Decision on reopening schools, colleges on April 14 after reviewing COVID-19 situation: HRD Minister

Government will take a decision on reopening of schools and colleges on April 14 after reviewing the coronavirus situation in the country, Union HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ said on Sunday.

In an interview to PTI, he said the safety of students and teachers is of utmost importance to the government and that his ministry is prepared to ensure there is no academic loss to students if educational institutions needed to remain shut beyond April 14, when the ongoing 21-day lockdown is slated to end.

“It is difficult to take a decision at the moment. We will review the situation on April 14 and depending upon the circumstances, a decision will be taken on whether schools and colleges can be reopened now or have to be closed for some more time,” Pokhriyal said when asked about his Ministry’s post-lockdown plan.

“There are 34 crore students in the country, more than America’s population. They are our biggest treasure. Safety of students and teachers is of utmost importance to the government,” he added.

The 21-day nationwide lockdown ends on April 14. There have been indications from the government that the lockdown may not be extended.

Classes in schools and colleges were suspended and exams postponed even before the lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect from the next day. There are over 800 universities, 40,000 colleges and 12,000 standalone Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), besides 1.5 lakh schools in the country.

“The classes are already being conducted online using various government platforms like Swayam and Diksha. The platforms are being widely accessed by students. We are prepared to ensure there is no academic loss to students if need arises to keep schools, colleges closed beyond April 14. I am regularly reviewing the plan of action being followed by schools and colleges during the lockdown,” the minister said.

Earlier this week, he interacted with directors of 23 IITs and Vice Chancellors of Central universities in separate video conferences

“I interacted with directors of IITs and appreciated them for the kind of COVID-19 related research that is being conducted at different institutes. I also directed them to ensure that placements of students who are in the final year are not affected due to the situation. In the coming weeks, I will interact with directors of NITs as well,” Nishank said.

The government also announced earlier this week that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) will conduct pending exams for class 10 and 12 only in those 29 subjects which are crucial for promotion and admission to higher educational instituions. The board has also announced that it will not conduct pending class 10 and 12 examinations in foreign countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“All students upto class 8 have been promoted. For class 9 and 11 students, schools have been asked to grade them as per their performance in internal assessment.  For 29 crucial subjects, the board will conduct the exams. A plan is also ready for conducting pending exams and evaluation as soon as the situation improves and the lockdown is lifted. Students will be given at least a ten-day notice before the exams are conducted,” the Minister said.