HRD Ministry; Meeting; Online education, digital divide, reopening schools mulled upon

A meeting was called to discuss the standard operating procedure for reopening of schools and for digital education which was being chaired by School Education Secretary Anita Karwal. At the meeting, states were informed that online classes should be capped at three hours per day.

Various state governments raised concerns over the digital divide in education in the meeting which was called by the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry on Monday to discuss the way forward for learning amidst Covid-19 pandemic.

“Rajasthan pointed out that roughly 15% of its students don’t have access to a digital device. The Jharkhand education secretary said that almost 30% of the state is a shadow region of sorts with poor internet connectivity. Arunachal too suffers from poor (internet) connectivity,” asserted a state education secretary, keeping anonymity.

Some states are learned to have sought financial support from the Union government to provide digital devices to students for online learning. However, there was no assurance of additional funding. Instead, the states were informed by the ministry they could utilise the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan funds under the ICT head and girl education head to bridge the digital divide, reports, The Indian Express.

The school education secretary also requested states to use direct-to-home education channels which are run by the Union Government to educate children where online classes are difficult to conduct.

States were also informed that they would be free to decide the dates of restarting contact classes once the Ministry of Home Affairs allows for reopening. Schools across the country were closed in the last week of March to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

A presentation on do’s and don’ts for students as well as school staff upon reopening was made in the meeting and states were informed that wearing of masks would be compulsory, strict hand hygiene routine has to be followed by students and with this, physical distancing has to be maintained in classrooms.