States and Union Territories can decide whether they want to reopen schools, colleges and coaching institutes after October 15 in a graded manner, the government said today in its latest "Unlock5" announcement amid the coronavirus pandemic. "The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation," the Home Ministry said.
The government said online and distance learning, however, should remain the preferred mode of teaching. "Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so," the government said. "Students may attend schools/institutions only with the written consent of parents," it said.
Attendance must not be enforced and must depend entirely on parental consent, and states and Union Territories will make their own standard operating procedures (SOPs) on health and safety precautions before reopening schools and colleges.
"Schools, which are allowed to open, will have to mandatorily follow the SOP to be issued by Education Departments of States/UTs. Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education may take a decision on the timing of the opening of colleges/higher education institutions, in consultation with Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), based on the assessment of the situation. Online/distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged," the government said.
However, higher education institutions only for research scholars (PhD) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory and experimental works will be allowed to open from October 15. "For centrally funded higher education institutions, the head of institution will satisfy herself/himself that there is a genuine requirement of research scholars (PhD) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream for laboratory/experimental works," the government said.
"For all other higher education institutions e.g. state universities, private universities etc., they may open only for research scholars (PhD) and postgraduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/experimental works as per decision to be taken by the respective state/UT governments," the centre said.
India's COVID-19 tally crossed the 62-lakh mark with 80,472 new coronavirus cases and 1,179 deaths reported on Wednesday, according to Health Ministry data. For the first time in 28 days, coronavirus deaths over the one-day period have fallen below 1,000, government data shows.