The Karnataka government on Thursday said there would be no online classes for students till Class 5, but diverged on whether the classes should be banned for those up to the seventh grade, The Hindu reported.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar said the state has not decided on whether to cancel virtual classes for the older students, adding that some ministers only “suggested” it. However, after a Cabinet meeting, Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy said the state would ban online lessons for Classes 6 and 7 too.

A day earlier, the state government had said that online classes for students from kindergarten to Class 5 should stop with immediate effect, PTI reported. It also said that collecting fees for online classes should also be stopped.

Schools across the country have been shut since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic, and several of them have been conducting online classes during the lockdown. In May, the Centre had said that the decision to reopen schools and colleges will be taken in July, part of the second phase of ‘Unlock 1’, which is what the phase-wise procedure of easing lockdown restrictions has been called.

Karnataka Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar said that he had received various complaints about classes being conducted online, which he had discussed with experts. It included an organisation of private educational institutions and officials. The minister said everyone agreed that online classes were not an alternative to classes being conducted in school.

“Two decisions have been taken: online classes for LKG [Lower Kindergarten], UKG [Upper Kindergarten] and primary classes should be stopped immediately,” Kumar said. “Also, collecting fees in the name of online classes should be stopped immediately.”

The education minister said they also had a discussion on how to keep students engaged during the lockdown and a committee was formed to prepare guidelines for it. Kumar added there was no clarity on when schools would reopen, and said if they decided to reduce fees during this time, it would be a “very welcome move”.

Referring to the Class 10 exams being conducted from June 25 to July 4, the minister said all necessary precautions were being taken for the students’ safety.

Clarifications: This story has been updated to reflect that the state government differed in its views and that online lessons for Classes 6 and 7 have not been officially cancelled in Karnataka yet, as reported earlier.

No stay on online classes in Tamil Nadu

Meanwhile, the Madras High Court on Wednesday did not grant an interim stay on online classes being conducted for school students in Tamil Nadu, PTI reported.

A division bench of Justices Vineet Kothari and R Suresh Kumar was hearing a petition that sought a restraint on online classes by educational institutions without proper guidelines. However, the court decided against it, and issued notices to the Centre and the state government, asking them to file a report on the guidelines for these online classes by June 25.

V Jayaprakash Narayan, who appeared for the government, said that the state had not yet given permission for online classes by schools and colleges. He added that the government had also ordered educational institutions to not demand fees.

Parents file plea in Supreme Court over CBSE exams

Some parents of Class 12 students have filed a plea in the Supreme Court, seeking to quash a Central Board of Secondary Education notification that said the pending exams for Class 12 will be conducted from July 1 to July 15, PTI reported.

The plea has sought a direction to the education board to declare the results based on the exams that have already been conducted, and to calculate it on an average basis with the internals of the other subjects. It raised concern over the safety of lakhs of students and said that they might be exposed to the coronavirus amid the increasing number of cases in the national Capital.

Delhi has so far recorded 32,810 Covid-19 cases and 984 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Tuesday said that the number of cases will rise to 5.5 lakh in Delhi by the end of July.

In the plea, the parents urged the top court to quash the May 18 notification of CBSE, when the date sheet for the pending Class 12 exams was declared, and to stay it till the court decides on the plea.

“The said petition would also demonstrate the extent of discriminatory and arbitrariness conduct of the respondent/CBSE in issuing the notification for holding of the remaining examination and that too in the month of July, 2020 wherein as per the AIIMS data, the said COVID-19 pandemic would be at its peak,” the plea said.

The parents said that due to the pandemic, the CBSE had cancelled the exams of Class 10 and Class 12 for over 250 schools abroad, but that it was not concerned about students’ lives in India.

It also pointed out that on May 25, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development had said that the exams for Class 10 and Class 12 students will be conducted in almost 15,000 centres, as against the 3,000 centres used earlier.

“Ensuring proper cleanliness and safety standards as prescribed by the concerned government in Covid-19 situation in those 15,000 exam centres spreading over length and breadth of the country including rural sectors would not only be risking health and life of children but also would be an exercise in futility and an eyewash,” the plea said.

The plea also raised concerns over the problems of an exam centre falling in a Covid-19 containment zone.

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