The Education Ministry on Monday issued broad guidelines for reopening schools amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, but left the decision on whether to bring back the youngest or the oldest students first up to the state governments.
The states, a ministry official told The Indian Express, are free to decide the timing and manner of school reopening as long as it is in phases and after October 15. “It is requested that as and when States/UT decide to reopen schools, a copy of the order and SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) may be emailed to this Ministry as well,” states the Education Ministry’s letter.
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Schools across the country have been closed since mid-March, even before the coronavirus lockdown was imposed. Last month, the Home Ministry’s Unlock4 guidelines permitted states to bring back students of Classes 9 to 12 on “voluntary basis”.
Monday’s guidelines carry the Union government’s tacit approval in case the states decide to reopen schools for all grades, including junior students, in a phased manner.
The Education Ministry’s SOP is indicative, and states are expected to draft their guidelines within the broad framework defined by the Union government, the officer quoted above added.
According to the SOP issued by the Centre, schools, upon reopening, will not hold classes for all grades on one day. Attendance could be rotational, on alternate days, or every two days. On the days a student is at home, chapters that are “essential but conceptually easier to understand” will be covered.
In case of high enrolment numbers, schools can explore running in two shifts “by reducing time duration of school hours per shift, such that the school is able to manage with the same set of teachers in the overall school hours”.
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For at least two to three weeks after reopening, schools will not conduct any assessment and even when they do, the pen-and-paper text format will be discouraged for students across all grades to “ensure emotional well-being of the students”.
“Assessments in the form of role plays, choreography, class quiz, puzzles and games, brochure designing, presentations, journals, portfolios, etc., may be preferred over routine pen-paper testing,” the Education Ministry’s guidelines state. “If possible, school bags for students of lower primary classes (I to V) may be discouraged. All the necessary learning material may be kept in the classroom.”
Attendance for students will not be compulsory and depend entirely on parental consent. Wearing of masks by students, teachers and staff will be compulsory. Aged teachers and staff and those living in containment zones will not be allowed to work.
A minimum physical distance of six feet to be maintained during seating, regular hand hygiene routine to be followed by students and sanitisation of frequently-touched surfaces in the school are also part of the reopening guidelines.
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