Education Amidst Pandemic: India’s Response So Far

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the entire world to its knees. The world has lost hundreds of thousands of lives, millions of people have been left unemployed and major industries have had to bring their operations to an abrupt halt. The education sector, which plays a critical role in shaping a country’s future, was one of the first sectors that saw complete shutdown in India. This was due to the fact that younger children with developing immune systems is one of the key demographic which is most at risk of contracting the virus.

Closure of Schools and Colleges

Image of an empty school corridor.
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Even as India was still coming to terms with WHO’s declaration of Coronavirus as a pandemic, the government ordered a countrywide shutdown of all schools and colleges so as to curb the spread of the virus amongst the country’s children and youth.

Cancellation of School Examinations

March is the month for annual final year exams for schools across the country. With a possible nationwide lockdown in near future, most state governments began announcing their decision on school examinations. Certain states, such as Maharashtra, cancelled all exams for students from class 1 to class 8. The students of these grades were to be promoted to next year directly, whereas exams for students of class 9 and 11 were postponed to a later date. In other states, students were promoted based on their performance in previous terms.

Rescheduling of Board Exams

Image of an empty examination hall.
Image via Pixabay.com

Board examinations carry a mighty weight in a student’s school life in India. Board results determine a student’s college admission as well their career path. Both CBSE and ICSE board exams were initially postponed to 31 March and have now been rescheduled to 1 July. Safety guidelines and social distancing rules designed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development will be enforced during these examinations. Union HRD minister, Dr. Ramesh Pokhariyal Nishank, said that since travelling to reach exam centres would be a challenge for students it would be ensured that students are given access to an exam centre nearest to them.

University Exams

On 19 March, just as states were calling off school examinations, the University Grants Commission asked universities throughout the country to postpone exams till 31 March. However, as a nationwide lockdown was imposed on 25 March, the university examinations had to be suspended till further notice.

Since then, there has been plenty of speculation with the possibility of graduating final year students based on previous performance. In some states, the jury is still out on whether or not final-year college exams will be held. Meanwhile, all other students will be promoted based on their overall performance evaluation. Some education councils, such as Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture and Bar Council of India are also in favour of conducting online exams.

In response to the government’s indecisiveness, students across the country have started an online campaign to demand cancellation of exams irrespective of the year or semester they are in.

Reopening of Institutes and the Future of Education in India

Image of study materials including a laptop and a notebook.

The Union HRD minister has revealed in a recent press interaction that schools and colleges are likely to reopen across India in August, most probably after 15 August. The Ministry is aiming to declare by then all results of exams conducted already and those about to be conducted in the coming weeks. Some state governments have decided to start reopening schools from July onward, in a phased manner.

A heavy emphasis is also going to be laid on making e-learning more constructive and accessible to a larger percentage of the student population.

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