The announcement by CBSE and the same line toed by U. P. board, Punjab board, and so on for reducing the syllabus of class IX-XII has brought some respite to the education providers. There are all types of reactions from the teaching community and others in this regard. The rationalization of the curriculum carried out by the secondary education regulators on account of the pandemic will have different implications on students from various streams.
The pruning of the syllabus has quality implications in all streams. But it could be slightly predominant in the case of STEM. Because professional courses desire requisite learning levels of the students admitting in undergraduate programs. With reduced syllabus, the learning levels of the students in class IX-XII during COVID will be slightly deficient as compared to others.
Introspection into the pre-COVID situation shows that the students depend largely upon the coaching along with the formal schooling. The sizeable segment of students at this level aspires for careers related to engineering, medical, law, commerce, etc. Because of the competitive examinations for admission to undergraduate courses, the additional inputs from coaching has become a normal phenomenon for such aspirants. In most of the situations, the students accord high priority to learning from coaching vis-à-vis school.
Given the situation of a reduced curriculum, it is hard to convince a student about the deletion of some syllabus. How can one accept that the deleted portions have lost vitality for this batch while it was pertinent for the previous batch?
The prevailing pandemic is temporary and has to finally go some time. The attempt to reduce the learning levels will eventually point to some hardship in the future for both who leave education at this level and also for those who pursue education further with this as the eligibility qualification.
The students and their parents/guardians will be thinking alike on these aspects. In view of the competitive examinations after class XII, the students will prefer to arrange for reading the deleted portion. Such reading of the syllabus will be either on their own or through coaching/tuition. Self-learning of the content not taught in respective subjects by the students themselves is one of the easier options but some students may need external assistance. Accordingly, the coaching establishments will be indispensable now as a certain portion of the syllabus not taught in school may require external assistance for its coverage.
The corona times will push for the coaching from offline to online mode and the same will be the most sought after alternative for making up the deficiencies of all kinds. The online coaching institutions had started coming up in the last few years, but the compelling circumstances will make them flourish now. Already, there are pieces of evidence of the rise in the cost of online coaching, which may steeply increase on account of being inevitable in the newer circumstances and non-availability of face-to-face coaching. Nevertheless, there has been strong thinking at the level of regulators to strengthen teaching-learning processes in school and discourage coaching, but it has been failing miserably.
The present disruptions of on-campus teaching have been dictating for online education at all levels for quite some time. The reach and quality of online education can not be similar to classroom teaching but the prolonged coronavirus disruption is not leaving any option except to resort to online teaching. Keeping aside the limitations of online education due to the digital divide, online teaching has the capability of wider coverage of syllabus in the given time as compared to face-to-face teaching along with ease of access, repeatability, learning with convenience, etc. With the use of technology and commitment of academics, coverage of prescribed syllabus without any alteration should not be a major problem. A cue from coaching shows how they complete the full syllabus in around 2/3rd of the prescribed period of the respective course.
The students of class IX-XII of the COVID period need care but do not warrant different treatment in the context of learning levels. Psychologically, the students of the present time with the curtailed syllabus will feel inferior to others after this temporary phase of the pandemic is over. Let us strategize for equal treatment to students from the learning perspective so that it is easier to obliviate the COVID in the long run.
Therefore, the curtailment of syllabus coverage from the time limitation point of view requires brooding at every level. Along with this, the additional financial burdening of the parents in the economic slowdown necessitates sincere interventions for reducing the cost of education. The schools can enrich the quality of education so that the larger section of the students does not move towards coaching and no one is deprived in any form.
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About the author
Prof. Onkar Singh is the Vice Chancellor of Veer Madho Singh Bhandari Uttarakhand Technical University, Dehradun, He has been the Founder Vice-Chancellor of the Madan Mohan Malaviya University of Technology, Gorakhpur (U.P.). He is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur (U.P.).