Covid: Parents' nod not a must for kids to attend physical classes, says Govt

The guidelines also focused on the smooth transition from online to classroom learning by preparing bridge courses, focusing on students who need extra interventions, ensuring that every student reads books beyond those in the syllabus, and implementing remedial programmes.
States and Union territories have been asked to add these modified guidelines in the existing school standard operating procedures (SoPs) for the reopening of schools issued by the Union health ministry in October 2020 and then in February last year. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
States and Union territories have been asked to add these modified guidelines in the existing school standard operating procedures (SoPs) for the reopening of schools issued by the Union health ministry in October 2020 and then in February last year. (Vipin Kumar / HT Photo)
Updated on Feb 03, 2022 07:22 AM IST
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The Union government has allowed states to decide if parental consent is needed by school students to attend physical classes, in modified guidelines issued by the Union education ministry on the reopening of educational institutions in different parts of the country as the third national wave of Covid-19 infections abates.

The guidelines also focused on the smooth transition from online to classroom learning by preparing bridge courses, focusing on students who need extra interventions, ensuring that every student reads books beyond those in the syllabus, and implementing remedial programmes.

States and Union territories have been asked to add these modified guidelines in the existing school standard operating procedures (SoPs) for the reopening of schools issued by the Union health ministry in October 2020 and then in February last year.

“State and UT governments may decide at their level whether their schools are required to take the consent of the parents of the students attending the physical classes,” they said.

This modifies a key norm in the guidelines that mandated parents to provide written consent “if they wish to send their children to school”.

Bharat Arora, secretary of Action Committee of Unaided Private Recognised Schools --- an umbrella body of over 400 schools in Delhi --- said that the move will help state governments to consider opinions from all stakeholders and draft need-specific SOPs for the reopening of schools. “It is high time that all stakeholders realise that learning can no more be compromised and physical spaces must be reopened without any further delay. We appeal DDMA and its members to call upon all stakeholders - schools, educators and parents - for reopening of schools,” he said.

The association had recently wrote to the Delhi LG urging him to immediately reopen schools for students of all grades, and stressed that there could be no justification in keeping schools closed when all other activities have been allowed to resume.

While delivering her budget speech on Tuesday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharam also acknowledged the “learning loss” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years and announced several intiative, including the expansion of the “One Class One TV Channel” initiative under the PM e-Vidya scheme from 12 to 200 channels, in order to address it.

Stressing on a smooth transition of students upon resumption of physical classes, the education ministrysaid that school-readiness and bridge courses should be prepared and implemented. “Once the schools reopen, the grade related syllabus should be undertaken only after the bridge course is completed, so the students can adjust to the changed school environment and do not feel the stress and left out, especially students who did not have access to alternate means of education,” the guidelines said.

They further emphasised on identifying students who need “additional intervention” and also asked states/UTs to take measures to prevent drop-outs by suggesting that detention of students not be enforced this year.

“Wherever states have amended their state Right to Education (RTE) rules to allow for detention in classes 5 and/or 8, they may consider giving relaxation from detention this year. This would go a long way in preventing drop-outs. States may like to keep a watch on the situation for any further consideration to prevent drop-outs until the pandemic related situation stabilises,” the guidelines said.

The ministry also asked states and UTs to encourage stakeholders to avail services of its “Manodarpan” programme, which covers a wide range of activities to provide psychological support to students, teachers and families for mental health and emotional well-being.

Officials at the ministry of education said that these modified guidelines were first sent in December 2021. “But the Omicron wave again forced states and UTs to close the schools. Now as the situation is improving and several states and UTs have already started reopening schools, the ministry made these guidelines public,” a senior official said, asking not to be named.

With Covid-19 cases declining in India, several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, have started reopening schools in graded manner in the last few days.

The closure of schools amid the pandemic for around two years severely affected the learning levels among students. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) across six states last year, at least 80% of students aged between 14 and 18 years reported lower levels of learning at home during the Covid-19 pandemic compared to when they attended classes in schools.

The impact was major among the students who had no access to digital education. According to a report released by the Union education ministry in October last year, 29 million school students did not have access to digital devices at a time when their schools were physically closed. The data was collected from 24 states and Union Territories (UTs) until June 2021.

“India today boasts of being home to the longest pandemic induced school closures in the world. There are significant emotional, developmental and learning costs that Indias young are paying for this. The world bank estimates a loss of over 400 billion in future earnings due to prolonged closures.

“Every major country and all global institutions have based on evidence pointed out that schools are neither super spreaders nor are vaccines a pre requisite for physical opening. India’s failure to reopen schools is based on politics and elite capture not science . Zoom rooms are no substitute for a classroom.,” said Yamini Aiyar, president, Centre for Policy Research.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Fareeha Iftikhar is a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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