Experts say the delay in making the right decisions at the right time cost the state heavily as students, especially from primary classes, had to stay away from learning for several months.
Last year, the government initially banned schools from holding online classes. The order was reversed only after private schools moved the high court. Vidyagama, the continuous learning process, was introduced in August but was called off in October. Teachers were asked to stay in touch with students in November and December, but very little happened on the ground. Regular classes for high schools began in January, which was called off for all classes except class 10 in April. That too ended shortly later.
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“Unfortunately, the government did not create an education emergency task force that could have planned, guided, and monitored the sector and practically and effectively ensured learning for children across the state,” said Maya Menon, founder-director, Teacher Foundation. “There was no concerted effort at ensuring minimum lag in learning opportunities for children who study in government schools.”
Menon admits that some ad hoc efforts were made to address the problem — like using educational channels on TV, sending lessons on WhatsApp, and conducting Vidyagama classes. “But there was little coherence. Moreover, the emphasis appeared to be on keeping teachers busy with ‘Covid duty’ rather than enabling them to meaningfully transact learning,” she said.
Experts point out that it’s crucial for the education department and its various bodies to prepare a roadmap for the next academic year. “The government has to acknowledge that the pandemic is here to stay. All decisions on reopening schools must be taken keeping that in mind,” said Sumedha Rao, lead volunteer, Whitefield Ready that works with government schools.
Most educationists say the decision to reopen schools must be left to individual school development monitoring committees. They say many aspects must begin immediately so that everything is in place when students return for the next academic year.
“Teachers must be trained for severe regression in learning among students and the State Council of Educational Research and Training must prepare appropriate material, plans, strategies, and ideas to support teachers. The syllabus will have to be reconfigured as teachers will have to combine the content of at least two grades given the academic regression. District Institutes of Education and Training must be roped in to reduce content and identify core concepts that teachers need to focus on,” said Rishikesh BS, faculty, Azim Premji University.
Sumedha said that the best ideas from Vidyagama must be used and drawbacks rectified. “The government should continue to look at classes in small groups on rotation. Unlike last year when teachers were asked to use other spaces, the government should look at using schools for this,” she said.