The country's education ministers, in a meeting on Monday, decided to reopen educational institutions in the country in phases from January 18.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad after the meeting, Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood said that in the first phase, classes nine to 12 would be allowed to resume from Jan 18.
He said that in the next phase, classes one to eight would resume on Jan 25. All higher educational institutions would resume from Feb 1, he added.
Schedule of reopening:
- Jan 18: Classes 9 to 12 to resume
- Jan 25: Classes 1 to 8 to resume
- Feb 1: Higher educational institutions to resume
The education minister said that teachers and administrative staff would be allowed to come back to schools from Jan 11 after the winter vacations were over. Online learning can also be resumed from Jan 11, he said.
Elaborating on the decisions taken during the meeting, Mahmood said that board exams which were due to be held in March and April were postponed to May and June because "the children have not completed their coursework and we want to give them time [to prepare]."
He added that the government would review the health situation again on Jan 14 or 15 to "see if the trajectory is under control".
"Let me emphasise that this year nobody will be promoted without exams," the minister said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, who addressed the press conference before Mahmood, cautioned that more precautions were needed to control the spread of Covid-19.
"When we looked at data and analysed it, it became clear that we need to take some more precautions and delay [reopening] so that the second wave can be reduced before we reopen," he said.
He said that data showed that closing the educational institutions earlier had led to a "delay in [the spread of] the virus".
Punjab Minister for School Education Dr Murad Raas in a tweet said that classes in the province would resume according to the schedule announced by Mahmood.
"All institutions will have 50% students on alternate days as before," he added.
In a separate press conference, Raas termed the 50 per cent attendance policy "the most important thing", saying that schools were being opened "not because the coronavirus situation [had improved] but because the children were incurring huge educational losses".
Responding to a question, he said that board exams would be held in June. Work would be started on deciding examination centres from now, he added.
Talking about promotion of students to higher classes, he said that 50pc of their assignments would count towards determining their final grades."Children will not be promoted without exams," he said.
The government had decided to close educational institutions in November of last year after the country saw an alarming rise in cases and deaths in the second wave of the coronavirus. Mahmood had said that a review session would be held in the first week of Jan and if the situation had improved by then, they would be reopened on Jan 11.
An officer of the education ministry had earlier told Dawn that a final decision on "whether educational institutions should be reopened on Jan 11 or vacations extended till the end of the month will be taken in [today's] meeting after getting input from the health ministry on the current status of Covid-19".
He said if the health ministry advised on extending vacations, the federal education ministry would take no time to extend the holidays, regardless of what the private school owners say.
The school owners have been demanding the reopening of schools from Jan 11.
"Health of students and teachers is important to us. We cannot recommend opening of schools on the pressure of school owners. How can we put the health of children at risk for the sake of the private school owners? Therefore, let me be clear, we will take a decision in the light of the health ministry’s recommendations," the officer said.
Educational institutions saw months-long closure in 2020 due to Covid-19. They were closed in March and then reopened in September only to be shut down again the next month due to the constant rise in coronavirus cases.