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ISLAMABAD: The Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) on Monday decided to close educational institutes from November 26, 2020 till January 10, 2021 amid rise in the coronavirus cases in the country.

Chaired by Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood, the provincial education ministers and respective Health departments briefed the forum on the coronavirus pandemic situation in their respective provinces, national and regional level, and reached consensus on closing educational institutes.

The meeting also considered the NCOC's recommendation for an early and extended winter break across the country.

Online education arrangements will be used from 26th November till 24th December.

All exams that were scheduled in December are being postponed, and will be held after schools reopen in January.

Addressing a press conference, Shafqat Mehmood, along with the Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, announced the formal closure of educational institutes across the country till January 10th next year.

Mehmood said that educational institutes would remain closed from November 26 to December 24, while from 25th December to January 10, winter vacations would be observed.

"There will be no physical attendance of students in any class," he added.

He said the students of schools, colleges, universities, tuition centres would be free from attendance, since they would continue studies from home.

Students of vocational educational institutes would continue their on-job training at vocational institutes, he added.

The minister said a special meeting would be convened to review the updated situation of pandemic, prior to formal opening of the educational institutes on January 11 next year.

The students, with online option, would continue their studies through this mode of education, while those with no online facility will facilitated, under a special policy, which will be introduced by the respective provincial governments, he added.

The minister also announced to cancel the exams to be taken in December, while the exams of assessment and recruitment would continue.

There will be no promotion of students to next class without exams, he added.

Mehmood directed the chairman Higher Education Commission to arrange online classes on an urgent basis for the students of higher education.

The universities, he said, were allowed to permit PhD students and those from far-flung areas to stay at universities' hostels, so that their study might not be affected.

He further said that the universities would ensure compliance of strict Covid-19 SOPs for students residing at hostels.

He said the decision regarding attendance of teachers in the schools would be taken by the schools management.

Sharing details of recommendations taken at the IPEMC meeting, Mehmood said the exams, scheduled for March-April next year, would now be taken in May-June 2021.

It was also recommended that the new academic year would commence in August, as earlier it had to start in April.

The summer vacations will be curtailed to lessen the eventual loss of students.

Meanwhile, the All Pakistan Private Schools and Colleges Association rejected the decision of closing educational institutes.

President of the association Malik Abrar said that SOPs were being followed strictly in educational institutes and it was admitted by the government itself.

He further said that the decision would render many jobless and precious time of students would be wasted.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020