NEW DELHI: Several states, urged by the Centre, have started conducting a survey among guardians and parents to understand whether the primary and preprimary students can be brought back to schools beginning next month.
The development comes even as classes 9-12 have begun in many states and secondary classes are set to start later this month.
Sources in the Union education ministry told this newspaper that the states had reached out to the Centre for its opinion on re-opening the lower classes based on the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country at present.
“However, we have suggested they take the opinions of the stakeholders as the decision to reopen the schools had been left on individual states’ discretion in the guidelines earlier,” said a senior official in the ministry.
“We have now heard that some states such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh among others are reaching out to parents to get their opinion and whether they are comfortable in sending back the young students to schools,” the official added.
The Centre had permitted the reopening of schools in phases after October 15, while making it clear that it will continue to promote online teaching.
This meant that what students could actually experience is varying depending on where they go to school.
The Union education and home ministries have categorically said that students will not be forced to attend classes in school.
“Even if schools for young children start in the coming weeks depending on the feedback we receive, we will ask schools to ensure that attendance is not enforced, and it will depend entirely on parental consent,” said an education department official in Uttar Pradesh.
Global bodies have been insisting on reopening of schools saying that the benefits of keeping those open far outweigh the costs of closing them, and hence nationwide closures should be avoided at all costs.
A recent UNICEF global study using data from 191 countries showed no association between school status and Covid-19 infection rates in the community.
With little evidence that schools contribute to higher rates of transmission, It had urged governments to prioritize reopening schools and also to make them safe.
School re-opening plans must include expanding access to education, including remote learning, especially for marginalized groups, the report had said adding that education systems must also be adapted and built to withstand future crises.