How will online education fare in India post pandemic
Author :- Mukand Sarkar
The sudden lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic has thrust schools and teachers of both public and private institutions into an emergency remote teaching mode. As it becomes increasingly clear that the pandemic situation is likely to force the coming academic year to continue online, at least in some geographies, state governments and even the MHRD are looking for best practices and SOPs (standard operating procedures) for online education that can be shared with the school managements, teachers and parents. At this juncture, therefore, it is essential to review some of the recent experiences of emergency remote teaching and derive some useful lessons.
Learning from children
Experts suggest that some of the important lessons on the way forward could be learnt best from not just preparing overarching SOPs that largely are framed using a top-down approach, but by rather making the school children important stakeholders in the process. Evaluating how the online medium of teaching is interacting with children’s learning processes gives far greater insights on how the government, institutions and teachers can adapt to the new and evolving scenario.
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Teachers are wisely making use of the autonomy they have been given and the truncated contact hours to guide students through their own learning process through activity-based learning, rather than trying to replicate the face-to-face teaching model. This flipping of responsibility, putting students in charge of their own learning, albeit with different degrees of guidance from teachers and support from parents, is helping to develop student agency. Students are taking the initiative, and developing their own voice, as they learn through activities, working on their own, also in collaboration with peers and adults.
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Addressing accessibility issues
Online education is necessary because children benefit from structured learning environments, and there is a danger of them regressing if their education is interrupted for too long. The Bengaluru-based Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which works for the education of children in the city’s informal settlements collected spare smartphones and used them to create virtual schools for approximately 2,000 children, all first-generation learners, from 87 slum communities. Two or three students gathered at selected homes with appropriate physical distancing and shared a smartphone.
The school began with assembly at 8.15 a.m. each morning and halted for the day at 12.30 p.m. with a break in between so that the cell phones could be charged. “Teachers have responded brilliantly to the challenge, the crisis bringing out their willingness to participate and help,” said Parikrma’s founder Shukla Bose, adding that these virtual schools had over 90 percent attendance
Learnings for creating a conducive policy framework
State governments such as Karnataka and Maharashtra have banned online classes for very young children, but Karnataka has allowed the use of recorded videos and has appointed a committee to suggest guidelines for revoking the ban. It would be good for such committees to keep some of the learnings outlined here in mind.
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The guidelines that MHRD is contemplating i.e., restricting the length of class time to up to two hours on weekdays, getting parents and volunteers to help teachers, and requiring schools to offer content in multiple mediums to cater to students with varying degrees of technology access or even no access, and providing for the physical and mental health of students, are all very good steps in the right direction.