On 1 April, a new session started for schools in the capital. Many Class 2 and 3 students will attend physical classes for the first time in their lives. Both private and government schools are chalking out plans to strengthen their students’ foundation of learning which has been badly affected by a long series of Covid-19 restrictions, including lockdowns.
Both parents and schools have to bridge the education gap that was created by the pandemic and bring the train back on track. Patriot talked with teachers, principals and educators to know what problems they are facing and how are they resolving them.
Priya Vaidya, principal of Ramjas International School, RK Puram, while talking with Patriot, highlighted various problems students are going through after two years of lockdown. “Many students, especially those who have entered from the junior class to senior class, lack the basic foundation. They are not well-versed with the course they have studied in their earlier classes. To bridge this gap, we have started remedial classes, which we call zero period”, Vaidya says.
Students of all ages, from Class 1 to Senior Secondary, are attending these remedial classes. The primary aim of this extra period is to repeat important concepts of the previous class. Worksheets are given to students so that they can practice and solidify their knowledge foundation.
Asked what other changes she noticed in the children after two years of absence, she says, “Many students have lost their social skills. They have forgotten to participate in teamwork.”
Education is not the sole purpose of schools; inculcating discipline is also one of its purposes. “Discipline is missing in the majority of the students”, Vaidya adds.
“Many students do not reach school on time but we allow them in. For the next 2-3 three months, we will focus on bringing back discipline and basic etiquette”, Vaidya stated.
Schools were first closed in March 2020 after the coronavirus knocked on our doors. Classes were shifted to online mode. Those who could afford smart devices continued to learn. But many others were not fortunate enough to have access to digital devices, and as a result, could not study.
Schools in the capital re-opened for in-person classes a few times in the past two years, but online classes were never completely suspended.
The decision to phase out online classes was taken by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority in February, following which schools were asked to switch to offline classes from 1 April, when the new academic session began.
After this decision, schools witnessed a rise in students’ enrolment. “Yes, admissions have increased after the DDMA order. Many parents were confused, but the order has cleared the clouds of doubt. Parents wondered if the government would announce a lockdown again but after the order, they are more spirited to send their wards to school”, says Vaidya.
Students belonging to the economically weaker section are the most affected. Many parents have lost their jobs and livelihood because of the pandemic. According to a principal at a private school, many parents are not even able to afford uniforms. “The financial stress caused by lockdown has compelled them to buy old books”, the principal adds.
Several parents have turned to government schools, where education is free and money is transferred to students’ accounts for uniforms and books, besides providing mid-day meals for younger children. They are not seen as a second best option after all-round praise for AAP’s education model.
While presenting the outcome of budget 2021-22, Delhi Deputy CM and Education Minister Manish Sisodia informed the assembly that Delhi schools have witnessed an increase of three lakh students in the last year. Earlier, there were 15 lakh students in Delhi government schools.
Anuraj Kumar, a student of Class 9 of Government School, Sector-5, RK Puram is one of the many students whose confidence has been shattered by the long absence from school. When we asked him to read a simple English text, nervousness was visible on his face. Not only did he fail to read the text properly, his pronunciation was faulty.
Anuraj is not alone. Thousands like him, studying in both government and private schools, were deprived of a real education.
To mitigate this problem in government schools, the department of education has brought a two-phase plan. In this plan, the department is focusing on teaching the students at the level they have reached rather than enforcing the syllabus.
Under Mission Buniyad, the focus is on basic reading, writing and numeracy skills to make a concrete foundation.
On 6 April, education minister Manish Sisodia held a meeting with the senior officials of three civic bodies. In this meeting, it was decided that a baseline assessment of students from Classes 3 to 5 will be done, and Mission Buniyad implemented in MCD schools.
Delhi Government is also planning to hold summer camps for students of Classes 3 to 5 during the upcoming vacations. These camps aim to bridge the learning gap among students. The State Council of Education Research and Training (SCERT) has been roped in to prepare learning material and a teachers’ manual, which includes a maths workbook and a storybook to improve students’ reading skills.
Santosh Yadav, who teaches at Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya, Jhandewalan explains the problems students faced while attending online classes. “Depletion of mobile data pack was one big problem many students were facing. Because of this, many were not able to attend full classes, and they could not complete the course properly.”
He added that now, teachers at government schools are putting in extra effort, so that students can revise what they missed in the previous classes. “Daily, we teachers are taking an extra class for students after 2 pm”, Yadav says.
Mission Buniyad is a program with a clear focus. According to Yadav, all teachers are working hard to accomplish the goal of the mission. “Daily feedback about students’ performance is taken. Teachers are giving full attention to students. Performance is measured at each level and worksheets are given to students to make them practice”, he says.
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