The Department Related Standing Committee for Education headed by BJP MP Vinayshastra Buddhe on Tuesday discussed the crucial issue of impact of Covid-19 on education. Secretary of school education Anita Karwal and CBSE chief Manoj Ahuja were among those who appeared before the committee.
Schools and educational institutions have been largely shut since a nationwide lockdown was first imposed towards the end of March last year.
Members of the panel asked the officers what impact the lockdown and subsequent online education system has had. Sources said the officers told the panel that a substantial learning gap has come to the fore since the closure of schools. The panel was also informed that a survey would be carried out in November to find the impact and assess further details. After objections by several MPs, the education ministry agreed to conduct the survey earlier.
Schools for higher standards have resumed in several states like Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Uttar Pradesh, but in a staggered manner. Officials from these states also appeared before the committee to inform it about the experience of reopening schools. While the Assam government said not a single Covid-19 case has been recorded in schools since their reopening, UP said only two cases have been reported so far. While online classes have been conducted in Jammu, it has not been possible in Kashmir due to lack of 4G internet. J&K officials told the panel there has been very encouraging enrollment in physical schools during this period in the Valley.
Several MPs asked the government when schools across the country would reopen. Sources said the education secretary told the panel the decision to reopen schools as well as central-run Kendriya Vidyalayas has been left to the respective states that can also decide when and how to hold examinations.
A number of steps have been taken to instill confidence in parents to send their kids to school, members of The panel were informed. Members also expressed concern about the availability of internet and mobile devices in rural parts and said how more cost-effective measures such as All India radio and Doordarshan, should be encouraged to impart education online.