In a Class of Their Own

  • Syed Rizwan Geelani
  • Publish Date: Jun 26 2016 2:48PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 26 2016 2:48PM
In a Class of Their Own

New state-of-the-art private schools are shaking up Kashmir’s moribund education system

Calling the “education system” in Kashmir moribund is being generous. It’s plagued with problems: lack of infrastructure, unqualified teachers, outdated teaching methods and learning tools, unimaginative testing. The reasons for this sad state of affairs are many, not least the fragile political situation, and practical solutions few.
It is, therefore, heartening to see new schools with modern infrastructure and innovative ideas come up in the valley. Doon International School is one such Situated just off the highway at HMT on the outskirts of Srinagar, it has been established by Showkat Hussain Khan, a local resident. What’s different about this school? “Gone are the days of chalk and board,” explains its administrator
Ayub Ahmad Kamile. “Now the world is adopting new technologies, we have introduced tablets to the students, the first school to do so in north India.” The idea is to “ease the burden of heavy schoolbags”.
This is just the start. Kamile says they have also put in place a “smart assessment system” and innovative extra-curricular activities.
The school is affiliated with the prestigious Doon International School, Dehradun, and follows the academic calendar and syllabus of the CBSE. “Those students who cannot go and study in Dehradun, this school is an opportunity for them,” says Kamile. “We will also arrange interactions between our students and those studying in various parts of India.”
The school has classes up to 8th standard, and there are plans to upgrade it to a higher secondary “in near future”. “We are already working out the modalities and hope to get registration up to class 12,” says Kamile. 
To ensure there’s enough space for extracurricular activities, the school has a sprawling campus of over 40 kanal. “Ten kanals more will be added,” Kamile says. “The enrolment is good; we have 800 students now. Faculty is over 72.” 
But the USP of the school is its focus on technology-based learning. Kamile explains: “The first few years children spend in school are extremely critical for their development. These early years influence their attitudes towards school in general and studies in particular.”
“Doon International School, Srinagar, lays great emphasis on providing our young children with a friendly, warm and homely environment. Classrooms are well-equipped and brightly decorated to exude a feeling of belonging,” says the school’s website. “An Activity Centre and Play Park designed by education experts provide areas for leisure and relaxation for the little ones outside their classrooms. The teaching is highly aided by technology through the use of tablets by children as well as teachers.”
Not far from Doon School is Yes Dubai Grand School International. The school’s mission, its website states, “is to provide a nurturing, stimulating child-centred learning environment”. “Children will leave having acquired not only key learning skills, but also life skills involving healthy relationships, caring about others and a sense of responsibility for the world we live in,” it goes on. “Students learn from the positive environment, gaining from all the diversity the children themselves bring to the classroom.”
Yes Dubai boasts a “team of fully-qualified expatriate teachers from the UK and UAE”, and “skilled teachers from Kerala”. “Our dedicated academic team is a source of inspiration for students as every class has an externally trained and experienced Kerala teacher and at least one assistant teacher currently undergoing training under a supervisor,” the website says.
On the other side of the city, at Lal Bazar, the reputed Delhi-based GD Goenka School has opened a branch. It began its first academic session last November. “We never thought it could be like this, the zeal among students,” says Imtiyaz Ahmad Qawoosa, the chairman of the school. “After the militancy started, my family moved outside the state. Our kids couldn’t compete with the students there. It was then that my father suggested setting up a school in Srinagar.”
The school is spread over 25 acres of land. The newly-constructed building has ultra-modern teaching facilities and is set amid lush green surroundings, the school’s website boasts, and “pledges to bring out the best in students by providing congenial learning atmosphere.”
The school, recognised by the CBSE, has classes up to 8th standard. “But we are planning for a college,” says Qawoosa.
He continues, “Our objective is to disseminate quality education to students and encourage co-curricular activities. We will also train our students in golf, swimming, soccer and other sports. The school premises are designed in such a way as to support all indoor and outdoor games.” 
“The faculty is selected by a panel from New Delhi. But we make it a point that maximum number Kashmiris are employed in this school.”
The state-of-the-art schools such as Doon, Yes Dubai and GD Goenka are coming up at a time when parents in Kashmiri are increasingly disowning government schools. They are bulging the ranks of reputed private schools such as Tyndale Biscoe, Mallinson Girls, Presentation Convent, Burn Hall, DPS, Iqbal Memorial, Oasis, Green Valley and Islamic International School, thereby expanding the options for the parents who are looking to give their children quality schooling.
Also, establishing new “schools of international standards will improve theeducation sector in the valley”, says GN Var, Convener, Joint Committee of Private Schools, by “bringing in more competition”.
 “Private schools have played a major role in providing quality education, and opening of new schools in Srinagar is a positive development. This will make students more confident as the new schools are following the CBSC syllabus,” Var adds.
The government, too, considers the establishment of these schools a “positive move”. Shah Faesal, Director, School Education, says. “It is good that new schools are coming here. I wish Kashmir becomes world famous for better school service and education. And like in Shimla, Mussoorie, Dehradun, I hope boarding more schools open here.”