2020-21 will not be a zero academic year, says Minister

The Education Minister has said that teachers are using different platforms to interact with students and ensure that there is no halt on learning.  

Although physical classes have not been conducted in schools for seven out of 10 months in the 2020-21 academic year and will not resume in December either, Primary and Secondary Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar has ruled out the possibility of a zero academic year.

He said that even though students are unable to physically report to class, teaching and learning have been an ongoing process during the pandemic. “Teachers in government and private schools are using different platforms to interact with students and ensure that there is no halt on learning,” he said. The Minister pointed out that even though no examinations were held for the 2019-20 academic year for students up to class 9, they were promoted to the next grade.

While most stakeholders, including school managements and associations, agree with the government’s decision to delay reopening of schools, many education experts do not agree with the Minister’s view that offline classes — either via the Internet or through televised programmes — have been effective.

They point out that students not just in rural areas but also in top private schools are not grasping concepts taught on various remote learning platforms. With a majority of government schools unable to hold online classes, the State government launched televised classes for middle school students only on Monday. But this was introduced seven months after the academic year had started.

Parents worried

Parents, too, are worried about their children’s academic future. A mother of a class 6 student of a private school in Bengaluru said that the teachers are not making optimal use of technology. “Teachers have not broken out of the traditional mindset of teaching and it is not interactive at all. I would say that a large chunk of the learning is happening because of the involvement of parents,” she said.

The situation is far worse for students of government schools — many of whom will be unable to get any academic assistance from their parents. A headmaster of a government high school in North Bengaluru said that many teachers were trying to find ways to teach their students. “But a majority of our students do not have access to gadgets. They have not even grasped the basic concepts. We are doing everything we can from conducting online classes to sending worksheets to their homes, but students are completely blank when they stare at their textbooks,” she said, adding that most of the students before being promoted to the next grade will have to undergo an intense crash course.

Rishikesh B.S., associate professor at Azim Premji University, said that there was a need for the State government to restart the Vidyagama programme as remote learning options are sub optimal. “The government needs to start the programme and place the ownership and operational aspects with the School Development Monitoring Committee. They can supervise to ensure that all COVID-19 protocols are in place while classes are conducted,” he said.

A study by Azim Premji University titled “Myths of Online Education” stated that 60% of the students could not access online education. The study also said 90% of parents of government school students were willing to send their children back to school if the health of their children was taken care of.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2021 2:01:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/2020-21-will-not-be-a-zero-academic-year-says-minister/article33163909.ece

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