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Should academic year 2020-21 be written off?

by Vasudevan Jayanth
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In this concluding part of the series, The Way Forward, V. Jayanth, former Senior Managing Editor, The Hindu, discusses the fate of education in the Corona year.

Parents and students alike worry about the fate of education in the Corona year or the academic year 2020-21. Should this year be written off?

Technically, only one out of three terms in a school’s academic calendar will be lost and about half a semester in colleges. It may still be possible to salvage the year even if it becomes truncated.

There is no point in worrying about primary and elementary level education as it should be possible to make good in the next year. The fact remains that education at these levels is considered to be high and heavy already.

It is high and higher secondary schools that cause concern. The unfortunate aspect of the Indian education system is its excessive focus on examinations and marks. A shift is already taking place in many colleges towards grades and credits and this exercise must continue. Again the system of internal evaluation and assessment by the teachers and professors has not found enough credibility and acceptance because of the subjective element in the process. This needs to be set right.

In the high and higher secondary schools, the ninth to 12th standards — meaning the SSLC and Plus Two levels — warrant closer attention. The CBSE has already moved to cut down on the syllabus and the Tamil Nadu government too is seized of the matter.

There can be a two-pronged approach to address this issue – a) make good lost time by doing away with vacations and holidays, except for Sundays. b) let there be only one term with the focus on the public examination and completing the reduced syllabus on time. The academic year can be extended till April to do justice to these classes

As for colleges, the year can be reduced to one long semester and again doing away with vacations. It is only the final year in arts and science courses that calls for greater attention. For most of them, undergraduate education may be the end of the road while a certain percentage goes on to postgraduate courses. When they are awarded degrees, there has to be a certain standard.

Many schools and colleges have got into on-line classes for more than a month now and this will continue whether politicians like it or not. What is worrisome is the access to the Internet for the poor and the rural students. Here again, it is up to the government and service providers to improve connectivity and enable at least some television channels to telecast live lessons. Virtual education may be the future like correspondence courses were once the choice of thousands.

What all educational institutions need to do this year is to cut down on assemblies, events, and functions. But not on sports or physical education. Considering the heavy workload in a compressed year, outdoor activities become imperative to keep the mind and body in good shape.

The Tamil Nadu government has already taken the first step towards admission to professional courses and also to the regular undergraduate courses in science and arts colleges.

All things considered, it may be possible to salvage the coming academic year if educational institutions can reopen in September or the latest by early October. That only Mr. Corona will decide.

(Concluded)

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