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Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government will, on Wednesday, August 12, distribute smartphones to students for free as part of a scheme to enable them to access education-related content digitally amid the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
The state government committed to the distribution of 1.78 lakh smartphones to class 12 students of state government schools by November and the exercise would start with the distribution of the first batch of 50,000 phones.
Fulfilling our poll promise, we will commence distribution of 1.73 Lakh Smart Phones on August 12 on International Youth Day, to students studying in Class XII in Government schools. Amidst #Covid19, we hope these smartphones will help play a useful role in online education. pic.twitter.com/ElCsLd4uKq— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) August 11, 2020
"The state government would fulfil its promise to people by providing them smartphones, adding these phones will be extremely helpful to the youth in accessing information as well as other learning material posted by the department of school education," said the Chief Minister.
The scheme was aimed to "encourage and incentivise" youth to use digital technology in day to day activities entailing education, career opportunities, access to skill development and employment opportunities.
According to reports, the phones will be equipped with features including touch screen, camera and pre-loaded government applications like 'e-Sewa App' with online content pertaining to Class 11 and Class 12 which stands approved by the Department of School Education.
The phones will also have an engraving of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on the back bearing the words "Captain Smart Connect", according to NDTV.
Speaking about the launch of the scheme, CM Amarinder Singh said that keeping the COVID-19 situation into consideration which involves restrictions on movement and ban on large gatherings, the event would be split in 26 different locations in Chandigarh and across Punjab.
The event, however, would include all district headquarters and a number of other major towns and cities. Additionally, not more than 15 students studying in that town/district will be invited at each location for handing over the smartphones.
A letter has been sent to all Deputy Commissioners in the state in this regard, asking them to organise a ''small function... following all safety measures due to COVID-19''.
Govt School Admissions Register An All-time High Amid Pandemic
Amid the COVID-19 situation, the state's government schools have recorded an all-time high in terms of new admissions.
According to The Indian Express, with 3.17 lakh new admissions there has been a 13.48 per cent increase as compared to the last academic year (2019-2020) while the admission process still continues.
There are 19,175 government schools in Punjab, of which 12,857 are primary schools while 2,658 are middle schools. The state has 1,699 high schools and 1,961 senior secondary schools.
The report states that the maximum new admissions have happened in the pre-primary section (97,460) an increase of 43.21 per cent compared to last year. An increase in the total strength of 3.23 lakh students as compared to 2.25 lakh students in the last financial year.
"This increase in admission has happened due to better education practices, smart schools and better results of government schools. We are taking new initiatives every day and these days, we are doing a 'Punjab achievement survey' as well. Hence, good practices are attracting people to government schools," said Hardeep Singh, media coordinator of the Education Department.
However, educationists have opined that COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the livelihood has also been one of the main factors contributing to such an increase. The coronavirus outbreak and the virus-induced lockdown has had an adverse effect on employment, financial condition of families who might be opting for government institutions as they cannot afford private tuition fees.
Punjab Achievement Survey (PAS)
In a first-of-its-kind initiative by any country in the state, the Punjab Education Department has decided to conduct a survey of the achievements of all government and government-aided schools in an effort to assess the quality of education.
Punjab Achievement Survey (PAS) will be conducted in all government schools of the state and students from primary to Class 12 will participate. The survey would help gauge the education being provided in the state-run institutions.
It would be based on parameters of the National Achievement Survey and the learning outcome of students will be assessed on the basis of Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs) as per the syllabus already being studied.
"There will be no separate syllabus for this survey and it will be based on the syllabus of the subject already being studied. The survey is being conducted class wise. There will be all the subjects for primary classes and four subjects for Class 6 to 10 (English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies). Survey will be based on some elective subjects for Classes 11 and 12," said a spokesperson of the Education Department, reported The Times of India.
With the aim of preparing both students and teachers for the survey, a comprehensive programme of organising quizzes in August and mock tests from September has been planned.
Additionally, the Education Department has started organising webinars to sensitise and educate district education officers, deputy district education officers, block primary education officers, 'Padho Punjab, Padhao Punjab' coordinators, Zila Sikhiya Sudhar teams and social media coordinators on the significance of the survey.
"The officials and teachers of the education department have braved the unprecedented pandemic and done exceptionally well to provide quality education through digital mode to make the 'Ghar Baithe Sikhiya' programme successful. Now, I am sure that they will successfully execute the Punjab Achievement Survey with renewed vigour and enthusiasm," said Education Secretary Krishan Kumar while interacting with them through webinars.
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