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Maharashtra: Hasty decision

EducationWorld March 2024 | Education News Magazine
Nasrin Modak Siddiqi (Mumbai)

Mumbai pre-primary students: sleep deprivation concern

A circular dated february 8 issued by the state government’s education ministry advising change of pre-primary to class IV school timings to 9 a.m onwards, has divided the educators and parents communities statewide. Expressing concern over the issue of children not getting adequate sleep because of “late bed-time routines and increased exposure to entertainment,” the circular advises all schools to start classes at 9 a.m or later. Two-shift schools are to adjust timings accordingly but no schools are permitted to start pre-primary to class IV classes before 9 a.m.

The circular has reportedly been prompted by a study conducted by the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) that examined school timings across the state. It revealed that a large number of pre-primary and primaries start classes at 7 a.m. The SCERT study opined that the early start profoundly affects the “operational rhythms” of preschoolers especially during adverse weather conditions.

The SCERT study also prompted Governor Ramesh Bais to voice alarm over disrupted sleep patterns and adverse effects of modern lifestyle habits on students’ sleep quality and overall enthusiasm for learning.

However, some sentient monitors of Maharashtra’s education scene are of the opinion that the government order has been issued hastily. “In an increasing number of middle and working class households with both parents working, the revised timing, which are concurrent with office hours, is likely to prove very inconvenient. The circular should have directed school managements to advise parents to adjust their lifestyles and ensure that youngest children get adequate sleep. The revised timings are also likely to create road traffic management problems for the civic management authorities,” says Dr. Swati Popat Vats, president of the Early Childhood Association of India (ECA) and president of the 490-strong Podar Jumbo Kids preschool chain where classes for preschoolers begin at 9 a.m.

Moreover, the new timings diktat is likely to throw helter-skelter the schedules of numerous schools which run two-shift schools to accommodate large student numbers in the land-starved commercial capital. “Many schools in Mumbai including ours run two shifts — a morning (starting 8.15 a.m) and afternoon (1 p.m) shift. The new timings circular will delay and disrupt both shifts as well as school bus transport arrangements. Working parents will be specially inconvenienced as it will clash with office timings. The government should have consulted schools and parents’ associations before issuing the circular,” says Rohan Bhat, chairman of the Children’s Academy Group of three schools in Mumbai.

With the government unlikely to rescind the circular, Mumbai schools are bracing up to implement it. The New Bombay Area Schools’ Association (NBASA) conducted an urgent principals’ meeting to deliberate ways and means to comply with the government notification. “After the NBASA meeting, our school has started preparations to effectively implement the revised timings including changing meal schedules in the school cafeteria, transportation, and other logistics management. During the PTM, we will also inform parents about the rationale behind the timings change and potential benefits for children’s health and well-being and address parents’ concerns,” says Dr. Savita Sable, director of academics and administration at Goldcrest High, Vashi, Navi Mumbai.

Nevertheless, there is considerable heart-burn about the unsteady breakaway Shiv Sena-BJP government’s tendency to shoot off circulars and directives without adequate consideration and consultation. “Pre-occupied with coalition politics, ministers and pliant bureaucrats of this coalition government tend to shoot first and worry about damage control later,” quips a harassed school principal.

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