With almost everything on hold, educational centers have requested and stated the need for a “zero academic year” for 2020. But education ministry officials tell the parliamentary house panel has disagreed with need and confirmed that there will be NO “zero academic year”. Schools and Colleges that have now been closed since mid-March, may open from September 1 and hopefully be able to conduct examinations at the end of the academic session and continue teaching and learning on digital platforms.
To quote, Higher Education Secretary Amit Khare told the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resource Development on Monday, that the government will not allow a zero academic year, where there will be no instruction and no examination. This is appreciable,” one of the members said. School education secretary, higher education secretary, UGC chairman and other officials of the Education Ministry also briefed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on human resource development on the education scenario in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Amit Khare also added that the new batch of students would likely be joining by November-December and classes and examinations for the students currently enrolled would also be conducted
The denial of the “zero academic year” and continuity of the teaching lessons indicated the ministry to highlight the plight of economically weaker section students who cannot afford smartphones, laptop for their online class raising multiple questions for the future of these children pointing towards possibilities of a gap year. Virtual Learning has caused mental trauma to the students who have a feeling of being left behind if they are unable to access online classes. A vast majority of the parents almost 89% are worried about their child’s wellbeing and they are not supporting the reopening of the educational institutions till the Coronavirus scare is over. It is in this context that the demand for this year to be considered a zero academic year is emerging from various quarters of society.
WHAT EXACTLY IS ” ZERO ACADEMIC YEAR” ?
Each academic year, the cognitive abilities that the student acquires through the teaching-learning process form the basis for the next year. Therefore, it is imperative that every student pass through each step as they are connected spirally. The results reflect their calibre making them fit or unfit to move forward academically. If students are not able to successfully complete an academic year, it deprives them the basics to progress to higher levels. But this is a unique situation in which no student is able to complete the minimum requirements for getting promoted to the next level. This is where the discussion of the zero academic year comes into play. A zero academic year makes all students considered eligible to proceed to the next stage without any screening. More specifically speaking, it would mean the elimination of examinations giving everyone the right to enter the next level without the mandated teaching-learning process.
Panel Chairman Vinay Sahasrabuddhe suggested that children can be taught via community radio and transistor, which is cost-effective compared to mobile phones, can be provided to poor students, according to the sources. The senior BJP leader also suggested creation of a “big question bank” of all subjects for students on the basis of which questions should be asked whenever the exams are held for this academic session.
This crisis gives us a great opportunity to think about what we can do to make the exam more enjoyable, not just in the zero academic year but also otherwise. If learning and teaching can be reconstructed in this way, there is no doubt that the zero academic year can be converted into a latent academic year.