The admissions for children under socially and economically disadvantaged groups under Right to Education (RTE) is likely to be further delayed in Gujarat as the government has to issue the mandatory caste and income certificates. Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama tells RITU SHARMA in an interview that the state government cannot risk health of applicants and authorities issuing these certificates as maintaining social distancing will be an issue. Excerpts…
Post Covid-19, what changes are schools expected to adopt in terms of academics and examinations?
Post Covid-19, (rather we say living with Covid), we expect technology enabled learning to be the future, the role of teachers will see a major shift from instructor to facilitator and mentor, schools will have to play an important role to educate students and society to create awareness on how to live with Covid and schools will have to ensure the periodic assessments to evaluate the home learning solutions for its effectiveness and learning levels of students since assessment and exams are integral part of learning processes.
Also, new academic calendar may be developed for this year to ensure appropriate learning in accordance with academic days available in line with the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT’s) new academic calendar.
When does the state government plan to open schools for students in this academic session?
Let us wait for the Central Government guidelines in association with ICMR (Indian Council for Medical Research) and issue a policy for the commencement of educational institutes physically. Based on the guidelines, we will announce the date in consultation with the state health department.
What is the roadmap for schools for this academic session?
Schools are working on enrollment for Class 1, 9 and 11 for academic session that started on June 8, 2020. Efforts are being made to ensure delivery of textbooks and other content related to home learning.
What are the plans for children from economic weaker sections and disadvantaged groups under the RTE Act? New admissions are pending this year and private schools have already enrolled students.
Private schools which have already enrolled students under RTE Act from weaker and disadvantaged groups are directed to treat them at par with their regular students and provide them equal home learning facilities. If students do not have electronic devices for learning, private schools are instructed to provide printed content and work sheets etc for home learning.
While admissions under RTE for this year is under consideration as we are ready but since the matter is sub judice a decision cannot be taken till High Court’s order. The process was to commence in March but got delayed due to Covid-19. For the caste and income certificates mandatory for admissions under 25 per cent reservation for children from economically and socially disadvantaged groups under Right to Education (RTE) Act is an issue that needs to be addressed. The government cannot risk health of applicants and authorities issuing these certificates as maintaining social distancing will be an issue.
Despite assurance by the state government of no fee hikes in private schools, parents are complaining of schools demanding it, while some also forcing students to wear school uniform even for online classes. Any checks to be imposed on such practices?
I had a detailed meeting with school management and discussed all issues. On my recommendations they have agreed upon unanimously that there shall be no rise in current existing fees, the fees shall be collected in monthly installments instead of quarterly and parents shall be given liberty to pay the fees until September in case of difficulties. You might have noticed that in spite of all this we have taken strict actions and issued immediate notices, where and when we have received any complaints till now.
I again assure that my department is vigilant and ready to take actions as and on we get any complaints. We have instructed the institutions not to insist on uniform for online classes.
What has been the reach of various offline and online tools launched for the state government schools? How does the state government plans to cover the gaps?
In a bid to ensure that the new academic session is not affected by the pandemic, Gujarat government has planned and announced ‘Home Learning’ initiative from June 15. To cover the gaps, various means and platforms are being explored. Regular feedback, data analysis and corrective measures are being taken.
What has been the reach and results of ‘study from home’ campaign launched by the state government in March?
Gujarat was the first state to respond to Covid-19 pandemic and partnered with 13 national and local television channels even before lockdown-I was announced.
Education programmes were aired on 13 TV channels for two hours everyday for more than a month. Though this is the best possible way to reach out to maximum students, state has used few other mediums to bridge the gap in its current phase.
To ensure learning at home, it is decided to introduce various initiatives like development and distribution of weekly course guide, weekly homework booklet, classes through television and mobile platforms.
Arrangements are made in partnership with Doordarshan and Vande Gujarat Channels of Bhaskaracharya Institute for Space Applications and Geoinformatics (BISAG) to telecast the daily learning content. Detailed time table for telecast has been prepared and published. It has been ensured that each parent and student gets this timetable so they can view the telecast. Repeat telecast is also planned so those who have missed it can view it. This telecast covers all classes from 3 to 12. While the textbooks are QR-coded and the students will be able to view it through mobile or tablets, besides, some audio-visual material is also being included. To ensure maximum reach to students, multiple platforms and partnerships like telecast through Facebook Workplace, WhatsApp, Facebook Live, Jio TV are being explored.
With a six percent decline already recorded in Class 10 results this year, how does the state government ensure minimum impact on teaching and learning outcome of government school students?
We are analysing the result from various data points like districts, blocks, subjects etc to find out where the decline is and will design corrective remediation interventions to ensure that there is minimum impact on teaching and learning in current situation.
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