably decrease ;
While almost throughout the country students take examinations and then have vacations to travel ; do social work , work on small projects of their choice by way of self learning or prepare at ease for different competitive examinations ; students of Kashmir division and other winter zone areas will have their examinations after vacations. They will have no time to travel to learn skills of life ; they will have no time to do any social work or other healthy activities they would want to engage in without much stress.

The present schedule of examinations gives students of Kashmir division ample time to prepare for national level tests
Advantages of existing academic schedule:

The Instructional time available is comparable with time available for classes X,XI,XII in Summer zone areas across the country;
The result of classes X,XI; as of now; is declared by the end of February and this gives them ample time to prepare for different national level tests;
Class XII result as of now is declared by end of February or beginning of March and this gives them ample time to prepare for different competitive examination like:

JEE, Main; JEE, Advanced, BIT SAT, National Level Engineering entrance Examination; NEET, Indian Maritime University Common Entrance Test, NDA Entrance; IIT Joint Entrance Examination; Entrance Examination for BITS, NEET [ UG] ; etc

Students of classes 1 to 9 take examination in October –November have results by second week of November; are introduced to new course. The winter break of more than two months provides them sufficient time to learn the new course.

In view of the obvious benefits of existing academic schedule the government is requested to kindly NOT shift the existing academic schedule in respect of Kashmir division and winter zone areas of Jammu division.

 

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