Reversing its June 15 order, the Karnataka primary and secondary education department allowed schools across the state to resume online classes for students of all sections, an official said on Monday. "A fresh order has been issued to allow all schools across the state to resume online classes for their students reading from 1st-10th standard, as per the guidelines issued by the Union Human Resources Development Ministry," the official told IANS here.
With all state-run and private schools remaining shut since March 25 owing to the extended lockdown to contain the coronavirus spread even after summer vacation, state education minister S. Suresh Kumar on June 10 said online classes would not be allowed in the state for primary school kids, as recommended by a committee of academic and health experts.
"The fresh order will be valid for primary kids up to class 5 till the expert committee submits report on online education and as directed by the Karnataka High Court on June 22 to find a solution to the problem in response to a joint petition by a group of parents of students reading in classes 1-5 in the state against the ban order.
As per the revised order, all schools affiliated to the state primary and secondary education board, CBSE and ICSE boards can conduct online classes in compliance with the state government's guidelines.
For classes 1-5, online teaching will be 3-45 minutes per day on alternate days or three days in a week. For 6-8 classes, 30-45 minutes for 2 hours on 5 days a week. For 9-10 classes, 30-45 minutes for 4 hours on 5 days a week. For pre-primary kids, for 30 minutes once in a week for parents, said the official.
The schools have also been directed not to collect additional fee for online classes till revised guidelines are issued on recommendations of the committee.
During the hearing, the division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Nataraj Rangaswamy asked the state government if online classes violated Article 21-A of the Constitution for free and compulsory education.
The bench also asked if online classes be permitted for a few hours daily.
The department directed the expert panel, headed by noted educationist M.K. Sridhar, to look into the scientific ways of offering online education to students of classes 6-10, studying in middle and high schools across the state.
"The panel has been directed to suggest ways to engage kids of LKG to class 5 without online classes, alternatives to provide education during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis without harming traditional teaching and physical and mental health issues among the students due to online education," the official said.
The department has already advised state-run government and private schools across the state not to reopen after summer till further order due to the extended lockdown guidelines to prevent the COVID-19 spread.
"The committee has been advised to frame guidelines on how to engage students at home and improve their knowledge till normalcy is restored," added the official.