A day before the start of the new academic session in schools across the national capital, Delhi government officials on Wednesday said all classes in private and public institutions will continue to remain online, a decision which caused confusion for some schools that had prepared to begin the session with in-person lessons for students of classes 9 to 12.
Schools in Delhi have conducted online lessons and exams for all students till Class 8 since March last year, owing to restrictions in place to minimise the spread of Covid-19.
Between January 18 and February 5, the Delhi government had allowed schools to reopen for students in classes 9 to 12, to allow practical work and remedial lessons. However, government officials on Wednesday said they have not sanctioned these permissions for the new academic session so far and added that schools will have to continue online classes for all students.
“The last reopening orders were issued to ensure that schools manage to conduct practical and remedial classes for these students [of classes 9-12]. It was also to prepare students for the CBSE Class 10 and 12 board exams. The order was for a specific purpose. The government has not yet allowed schools to reopen normally for senior students. Delhi government schools will on Thursday begin the new session for students of Class 9 and below remotely. Private schools cannot resume offline classes without the government’s permission,” a senior official at the government’s education department.
Although the directorate of education (DoE) had on March 16 issued a circular directing all government schools to begin the new academic session from April 1 for students up to Class 9 online, it is yet to issue any such notification for private schools.
Officials at some private schools, including Mount Abu Public School in Rohini and Sanskriti School in Chanakyapuri, that had decided to revert to in-person lessons for senior classes, said the education department’s orders needed more clarity.
“The DoE’s March 16 notification doesn’t clearly mention which classes can or cannot be called to schools for in-person classes. Besides, the reopening guidelines issued for classes 10 and 12 in January and classes 9 and 11 in February did not mention how long the guidelines were valid. The government needs to make it more transparent,” said an official at Sanskriti School who asked not to be named.
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Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School said, “There should be clear guidelines on online and offline classes. The academic session is set to begin tomorrow [Thursday], and we are still waiting for instructions from the state education department.”
Lakshay Chhabaria, president of the Affordable Private Schools’ Association in Delhi, said most schools under their umbrella were also planning a blend of online and in-person lessons for senior students.
“A large number of parents have consented to sending their children to school, and we are also taking all precautions and due care. The government order dated March 16 was only for aided and government schools. We are yet to be notified of anything,” he said.
Meanwhile, a majority of the private schools, including Springdales School, Delhi Public Schools, Tagore International, The Indian School, Birla Vidya Niketan, and Bal Bharti Public School, among others, had earlier decided to continue with online lessons for all classes in the new session.
Officials at these schools said a year of familiarity with the process meant that virtual classes this session are likely to be less challenging than they were in 2020.
In the last year, both private and public schools in Delhi have switched to online lessons via videoconferencing, recorded video and audio lectures, presentation slides, podcasts, portable document format (PDFs), worksheets, and activities on emails.
Meenu Goswami, principal of Bal Bharti School in Pitampura, said, “Over the past year, teachers and students have become familiar with several technologies and learning techniques, which is why it will be slightly easier for us to start a new academic year virtually. However, this year, we have decided to have mandatory slots for personalised, one-on-one interactions between students and class teachers every day, in order to rekindle their personal connection with their school and teachers.”
Principals at government schools also said that their teachers and students are more prepared for digital lessons this year. RP Singh, principal of Rajkiya Pratibha Vikas Vidyalaya (RPVV) in Surajmal Vihar, said, “Last year at this time, we were struggling to understand the use of technology. However, over the last year, our teachers and students have learned a lot. The quality of worksheets has also improved over the period. But we are really worried about the impact of a prolonged school closures on the overall development of students.”
Several students also said they were disappointed to begin another academic year online. Rania Mavinkurve, 14, a Class 9 student at Springdales School, Pusa Road said she would miss wearing a new uniform, buying a new bag and stationery, and meeting friends. “Although we are much comfortable with online learning after a year, I really wanted to go back to school and attend in-person classes this time. I wanted to meet my new classmates since our sections have reshuffled this year. This is so disappointing that we are starting another session online,” she said.