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Tuesday, July 14, 2020
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Australian Government’s offering of $3.3 bn to Private Schools might be the Saving Grace

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The debate around schools opening and assuring the continuum of education has been promptly addressed in Australia. The federal government has agreed on granting an early payment of more than $3.3 billion to private schools. The schools thereby become duly responsible for bringing students back to the classroom in order to become eligible for the fund.

Such elaborate planning and measurements boil down to fetching students back to the school campuses. By March 18, 2020, about 100 countries had resorted to school shutdown. Months into the pandemic, schools are still into oblivion about further proceedings in their academic calendar.

In India when pandemic has cast looming uncertainties on school authorities, students, parents and teachers alike, such a relief measure from government could remedy the situation. Students with learning difficulties or belonging from economically downtrodden background with low knowledge of technology and who would solely attend schools for meals can hardly think of smart devices for learning. The same is applicable for parents who send their children to moderately reputed schools regardless of being strapped for cash. E-learning is a pipe dream to these people and the only way to resume education would be through traditional classroom ecosystem. Such a commitment from government could bring a glimmer of hope to schools that are grappling with financial crisis and curriculum load.

A research study led by University College London aimed at acquiring an understanding of the effectiveness of school closures in the light of pandemic. The study found that on viewing school shutdown as an isolated event, its effectiveness on COVID-19 transmission was marginal. However, the economic and social consequences were tremendous nonetheless. “Currently, the evidence to support national closure of schools to combat COVID-19 is very weak and data from influenza outbreaks suggest that school closures could have relatively small effects on a virus with COVID-19’s high transmissibility and apparent low clinical effect on school children. At the same time, these data also show that school closures can have profound economic and social consequences. More research is urgently needed on the effectiveness of school closures and other school social distancing practices to inform policies related to COVID-19.”

“Policy makers and researchers should also look to other school social distancing interventions that are much less disruptive than full school closure and might substantially contribute to maintaining the control of this pandemic,” the paper concluded. This argument is in sync with the allocation of funds by the federal government in Australia. It is quintessentially directed towards students detached from learning due to the unavailability of a physical campus.

In India, where privilege determines learning outcomes, such a proactive measure from government could once again make education accessible to all. Once functional, the schools can conduct classes implementing social distancing within classroom and thorough sanitizing of the nooks and corners.

The Indian government can provide the thrust to schools in drafting full-length procedures to launch regular classroom-based learning at the earliest.

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