Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has last week announced a new national curriculum and pedagogical framework for school education, teacher education, and the early childhood stage. The curriculum, said the HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, will be “rooted in Indian ethos and integrated with global skill requirements, preparing students and future teachers as per global benchmarks.”
In the digital space, the FM has asked the top 100 universities of India to provide online classes, including IITs and IIMs which already have a healthy digital presence. Besides these, other Indian institutes too have been called upon to increase their online footprint. The FM also announced that 40 per cent of traditional education at the college level will be provided through digital modes.
For those who do not have access to infrastructure, distance learning will be extended through television sets. Under the e-Vidya programme that has been launched for school education, the government will provide lessons to students of classes 1 to 12 through 12 DTH channels, with one channel dedicated to each class. This is in addition to the Swayam Prabha channel, which offers higher education and school level lectures.
Online education is here to stay
Earlier, the University Grants Commission (UGC) too had announced that once higher education institutes are re-opened, teachers will be trained in information communication technology (ICT) and in ways to conduct online classes. Even as colleges re-open, there will be a considerable number of courses that will be taught online, as per the recommendations of UGC.
Even as the classes for both school and college-level students are being held online, none claim to have touched 100 per cent capacity. Infrastructure, availability of age-appropriate regional level content and lack of needed support and guidance at home are some of the key issues faced by students.
The UGC had suggested that educational institutes should not only limit the online teaching-learning process to classes and consider extending the examination and evaluation process digitally, wherever possible. However, certain institutes that attempted this, faced a huge backlash. Dozens of online petitions at change.org were registered against the online examination and evaluation.
While students in Delhi University are disapproving online exams, terming it discriminatory, students in Mumbai University are demanding cancellation of final year exams. Maharashtra-based students have also started an online petition against the move. This has given rise to a debate over Twitter on whether or not India should really accept the online assessment and evaluation as online classes are still not able to reach out to all.
While colleges are expected to re-open by August, there is no date yet on when schools will be re-opening. The HRD Minister, during a live interaction, informed that NCERT is shaping guidelines and framework on schools post-COVID. Modified seating arrangements, change in timings and further division of the class into different sections could be among the key features of schools. Measures to maintain social distancing during classes but also during transport facilities like school bus service, etc, are being formalised.
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