The Union government is releasing ₹7,728 crores to states to help them meet immediate education expenses during the ongoing pandemic, the Union education ministry said after a meeting with state education secretaries on Monday.
Of the total amount, ₹5,228 crores has been released as ad hoc grants under Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan, the flagship school education program, and ₹2,500 crore will be released soon to continue various initiatives, including online education, the education ministry said.
The ministry’s school education department has begun meetings of the project approval boards, virtually for approving annual work plans and budgets of the states under SSA, “so that the states and Union territories (UTs) can get timely (financial) approvals for implementation of the above interventions”.
Addressing the meeting, Union education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal said the “current situation of covid-19 is unfortunate, but the government is committed to turning the situation into an opportunity by doing new experiments to ensure safety and academic welfare of students.”
Assuring full cooperation from his ministry to state education departments, the minister emphasized the need to continue efforts made by the states and Union territories in the previous year and underscored the importance of reaching out to the most vulnerable and marginalized children during the pandemic.
There is a growing concern that underprivileged students are falling off the learning curve, both in urban pockets and rural India, due to the closure of schools and lack of access to quality content.
The issue of mainstreaming of out-of-school children and ensuring sustained enrolment was discussed in the meeting.“Academic learning and cognitive development of students; capacity building with a specific focus on blended and home-based learning, including student assessments and data use; nutritional, socio-emotional support; digital education and monitoring, tracking and remediation were stressed,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Union education ministry and state education secretaries, however, did not take a decision on the conduct or cancellation of Class 12 board exams in the meeting, amid a growing chorus to cancel the boards, keeping in mind the health of students.
“No discussions on cancelling school boards was taken up,” said an official who attended the meeting. Among other issues, the need for broadband connectivity and better online infrastructure in schools was discussed in the meeting, where around 50 education officials, including principal secretaries from various states participated, the official added.
There was a lot of expectations from the student community that the meeting may decide on the board exams conducted by CBSE as well as state school boards.
India is reporting an average of 300,000 cases and over 4,000 deaths per day for the past several weeks. Though the caseload has decreased a bit, the fatalities are still high. On 14 April, the government announced the postponement of CBSE Class 12 board exams and canceled the Class 10 exams in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Following this, several school boards, including the ICSE board, and states like Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Gujarat postponed class 12 board exams.