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Current academic session not likely to be treated as zero year, govt tells parliamentary panel

Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare tells Rajya Sabha panel the govt will provide all logistical support to ensure that school and college exams are held.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is not thinking of treating the current academic session as a “zero year”, and it will ensure that all school and college exams are held, Union Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare informed the parliamentary panel on Human Resource Development (HRD) Monday, ThePrint has learnt.

One of the MPs, who attended the Rajya Sabha standing committee meeting, said that Khare told the MPs, “Students will get their classes online and offline, and all logistical support will be provided to ensure that exams happen. We are not going to treat the current academic session as a year-long holiday.”

The standing committee, which has 31 MPs from Rajya  Sabha and Lok Sabha, met to discuss the preparedness of school, higher and technical education sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over a dozen MPs attended the meeting. 

Khare, however, did not give any clear indication on when the schools, colleges and universities are likely to open. 

“The higher education secretary said that the government will take a decision depending on the situation arising because of the Covid pandemic,” said another MP, who attended the meeting.

Khare also said that, ultimately, it is the states that will take a final call on when to reopen schools and colleges depending on the situation on the ground, the member added. 

Educational institutions have been the worst-affected because of the Covid-19 outbreak. With schools and colleges shut since April, a majority of them have moved to online classes

Also read: Rahul Gandhi has skipped all 11 meetings of standing committee on defence since September

HRD officials face heat on online classes

Officials of HRD ministry, which has now been renamed as the education ministry, came in for flak over the effectiveness of conducting online classes, especially in rural areas and among children belonging to economically weaker sections (EWS).

“Jyotiraditya Scindia, who recently joined the BJP from Congress and was appointed a member of the standing committee on HRD, wanted to know if the government has carried out any study to assess the actual reach of online classes,” a third MP said.

Many MPs flagged how students in rural areas and those belonging to EWS are accessing online classes. They wanted to know what the government is doing to ensure that online classes reach and benefit students from deprived backgrounds and those living in far-flung rural areas.

“Many of the poor households have just one mobile phone but more than one school-going child. In far-flung rural areas, getting a good network is a huge issue,” the third MP said.

Khare told the MPs that the higher education department is conducting a nationwide survey of schools across states, including those in slums and far-flung areas, to gauge the reach of the online classes.

The result of the survey, Khare said, will be out by mid-September.  

Suggestion of starting a question bank

A fourth parliamentarian, who attended the meeting, told ThePrint that BJP MP Dr Vinay P. Sahasrabuddhe, who heads the parliamentary panel on HRD, suggested that in the event of the Covid pandemic further disrupting the academic calendar, the education department could look into the possibility of starting a question bank system in the beginning of the new academic season. 

“Sahasrabuddhe suggested that school boards can announce a list of say 100 questions out of which students would have to answer any 25-30 in an academic year. The schools/colleges will then be free to choose the questions. This will not only check leakage of question paper, but also give freedom to schools to decide on the exam calendar,” the MP added.   

Congress MP from Bihar Akhilesh Kumar Singh wanted to know what plans the HRD ministry has for conducting practical classes, especially for students from science stream. 

“Singh asked how is the government going to hold practical classes online. Khare replied that IIT Mumbai and IIT Delhi have started virtual labs. To this, Singh said that one can’t equate IIT Delhi and IIT Mumbai with colleges in districts and villages across India with not so robust school infrastructure,” said the second MP quoted above.

The member added that Gopal Narayan Singh, BJP MP from Bihar, suggested that the government should make it mandatory for teachers to go to school/college to take online classes.

“This way there will be accountability on the part of teachers,” he added. 

Also read: BJP MPs oppose audit of PM CARES Fund at a parliamentary committee meeting


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  1. Monthly salary for pvt. School teachers in Nagaland become a myth due to clossing down of school. What is next?

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