Schools across the state are set to finally resume their normalcy in June and post summer vacation. Pallavi Smart talks to Commissioner of Education Suraj Mandhare who has read a pandemic-induced loss of aid to schools for a plan of action. An interview from Excerpts:
Q) With the education sector heading to normalcy, what will your focus be?
The Pandemic has led to a huge learning loss among children. The foremost focus will be on learning loss and developing modules such as bridge courses to help them cope. There is no point in getting students to head to the high school where they are expected to have a learning outcome. The plan is to gauge the learning loss in an objective manner to create an effective remedy teaching module. But this will be possible only after the required capacity building teachers. We are working on creating a 20-30 minute quick course to make it available to all, including parents. In this course, it will take a few steps to get the most out of the online platforms, which are designed to give you the best outline. This course will be disseminated through multiple channels such as DIKSHA app, YouTube Sessions, Community Radio among all.
Q). What other areas of school education do you think require normalcy of reserve?
The Pandemic has led to many other issues, such as shortening the attention span of students, obesity, and psychological needs after losing someone, including a parent, to Covid. We have been working on a number of peer-learning activities to improve the quality of our schools. Most of the students were at home with pandemic and it has a few psychological issues with obesity and tiredness. It is important to create targeted sports and other extracurricular activities that bring them out of the lethargy. While there could be extracurricular activities, we also plan to introduce gamification to fun ways to learn in schools. The exposure to digitalisation in education can be used to make the content attractive and interactive.
Q) The midday meal plan is severely affected, especially while resuming normalcy post-pandemic. How do you strengthen your plan?
Initially, dry ration was distributed to children under the midday meal plan. With schools starting offline, we are slowly resuming the old practice of serving cooked meals to children. However, the transition has resulted in multiple causes such as court cases, vendors of inability, shortage of fortified rice and so on. But most importantly, we have identified the problems and resolved those at one time. By June, when schools resume full offline operation in a new academic year, the midday meal plan will return to its original format.
Q). Recently, school education minister Varsha Gaikwad has ordered mandatory installation of CCTVs in schools, both private and government, to ensure students’ safety. What is the status? What is your plan?
CCTV installation will be part of the school inspection checklist now. We will ensure that the minister’s directives are compiled with the earliest. While CCTV is important on school premises, we are also encouraging school administration to characterize all their staff. Additionally, we are training students to understand inappropriate behavior. An effective mechanism is provided against complainants in any such case as the most effective deterrent against severe action.
Q). What are your plans for Zilla Parishad (ZP) schools?
Literacy is the basis of any state or region of economic growth. Learning and self-development for a conducive environment. The areas underlying include basic schooling, focusing on introducing science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) into middle grades, opportunities for technical and vocational learning, affordable education, robust assessment and remediation systems. As for the ZP schools, the focus is on foundational literacy and numeracy skills, investing in early childhood care to prepare children for face-to-face Grade I competencies, and learning and tracking out-of-school children. It’s the utmost importance for the state to make sure no child gets dropped out and those who are already out are backing mainstream schooling.