In these unusual times of lockdown, online teaching and assessment seems to be the flavour among most of the educational institutes. Many schools seem to be taking efforts in engaging their students on various online platforms. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention and online education has become todays buzz word across the globe. However, before the society and the educational bureaucrats could make up their mind, it’s important to realise the implications of this radical shift.
My both kids are school going and have hardly realised this period of hardship as lockdown. It’s long holidays for them, probably the best time period in the sense that they are continuously with their parents, no school, no homework and assignments, lots of time to watch TV and play several indoor games. With no timetable at their disposal and when the entire days schedule is of their choice, it makes them more relaxed and rejuvenated.
Earlier generations have experienced such uninterrupted durations during their childhood days when they utilised their entire time in playing and understanding the micro-level socialization of human beings. Somehow, we have been rude to our kids due to impartial competitive psychology developed among the various strata’s of the society.
However, with recent efforts by various schools to start online classes, needs to be scrutinized as its going to be one of the revolutionary measures in coming years. The schools with lots of efforts and under peer pressure indeed started online classes. But, every effort begins with several problems. There are significant issues-technological, social and pedagogical which needs to be thought through before we jump onto this bandwagon.
Usually, children never realise and understand the process of online classes; probably it is new to them. For them no school means no study, it’s so clear in their mind. Kids cannot be taught mechanically as every topic has emotions and lots of actions involved. Sitting for long online sessions can be hazardous for the kids both physically and mentally. It basically kills the entire movement of electronic gadgets free childhood. Already, now many news channels are reporting the pros and cons of online education. Kids always have a perception that mobiles are used for online games and for watching videos of their liking. It was harsh on them to create an un-natural academic atmosphere. Also parents need to be engaged for the entire online sessions which created undue pressure on the entire family.
Teachers play an important role in online teaching platform. Such platforms require lots of preparation and training. They must undergo various trainings like choice of topic, content development, presentation skills and expressions, controlling emotions, voice makeover and several other factors. If these things are not made clear the kids might lose interest in the entire process of learning. Also, many teachers might have gone to their home town and there can be issues of preparation due to non-availability of high end internet services. They will be forced to rely on weak facilities available to them which in turn will affect their overall efficiency. Moreover, like anyone else teachers might also have low morale due to lockdown and will naturally affect the overall performance.
India always had a long History of Epidemics, The Plague, a bacteria-led pandemic (1896 to 1939), caused 12 million deaths; 1915 – 1926: Encephalitis Lethargica; 1918 -1920 Spanish Flu, 1961 – 1975: Cholera pandemic; 1968 – 1969: Flu Pandemic; 1974: Smallpox Epidemic; 1994: Plague in Surat; 2002 – 2004: SARS; 2006: Dengue and Chikungunya Outbreak; 2009: Gujarat Hepatitis Outbreak; 2014 – 2015: Odisha Jaundice Outbreak; 2014-2015: Swine flu outbreak. No doubt, that the Covid-19 pandemic has unleashed the biggest calamity that humanity has faced so far. We all are going through perhaps the most trying circumstances of our lives. The generations never faced any educational crises. Are we over-reacting?
With all these problems we need a multi-level strategy to manage the crisis and build a resilient Indian education system in the long term.
One, immediate measures are essential to ensure continuity of learning in government and private schools. Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Software should be adopted right from the beginning so that teachers and students both are well acquainted. The DIKSHA platform (Digital Information for Knowledge Sharing) of Government of India can be effectively utilised by the schools.
Two, inclusive learning solutions can change the schooling system and increase the effectiveness of learning and teaching. It can provide multiple options for schools and teachers for wider applicability among the students.
Three, it is also important to reconsider the current delivery and pedagogical methods in school by seamlessly integrating classroom learning with e-learning modes to build a unified learning system.
Fourth, it is also important to establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmark for online learning systems as well as e-learning platforms (growing rapidly). Many e-learning players offer multiple courses on the same subjects with different levels of certifications, methodology and assessment parameters. So, the quality of courses may differ across different e-learning platforms.
Fifth, the lockdown period can be effectively utilised by encouraging the children to accomplish themselves with Indian traditional practices which can be easily followed at Home like Yoga, Art, Martial Arts, Languages etc.
So that whenever we face such chaotic situations we are all well prepared without straining the stakeholders of the education system.
I know a parent who forcefully made their children sit for online classes that too daily for long hours. It’s found that many schools even mark absentee for not attending the session. I also know a friend of mine who spend lots of money on online tutoring but all in vain.
Aren’t we ruining the entire purpose of beautiful education system? What will happen if we really take a break? Will it affect the entire career of a child? What if the schools don’t open from here for few months? How much are we going to lose? The entire world seems to have been worried and taken a wise decision of going online without understanding its repercussions. Online is a corporate and commercial word and does not fit well with highly sensitive educational process (at least in India).
But more than this can we stop, can we take a break. I think this makes a bigger sensible question. I feel we need to really understand the meaning of taking a break. Let’s stop for a while, let the schools reopen. The lost duration can be compensated by reducing the holidays and taking extra classes. Whatever the solution the system finds but I am sure for kids this lockdown period need not have to be compensated during their entire life period.
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