Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia pitched for a 30 per cent reduction in syllabus for all grades to make up for the loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and advocated reopening of schools wih reasonable precautions.
In a letter written to HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank', Sisodia asserted that since people need to learn to live with coronavirus now, it would be better if the already existing learning spaces like schools, take up that role.
Noting that online teaching can only complement learning in schools and not replace it, he said, it would be a "historical blunder" if the "opportunity" is let to pass by not trusting schools with a bigger and bolder role, which is, to prepare children for better and responsible life and not just for a few lessons of their textbooks.
"First of all, we need to assure every child irrespective of age and social class that they are important to us and all of them have equal right to physical and intellectual space of their respective schools. The clamour of online teaching or older children coming to school first and not the younger ones should be put to rest.
"Online teaching can only complement learning in school, not replace it," Sisodia said and cautioned that no measures be suggested which accords any primacy to children of secondary grades onwards vis a vis primary because learning across all stage is important, whether it is about preparing for board exams or learning to read and write.
Quoting an ICMR study which states that coronavirus attack rate (people affected per 1 lakh population) is lowest among 0-9 years age group, he said, "Since we need to learn to live with coronavirus now, it would be better if the already existing learning space, which is school, take up that role. But before doing that, parents need to be taken in confidence and they should be explained the risk factors with facts."
"In the process of learning to live with coronavirus there would be major changes in the schools across the world. It is for us to decide whether we reorganize our schools based on the need of our country, our society and learnings from our own great history or we wait for other countries or some other societies to do something and then we copy paste those here. In my view we need to take decisive steps now," the deputy chief minister said.
Sisodia, who is also Delhi's education minister, suggested that distinct approach be followed in early childhood education, elementary grades segment, secondary and senior secondary students.
"Syllabus be reduced by at least 30 percent across all grades and subjects. Emphasis should be on depth in learning and understanding rather than spreading far and wide. Combine this with exam reforms. CBSE should move away from one-time high-stake exam of class 10 and 12 to a model of continuous evaluation so that students can take online exam whenever they want," he said.
For early childhood and elementary grades, Sisodia recommended "establishing the foundation of lifelong learning" with a goal of "learning to learn".
"Instead of continuing the remaining part of schooling with reduced syllabus let us move beyond the tendency to just complete the syllabus. Instead, fluency in reading with understanding and oral expression, writing different genre of text, number sense, emotional resilience, internalization of healthy and hygienic practice, should be the key areas of engagement between children and their teachers," he said.
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16, when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shutdown as part of a slew of measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
A 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect the next day. While the government has announced easing of certain restrictions, schools and colleges continue to remain closed.
The government had last week announced that schools, colleges, coaching centres and other educational institutions will be reopened after discussing the coronavirus situation with states and Union territories in July.