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Monday, Oct 12, 2020 23:15 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Oct 12, 2020 17:43 [IST]

Ready for school?

The most severe problem posed by this pandemic is the risk of learning losses and learning discontinuity of millions of children. The varying levels of digital capabilities have further exposed the vulnerabilities. The decision to return to a teaching environment depends on individual choices. It also depends on the reassurances and the measures put in place in schools to prevent further spread of the virus.

The Union government has permitted the reopening of schools in phases after October 15. However, the actual timing and manner of reopening will be decided by individual states. This means what students actually experience will vary depending on where they go to school.

So, do younger children go back to the classroom first, or do the older ones? This too, has been left to the discretion of the state governments. The union government had already indicated its preference last month, when the Home Ministry permitted senior students of Classes 9 to 12 to meet their teachers in schools voluntarily. However, if a state were to decide to bring back the youngest students first, the Education Ministry will not interfere.

The Education and Home Ministries have categorically said that students will not be forced to attend classes in school. Attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent, the Ministry’s guidelines for reopening states. Those who choose not to go back to school can attend classes online. For schools that lack an ICT-enabled environment, teachers are expected to interact with students and parents on the phone about “on-going learning in the class and keep track of students through interview mode”. Even if parents decide to send their children to school, they will not be going every day. Attendance could be rotational, on alternate days, or every two days.

No one wants to see the schools become superspreaders. The new guidelines on the phased reopening of schools are in line with a cautious, calibrated move to nudge pandemic preparation by the schools and parental preparedness to take the risk. It is safe to go slow but with full preparation—the standard operating procedure in screening, sanitisation, social distancing, reporting, isolating, closed-door protocols, and outdoor constraints must be in place.

As the reopening rolls out, in a phased, calculated manner, demand on teachers, staff and leadership will be manifold. In all probability, we have to settle down with a mix of online and in-person schooling. A blending of mixed pedagogies increased parental engagement, safety and well-being of students and staff will be the crucial concerns. The challenge is to develop skills that will drive learning and future-readiness.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi