Schools scramble to make up for lost time
School heads said the learning gap had widened considerably due to frequent closures and were hopeful that there will not be any further disruptions going forward.
With the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) allowing schools to resume in-person classes from Monday, for students of grades nine to 12, school administrators said on Friday that they will focus on bridging learning gaps and easing students into the offline stream. For the first time since the pandemic began in 2020, schools have been allowed to function without a 50% cap on classroom capacity.
School heads said the learning gap had widened considerably due to frequent closures and were hopeful that there will not be any further disruptions going forward. They said the resumption of in-person classes will allow them to prepare students for the end-of-term exams and the board exams in a more efficient manner.
The reopening in Delhi comes at a time when the Centre has been emphasising on mitigating learning loss caused by Covid-19. In the modified school reopening guidelines, the Union government has focused on the smooth transition from online to classroom learning via bridge courses and remedial programmes. The Centre also said that states and Union territories could do away with the clause of parental consent (for a student to attend school).
A senior official in the Delhi directorate of education, however, said parental consent is, for the time being, still mandatory in Delhi to attend in-person classes.
Sudha Acharya, chairperson of the National Progressive School Conference (NPSC) that has over 120 Delhi schools as members, including Sardar Patel Vidyalaya, Bal Bharati Public School, Springdales School, Sanskriti School, and Delhi Public Schools, among others, said schools were looking forward to the resumption of offline classes after a prolonged closure.
“We are relieved that schools will be reopening on Monday after a long time. Students are also elated with the announcement. We have started working on a timetable and hope to have everything in place before Monday,” said Acharya, principal of ITL Public School, Dwarka.
“When we had reopened last time, we noticed that there was a huge learning gap. Students were struggling with writing and did not freely participate in discussions. Our priority will be to go over the syllabus and ensure that students are able to overcome any challenges that they may have faced during remote classes,” said Acharya.
Schools in Delhi reopened for students of all grades on November 1 last year.
Barely two weeks after reopening, offline classes were suspended on November 13, owing to the hazardous pollution levels. Schools reopened on November 29, only to shut again four days later on December 2.
While classes resumed for classes 6 and above from December 18, they were suspended again from December 29 on account of a spike in Covid-19 cases.
Bharat Arora, general secretary, Action Committee of Private Unaided Schools, a consortium of private schools, said schools will reach out to parents and seek their consent for students to attend offline classes. “After two years, it’s high time that learning gets back on track. We will be seeking parent consent and motivating them to send children to school,” said Arora.
Educationists, however, said the prerequisite of parental consent and the continuation of hybrid learning (both online and in-person) would hinder the steps towards normal schooling.
Tania Joshi, principal of The Indian School, said, “If we want to prioritise offline learning, hybrid classes need to be phased out. Till the time a choice is offered, some parents will continue to be hesitant in sending children to school.”
While parents welcomed the decision to reopen schools, they said online classes could continue for children in junior grades since the academic session was nearing its end. Aprajita Gautam, president, Delhi Parents Association, said while the decision to reopen schools for children of classes 9 to 12 was welcome, since those children needed to prepare for board exams, classes for primary and middle grades could continue online until the beginning of the next session. Gautam also said the resumption of transport facility (school buses) would be crucial in getting children to return to school.