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‘In higher education, attempt is that new session should not be delayed by more than a month’

By Dinesh Verma - March 30, 2020

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New Delhi |

Updated: March 30, 2020 4:56:15 am

Education Secretary Amit Khare spoke to The Indian Express on the government’s plan to make up the learning loss.

The COVID-19 lockdown has disrupted the academic session and upset the entrance exam calendar. Education Secretary Amit Khare spoke to The Indian Express on the government’s plan to make up the learning loss and when the Board exams and entrance tests will be held. Edited excerpts:

How is the government planning to make up for learning loss during the lockdown?

From the first week of April, we are planning to start (school) classes in virtual mode. NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) already has three (SWAYAM TV) channels (27, 28, & 30) and regular study material online for classes 9, 10, 11 and 12. We have asked NIOS to prepare a class-wise and subject-wise schedule for the online content so that students can follow it. So whenever schools reopen, there will be no learning loss as students would have studied some of the chapters in a systematic manner. We have also requested NIOS to air lessons over radio. For junior classes, we have asked them to work with Kendriya Vidyalayas on the new academic session plan. This way, we are hopeful of covering whatever should have been taught this month in April.

Would this apply to schools across the country?

Our online learning plan is for Kendriya Vidyalayas, Central Tibetan Schools and those affiliated to CBSE. This does not apply to students of Navodaya Vidyalayas, which have broken early for summer vacation and will resume only on June 1. They will follow a different pattern.

There is a digital divide even among students. How will those with little or no internet access follow online classes?

That is why we are airing content on NIOS channels of Doordarshan. In rural areas, about three crore households have DD Free Dish. They can watch the NIOS channels for free. Also, those who do not own a television can follow lessons on the radio.

Read | Coronavirus: Pattern of postponed entrance tests won’t change, says Edu Secy Amit Khare

What about the learning disruption in higher education?

Higher education is better placed and institutions have already started online classes. The real challenge is evaluation. We will see whether online assessment is possible or not. That will be decided based on how the situation develops in April. As of now, they are completing their semester based on online courses

Many entrance tests have been deferred. How do you expect this to affect the new academic session in centrally-run institutions?
In higher education, our attempt is that the new session should not be delayed by more than a month.

You are saying a month presuming the lockdown ends on April 14

Yes, that is the presumption. Revised schedules have been prepared for (entrance) exams. If the lockdown ends in April, we can conduct the exams in May. That is what we have planned for JEE and NEET. Results will be announced in June and admissions can be completed by July-end The lost time can be made up by holding additional classes on Saturdays. We have discussed this with higher education institutions.

When is CBSE expected to hold remaining papers and announce results?

(They) are critical as these marks are used for admission into different universities. There are certain core subjects left. We will have to conduct the regular exam as soon as the lockdown is lifted. The pending papers can be completed in May and results will be announced in June.

What if the lockdown extends beyond April 14?

For Class 12 students, letting them appear for the exam from home would not be proper… In that case, some modality will have to be worked out. The numbers (of candidates) are huge, and the centres dispersed. The sanctity of the exam has to be kept in mind. Secondly, it should not be unfair to some students who are dependent on public transportat to reach the test centres. The well-off can use their own vehicles. We will ensure the children are not put to a disadvantage.

So the government is open to holding the board exam even during an extended lockdown. Will the government have the same approach for competitive exams in case the lockdown extends?

For competitive examinations, we are following the conventional model that they will be conducted whenever the lockdown ends. The paper pattern, we are definite, will not change even if the exams are held in July. If we say ‘let’s have one paper instead of two’, that will put all the students, who have prepared as per a set pattern, at a big disadvantage. They have put in a year’s hardwork. We can’t have a shortcut here.

Given the pressure the current batch of Classes 10 and 12 (which will appear for Board exams next year) is under to complete syllabus, will CBSE consider reducing their curriculum?

Let us see. One (option) is to compress the syllabus. The other could be that next year, which is supposed to be the census year, the Board exams can be April instead of March. We can give students an extra month.

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Dinesh Verma