Union Minister for Human Resource Development (HRD) Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ on Tuesday said the safety of students is of utmost importance at the moment as uncertainty over engineering, medical and law entrance examinations has left students across the country anxious and worried. He said the examinations can be conducted later on.
Pokhriyal was speaking on ‘the challenges and solutions related to education in a post-coronavirus’ world with Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director, The New Indian Express, on TNIE’s Expressions, a series of live webcasts with prominent people. They were also joined by S Vaidhyasubramaniam, vice-chancellor of SASTRA Deemed-to-be University.
“The decision will depend on the prevalent situation. We care about our students’ safety first; they are our future... We are focusing on their wellbeing amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Pokhriyal.
Stating that the last two months have been difficult for him as well as students, the minister said: “I worked for almost 16-18 hours every day. Some students were in hostels, many on the roads, schools were not in their working conditions. So, handling the situation was not that easy. Then, some decisions had to be taken about competitive, university and board exams. There wasn’t a single day when I didn’t have to make a significant decision. In these two months, we interacted with 33 crore students, more than 1 crore teachers and students’ parents through online conferences. We also spoke to all states’ education ministers to make important decisions about schools and higher education,” he said.
He added that the Centre has come up with various means for students to not lose out on their academic sessions.
“The UGC is working towards making online education possible in the country; it is taking steps in the right direction. We are working day and night to create a greater reach and make online education accessible to all. We have tried our best to make it possible for rural students, too, to study online through TV sets if laptops or phones are not available. We update the SWAYAM portal’s content regularly, DIKSHA portal is also there, e-Paathshala has CBSE study material in almost 15 languages,” added Pokhriyal.
He said the government is also ready to collaborate with private firms to develop apps for students. “We already developed Aarogya Setu app for people’s safety. Similarly, the National Test Abhyas app for NEET students has all kinds of material. It has already been downloaded over 6,50,000 times. Over 11,20,000 students have taken mock tests,” he added.
On reopening of schools, Pokhriyal said: “It all depends on how prepared schools are. Whenever we decide to open schools, we will speak to states, the home ministry and follow all necessary guidelines provided by the health ministry. However, what matters the most now is the safety of our students. Education is equally important, but we need to take precautions first as the situation demands.”
Responding to Vaidhyasubramaniam’s question on what policy changes Indian education system could see post-COVID-19, the minister said: “Changes are happening on its own, like learning from the comfort of our homes. Now, we will form policies accordingly, create new curriculums and study on how to make them more engaging and interactive.”