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The academic year

The decision of the Government of Assam to change the academic year of schools from the existing January-December

academic year

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  1 July 2020 4:32 AM GMT

The decision of the Government of Assam to change the academic year of schools from the existing January-December to April-March, taken during the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday has evoked mixed reactions. According to a tweet by the Assam Chief Minister's Office, the decision has been taken on two grounds; one, in view of the disruptions caused by Covid-19, and two, to align the academic year with the rest of the country. Cabinet spokesman Chandra Mohan Patowary on the other hand has added that the education department had recommended the change after collecting opinions from the people as well as academicians of the state. It is a fact that students have suffered the most – second only to the millions of workers in the private sector and their families – because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown that followed. School students have been practically disturbed since the anti-CAA agitation had begun in December, and even as the schools had begun to function regularly in February, the pandemic came as a severe blow, shutting down for an indefinite period all educational institutions. In Assam, and for that matter in all states, school students have practically lost close to five months now. Most states have advanced the summer vacations in order to adjust the holidays, and though the Union Government has declared educational institutions closed till August 31 in view of the pandemic, all that one can look forward is how to devise more practical ways and means to make up for the loss. Education is a State subject, and the states thus are free to decide on their respective academic years. While not much public discussion has been noticed in Assam regarding the loss of valuable months in the beginning of the academic year, the fact remains that children are traumatised and confused and are not being able to understand what exactly is happening around them. While attempts were made to reach out to school students through the mobile phone, it turned out to be more traumatising, especially for children from families belonging to the lower economic strata in both rural and urban areas, as not all can afford to acquire a smartphone when ensuring two meals a day has been a huge challenge. While the rich and the middle classes with access to computers and smartphones also have access to online teaching from their schools, the large majority of children, especially attending government schools and low-cost private schools, do not have such opportunities. At the all-India level, the Central Board of Secondary Education has been reportedly considering rationalising the syllabus for Classes IX to XII for the next academic year in order to make up for the lost time owing to Covid-19 and lockdown. The National Council for Educational Research and Training too has reportedly suggested to the government for an alternative academic year for the lower classes of schools which follow the CBSE system. Assam has over 47,600 schools. This includes over 830 Higher Secondary Schools, over 4300 High Schools, over 5700 Upper Primary Schools, over 36,000 Primary Schools, 97 Sanskrit and Pali Tols and a little over 400 recognised Madrasa Schools. The Upper Primary and Primary schools together have over 41 lakh students, while the High Schools have over 6.5 lakh and the Higher Secondary Schools over 1.33 lakh students. Additionally Junior Colleges have around one lakh students in the Class XI-XII stage. While the Government of Assam is yet to spell out the minute details related to the change in academic year as announced, what it an probably pick up from a major suggestion of the CBSE is to rationalise and condense the syllabus for the current year, with an extra thrust on providing some kind of psychological relief, support or counselling to the students. Simultaneously, the Education department can probably also examine the scope of reaching out to the parents of these 49 lakh students through various media and extend some counselling services to them too, so that they in turn can provide some succour to the children.

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