A need now but no replacement: Teachers share concerns about online classes during COVID-19

A few primary school teachers have other concerns. They are of the opinion that college students are easier to manage in digital classes than primary school children. 

Published: 06th May 2020 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th May 2020 06:02 AM   |  A+A-

PWD engineer Sudhir Kishore takes an online class on YouTube for Class 11 and Class 12 students during the lockdown

PWD engineer Sudhir Kishore takes an online class on YouTube for Class 11 and Class 12 students during the lockdown. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

Online Desk

Waking up to the morning alarm, getting ready, slipping on an ironed uniform, eating breakfast and then hurriedly rushing to catch the school bus - all these have hit the pause button ever since the Great Lockdown. 

School and college students are being 'homeschooled' from March 24 and Zoom and online classes have replaced traditional classrooms. But at a time when many are of the opinion that online classes will transform education as we know it, not all is rosy, especially in India, where problems like lack of technology, of digital training and bandwidth are posing challenges for many families and teachers. 

"The importance of classroom learning is undeniable and this pandemic proves that we are not yet ready to handle online classrooms," said Dr Saroj Rani, a professor at Delhi University's Maitreyi College. 

While digital classes might get the job done, Dr Saroj felt that it is difficult to provide the same level of education to all students - especially to those in rural India. 

A few primary school teachers have other concerns. They are of the opinion that college students are easier to manage in digital classes than primary school children. 

ALSO READ: HRD formulating safety rules for schools, colleges to ensure social distancing when they reopen

"Students don't finish homework as there is no fear of them being questioned," said Namita (name changed on request), who teaches Math in a Delhi-based school. 

The digital class divide has especially been highlighted in this pandemic. Internet is no more a privilege, but a necessity. If you don't have it, a student risks missing out altogether.  

While connectivity is a common problem, Namita says households with one laptop are facing issues especially if there are siblings. "The classes tend to clash and students don't show up," she added.

According to a study conducted by scholarship ed-tech platform Buddy4Study, of the 25 crore students affected by the lockdown, 80 per cent fall in the Economically Weaker Section category.

A big problem in schools where they study is the number of students per class.

"When we are looking at a class strength of 40-50 students of a government school, it becomes difficult to give attention to everyone as a teacher," said Nandini Mishra, a curriculum developer at SOS Herman Gmeiner school in New Delhi. 

Her solution is simple. Involve these students in a PBL (Project Based Learning) system where students are given tasks based on the previous year's syllabus. This way they can revise old concepts and avoid being anxious about the new syllabus they learn online.

Five other Delhi-based teachers too told The New Indian Express that online classes are ideal when the class strength is less than fifteen. "This way there is a student-teacher connect," said Leena Rajoria. 

While digital classrooms have made parents more involved in their kids' school life, it can't be denied that interaction in classrooms helps in character development, Leena stressed. "While online classes are the need of the hour, they cannot be a replacement for traditional classes..." she added. 

Leena also felt that even teachers need time to adapt to digital learning as some concepts need visual aids and innovative ideas to make primary school children understand topics. 

Talking about conducting the pending class X and XII board exams and semester examinations in colleges, Dr Saroj felt that a majority of students, especially from the Delhi University, are not keen on taking exams online. 

"Moreover, the DU website is slow most of the times due to high traffic which can be frustrating for any student," the professor added.

The HRD Ministry on Tuesday stated that there will "soon be a decision" on conducting the pending board exams at the earliest. Leena felt that "vigilance will be a problem" in government schools while conducting these online exams. 

"The digital divide in India needs to be addressed. The more students are kept away from classes, especially children from economically weaker sections, the more the chances of them not returning to schools..." one of the teachers warned.

According to data provided by UNICEF, 1.57 billion students have been affected due to school closures in more than 190 countries worldwide because of COVID-19. 

While In India, The Ministry of Human Resource Development plans to reopen schools and colleges by September 2020, teachers feel that alternative plans need to be made in case another lockdown-like situation arises.


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