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Distance Mode Degrees: Agonizing Saga of JK Teachers

Distance Mode Degrees: Agonizing Saga of JK Teachers

Maleeha Sofi

Srinagar: Mujeeb Ahmad (name changed), a government school teacher’s world came crashing down a decade after his appointment in the department when the government’s flip-flop policy debarred him from promotion to lecturer level.

Mujeeb isn’t alone though. Like him, scores of teachers in the education department having Master’s degrees in Environmental Science through distance mode have been rendered ineligible for promotions as well as from pursuing Master in Philosophy (MPhill) and Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) courses.

Recently, the School Education Department acting on the recommendations of a High-level committee of the University of Kashmir stated degrees acquired by the candidates in science subjects via distance mode are neither eligible for appointment as lecturers at plus-2 level nor for admissions to M.Phill or PhD programmes.

The decision landed Mujeeb and others in the doldrums as earlier governments had upheld their degrees making them eligible for promotions and other benefits which now have been scuttled.

The issue was raked up in December last year when the School Education Department Kashmir wing’s Joint Director (JD) sent a letter to Chief Education Officer (CEO) Baramulla saying that it will not consider degrees pursued via distance mode for seniority or promotion. The letter created panic among teachers leading to Director School Education Kashmir (DSEK) withdrawing the letter and attaching of the in-charge Joint Director Shams-ud-Din for “misrepresentation” of facts.

Earlier, the department withdrew the placement order of 72 in-charge lecturers in the discipline of Environmental Science (EVS) citing the reason that the degrees obtained in distance mode in science subjects are not at par with the regular mode and the incumbents have not obtained proper permission from the competent authority.

The present stand of the government vis-à-vis distance mode degrees in the science stream comes in stark contrast to the earlier stands by the previous Jammu and Kashmir governments. In 2011, a high-level committee was constituted under the Chief Secretary which laid the criteria regarding the validity of distance mode degrees in Jammu and Kashmir.

An order vide number 252-HE-2012 was issued by Higher Education Department giving validity to degrees obtained through distance mode of education to the courses approved by the Distance Education Council and University Grants Commission (UGC).

The clause-VI of the said order states that the degree awarded by the universities whether situated within or outside the state through distance mode in the subjects falling in the science stream, where practical portions are a part of the curriculum and are conducted from within the respective campuses of UGC recognised universities shall be recognised as equivalent to the corresponding degrees awarded through regular mode by the state universities.

The order further states, “However, only if practicals are not conducted within the campus, the degree is not considered equivalent to the corresponding degree in regular mode.”

According to the Ministry of Human Resource Development guidelines 1995, if a university offers courses through distance education, it must be approved by the Distance Education Council (DEC). In 2013, the authority was handed over to UGC, Distance Education Bureau (DEB).

In 2017, the Jammu and Kashmir government in compliance with clause-XI of the 2012 order, issued order number 940-Edu-2017 which mentioned that to have a specific mechanism to ascertain the validity of distance mode degrees to bring them at par with regular mode degrees.

The order stated that for the courses in science subjects where practicals are a part of the curriculum, the concerned university shall certify that the practicals have been conducted from the main campus of the university.

In another clause, it states that the promotion of in-service candidates including distance mode degree holders shall be performance-based and their regularisation will be affected strictly as per their last three years’ performance in their respective discipline.

The order also stated that the teachers who have pursued their post-graduation (PG) during service and fulfil the criteria as envisaged in order 940-Edu-2017 shall be included in the seniority list.

On the recommendations of the Directors of School Education Jammu and Kashmir, the School Education Department elevated hundreds of PG Masters/Teachers in different disciplines having regular or distance mode degrees. The PG masters/teachers were elevated in the year 2019 as per the State Administrative Council’s (SAC) decision to create new posts to accommodate RRT Grade II teachers.

After a gap of nearly three years, the School Education Department issued Government Order number 2189-JK(EDU)-2022 withdrawing the placement orders of I/C lecturers in the discipline of Environmental Science who have obtained their degrees via distance mode.

Mujeeb Ahmad, an Environmental Science teacher with a Master’s degree via distance mode said, “I have a valid degree as the department verified the degrees of PG Masters/Teachers at least times five times and submitted the same to the administrative department for inclusion in seniority list and for the purpose of promotion.”

The authorities encouraged teachers to continue their studies mentioning that permission is not required through circular instructions released in 2000 and 2005. However, a condition was put in that the leave taken for the purpose has to be added to the service book. Orders of the same nature were also released in 2006, 2011, and 2014.

Liaqat Ahmad (name changed), another EVS stream teacher said, “I have obtained proper permission from DDO/CEO as mandated in administrative department instructions dated December 30, 2005, and Director School Education circular instructions in 2000 and 2012.”

“Government says that we should have taken the study leave from the competent authority first, but study leave does not implement on us. Study leave is required in case of regular, technical or professional studies and not for academic studies.”

“The Masters /Teachers are entitled commutation leave under Clause 29-C of Jammu and Kashmir Leave Rules 1979 which can be availed by the Teachers/ Masters to complete the course in different intervals to attend the practical classes and examination in the university and we opted for that when needed,” Liaqat added.

Both Mujeeb and Liaqat have pursued their Master’s degrees from Bharathiar University Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu which is UGC recognised university.

Meanwhile, the reason given by the government behind the withdrawal from seniority lists/ promotion orders of the said teachers was stated to be that they have not obtained proper permission and do not follow order 940 of 2017. However, the Masters /Teachers argue to have valid degrees obtained from UGC /DEC-approved universities of India with all the permission from competent authorities.

Director of School Education Kashmir Tassaduq Hussain didn’t meet in the office or respond through the Public Relations Officer on the issue even after repeated attempts. Kashmir Life

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