Srinagar, Jan 27: In a significant move, the School Education Department (SED) has initiated a process to categorise various hard zone schools as soft zones in Jammu and Kashmir in wake of the persistent public demand to review the categorisation process of schools as hard and soft zones.
The department received scores of representations from stakeholders and there was a demand for reclassification of schools in their respective areas.
An official said that the stakeholders argued that schools categorised in hard zones are feasibly situated and not bound by snow-covered terrains and should be included in the soft zone school list.
The demand to reclassify certain hard zone schools as soft zone schools gained momentum, with parents emphasising the need for students to have ample preparation time for national-level competitive exams like NEET and JEE.
The demand was raised days after the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education (JKBOSE) notified the date sheet for annual exams, scheduling examinations for class 10th to 12th students in soft zone areas from early March of 2024.
Also, the officials in JKBOSE stated that the exam in hard zones will be held immediately after the culmination of the exams in soft zones.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Director Academics JKBOSE, Dr Sudhir Singh said that the categorisation of schools into hard and soft zones was done on the basis of the list sent by the directors of school education in Kashmir and Jammu divisions.
"They provided us with the list and we notified it accordingly. But recently we got a request from Director Kashmir regarding some schools which have been now categorised as soft zone schools and the official notification has been issued as well," Director Academics told Greater Kashmir.
"We are not stiff about which school should be where. It should be according to the convenience of the students," he said .
Director Academics further said that it was easier for the JK Board to conduct all the exams together. "But since the conditions of the UT is like that, we had to categorise schools as soft and hard zone schools," he said.
Dr Sudhir said that areas like Kishtwar and Machill remain inaccessible.
"But a few days ago we notified few schools in soft zones which were earlier categorised as hard zone schools. This was done on the recommendations of director school education Kashmir," he said.
Director Academics said that JK Board has also received some more recommendations to shift some more schools from hard zones to soft zone schools. "We are also considering these requests as well," he said.
As already reported by this newspaper, the JKBOSE earlier categorised schools in the soft and hard Zone areas in Jammu and Kashmir.
The categorisation of schools was done last year after the School Education Department (SED) shifted the academic session from November to March. The exams are now conducted in March- April month instead of November month.
As per the BOSE figures, around 444 schools- 309 in Jammu and 135 in Kashmir division— besides seven zones of Kargil district and whole Ladakh were categorised as hard zones.
In Kashmir division, 43 schools of Anantnag, Bandipora 19, Kupwara 32, Kulgam 28 and 13 schools in Budgam fall in hard zones.
In Jammu division 50 schools of Kishtwar, Reasi 47, Rajouri 7, Poonch 20, Doda 56, Ramban 64 and 65 schools of Udhampur fall in hard zones.
"But now some hard zone schools are being categorised as soft zone schools," Dr Sudhir Singh said.