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CBSE receives feedback on staggered school unlock

Centre to take a decision in consultation with states after the board shares their survey findings with the HRD ministry
The CBSE last week asked the principals of its about 24,000 affiliated schools to send by July 31 their opinion on when the schools should reopen.

Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 04.08.20, 03:59 AM

School principals largely favour a staggered reopening of classrooms for Class X and XII students depending on the Covid-19 situation in the neighbourhood, a survey by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has found.

However, some principals have cautioned against any “hurry”, saying the parents would not send their children to school unless they feel confident about the safety of their health.

The CBSE last week asked the principals of its about 24,000 affiliated schools to send by July 31 their opinion on when the schools should reopen, what safety measures should be taken if they do, and how efficiently the online classes were running.

“We got a mixed reaction. But the principals largely want the schools to reopen, especially for the Class X and XII students (who face board exams next year), in a staggered manner depending on the situation in the locality,” a board official said.

He explained that “staggered” meant classes would be held for some sections on a particular day and for other sections on other days.

After the board shares the findings with the human resource development ministry, the Centre will take a decision in consultation with the states, a ministry official said.

According to home ministry guidelines, schools, colleges and coaching centres are to stay closed till August 31.

Srinivasan Sriram, Principal of The Mann School, a residential school in Delhi, said: “I think the schools can be allowed to open for senior students from September in the non-containment zones. Where the situation is not conducive, school opening can be deferred.”

Sriram said the schools that reopen from September may adopt various methods to ensure social distancing, such as introducing two shifts or an odd-even formula, or holding some classes online and the rest offline.

But some schools differed.

“We conducted our own survey and found that the parents are not at all interested in sending their children to school unless the Covid-19 crisis is fully over,” said Kiran Mehta, director (academics), Mother Mary School, New Delhi.

Ashok Pandey, director of the Ahlcon Group of Schools here, said the decision when to reopen the schools must not be linked to the question how efficacious the online classes have been.

“It’s not advisable for the schools to show any hurry. In the meantime, all attempts should be made to make online teaching robust, ensuring that all the children are served,” Pandey said.

Biswajit Singh, who stepped down on July 1 as commissioner for the Navodaya Vidyalayas — a chain of 600 residential government schools — had in June requested the government to open the schools for Classes X and XII for 5 to 10 days a month, HRD ministry sources said.

They said the government had not replied yet.

Singh had also asked that tablets or laptops be provided to all the students for the online classes to be held on the remaining days.

Quality concerns

With concerns raised over quality and access in relation to the virtual classes being held now, the CBSE survey has tried to ascertain whether the teachers have adequate resources for the online classes.

One of the questions the schools were asked was how many of their teachers were digitally literate.

Many academics argue that the online classes have been leaving poor and rural students — who lack the necessary gadgets or connectivity — in the lurch.

Besides, many schoolteachers are feeling the pressure of the new arrangement that forces them to do everything online — from collection and preparation of the material to teaching and checking homework —  a teacher said.

Former CBSE chairperson Ashok Ganguly said the schools should be opened in a phased manner and only when the situation becomes near-normal.

“One thing is sure — in the near future, the schools cannot function as one unit from Class I to XII, or Class VI to XII, all at the same time,” he said.

Ganguly suggested the options of morning and evening sessions for the lower and higher classes, respectively, and having students of odd and even-numbered classes attend school on alternate days.

“In short, except for Classes X and XII, students of all other classes should have to attend school only three days a week, and for a reduced number of hours. This is necessary to maintain social distancing because our class sizes are huge,” he said.

Ganguly favoured shorter online class hours for now, with short breaks after every 15 minutes or so.

“We also have to come out with some scheme in collaboration with the banks so that schoolchildren can have the gadgets at low-cost EMIs,” he said.

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