The pandemic has greatly affected the academic year, and six months into the lockdown, questions remain on how the Maharashtra government will tide over the problems that have arisen due to disparity in reaching education to all students.
When can schools open?
Once we get a green signal from the Ministry of Home Affairs, we plan to quickly begin sessions for Class 10 and 12, followed by Class 9. States are bound to follow the Centre regarding such decisions. Our plan is to operate schools for about 2-3 hours to focus on Math, Science and other core subjects, while the rest of the subjects can be taught through online lessons or reading assignments.
Besides, schools that were being used as isolation centres are gradually being vacated, and we have already issued orders asking teachers to be relieved from Covid duty so that there is sufficient time for them to undergo home quarantine and join schools in delivering online education for all classes. We have also asked schools to deploy extra teachers for online education. We are focusing on promoting models of community education, where a small group of children are taught at a time.
Recently Minister Aaditya Thackeray wrote to PM Narendra Modi asking him to consider starting the academic year from January. Is this also the stand of the School Education Department?
This was also suggested to us by CM Uddhav Thackeray. We will be consulting the Centre on whether this can be done. Through online education, we have reached students, but have not been able to reach some students. It is a difficult task for teachers. We believe that nothing equals physical education, which apart from helping support learning, provides students with the right intellectual and social environment.
Will board exams be delayed?
So far, we have not taken a decision on postponing the board exams. But based on the current scenario, it seems highly likely that the board exams will need to be postponed. We have reduced 25 per cent of the syllabus, so the question papers will be needed to be set accordingly. Preparation for the exams requires time. Nearly a month and half is required for printing and distribution of question papers alone. We will soon take a decision on the matter. We are still mulling over conducting exams for failed board students in October end. For classes 9 and 11, we have instructed institutions to conduct evaluation through viva or video-conferencing.
Every year the disparity in Class 10 scores among different boards is a concern among students and parents. Will this issue be addressed?
This year, the results have been good for all boards including SSC. We have been approached by parents, and we ourselves have had discussions with other boards. We are deliberating on forming a committee consisting of experts and retired judges, since the matter will need to be represented in the court. We will work to ensure that the students of state board are given justice at least from next year onward.
Despite claims being made by the department on starting educational programmes on DD Sahyadri, there were news reports that no formal application had been made?
This is not true. We have now been told that there is a problem with the bandwidth, and the content with us has been deemed low quality. To overcome this, we have begun shooting high quality videos at the studios with the department for classes 9 to 12 to begin with. We are positive about reaching interior and rural areas through DD Sahyadri. We are exploring all mediums — radio, dish TV, online television channels, physical distribution of books and social media platforms among others — to reach students.
What steps have been taken after the announcement of the National Education Policy?
We have resolved to form a think tank with representation from other departments who are involved in this, such as Women and Child Development, Tribal Development Department, Department of Social Welfare and Justice among others, since it will require a collective effort. Implementation is going to be tough, and will need proper planning. On certain topics such as promotion of local language, reducing weight of school bags, promotion of activity-based learning, the state has already been progressive. Budget is going to be a major concern, and there seems to be a lack of clarity on the role of states and central government in terms of funding.
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