Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ says online mode of teaching won’t vanish with the Covid-19 pandemic. The government would prefer a blend of online and offline, he says. In an email interview with
Shantanu Nandan Sharma, the minister clarifies that attendance won’t be mandatory for some time. Edited excerpts:
The biggest question for students and parents is, when will schools and colleges reopen and start functioning normally? What can you tell us?
The Unlock 5 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (on September 30) gave the flexibility to state and Union territory (UT) governments to take a decision on the reopening of schools, colleges and educational institutions from October 15 in noncontainment zones in a graded manner. The decision has to be taken in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation. The institutes will have to mandatorily follow the SOP regarding health and safety precautions issued by their respective education departments of state or UT. Following the guidelines of the MHA, states such as Goa, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra have partially reopened schools and institutions of higher education while other states have yet to take a decision on the same.
Going forward, will the learning be a mix of online and offline? Will class attendance be compulsory?
As I mentioned earlier, as per the guidelines of MHA, state/UT governments will take a decision on the reopening of schools and higher education after consultation with the necessary stakeholders. However, I would like to add that online education is here to stay. Blended learning will be normal.
As far as attendance is concerned, it is mentioned in the ‘SOP/guidelines for health and safety protocols for reopening of schools and learning with physical/social distancing’ and in the UGC guidelines for reopening universities and colleges that attendance must not be enforced.
What about courses that require major laboratory work?
For courses that require major laboratory work, the UGC has already issued necessary guidelines according to which universities and colleges may plan opening the campuses in phases, where one can easily adhere to the needful norms, especially in research laboratories.
Are you in favour of early Covid-19 vaccination for teachers?
The unexpected advent of a global pandemic is unfortunate. But let me assure you that we are together in this, and our government is relentlessly working towards the vaccine. As far as vaccine administration plan is concerned, we shall adhere to guidelines prescribed by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
What’s your roadmap to implement the National Education Policy 2020?
I have been conducting regular review meetings on the implementation of the National Education Policy. The Ministry of Education has been conducting consultative workshops to prepare indicative, and draft implementation task lists with aligned timelines and outputs. For example, the Department of School Education & Literacy has prepared a task list of 297 tasks based on NEP recommendations, which has been shared with states/UTs/autonomous bodies for providing feedback. Key priority areas include development of a national curriculum framework for ECCE (early childhood care and education), school education and teacher education, setting up of FLN (foundational literacy and numeracy) mission, focus on holistic examination and the strengthening of teacher education programmes. Meanwhile, in higher education, a series of reforms will be carried out such as the introduction of regional languages as medium of instruction, running of multi-disciplinary courses with multiple entries and exit options and formation of academic banks. ICT facilities and digital learning will be strengthened across both school and higher education.