In the light of disruption of pharmacy education in entire parts of the country due to closure of institutions following the burgeoning number of positive cases of COVID-19, the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has recommended to the institutional-heads and pharmacy educators to complete the theory classes of all the programmes through online teaching-learning mode in order to keep students involved in the learning process.
Proposing several suggestions for an uninterrupted quality pharmacy education even in the midst of chaos, the PCI has issued a 17-page advisory in the form of ‘guidance and norms’ to the pharmacy colleges and to the PCI approved examining authorities. The Council has issued this as a one-time measure to remove the difficulties caused by COVID-19 pandemic across the country for taking the pharmacy education forward.
The Council assures that an out-and-out and reliable online coaching of theory lessons by pharmacy colleges will be considered as an effort equivalent to the daily routine classes taken by teachers for each program under specific education regulations for being eligible to appear for examinations. In the same way, PCI has advised the examination bodies to approve these online classes by faculties as coaching based on syllabus for the fulfillment of academic requirements for admitting students to examinations.
Dr B Suresh, president of the PCI, observes that the higher education sector in India is unlikely to return to normalcy in the near future because of the constantly increasing corona virus disease cases. Under this presumption the council was forced to make suggestions to continue the theory classes involving online techniques for teaching and learning. This online mode of teaching has to be continued until the lockdown is withdrawn in the country.
As per the suggestions brought in by the PCI, the pharmacy institutions and the faculties there should share the learning resources with the students in advance either through their websites or through any other online applications. The teachers can also send the materials accessing email facilities. Afterwards, on a scheduled time-table they can deliver online lectures.
The Council has classified the types of guidance into two, ‘Academic Guidance’ and ‘Assessment and Progression Guidance’, which will, it is expected, address all the courses approved by the PCI under the Pharmacy Act and other various regulations and norms framed there under.
The institutional heads or the faculties who are engaged to take online lessons are advised to mark the attendance of students participate in each online session and document the details about the assessments conducted and the assignments fulfilled by the students. These details should be documented in the same way the offline classes were conducted in institutions and the presence of students in class rooms was recorded in the attendance register.
As regards practical or experimental or clinical classes, the institutions can introduce block teaching practice on reopening of the institutions for the students to complete the practical / clinical classes provided the theory classes are completed through online mode.
With a view to encourage academic institutions which are persistently engaging in activities for promoting quality pharmacy education, the Council has advised the colleges to share their best practices to other institutions in the region to help advance pharmacy education during this lockdown period. Such institutions can send details about their supporting services to other institutions to the PCI along with documentary evidences. Pharmacy Council has informed all institutional heads and educators that these support sharing institutions will be given due credit during various funding/support that PCI gives to institutions towards faculty development and continuous professional development.