The pandemic came in with a lot of new changes but the most influential one in the case of students is Online Education. Something which was frowned upon in the pre-pandemic lifestyle was adopted as soon as possible for the prevention of student’s loss and today is an irreplaceable part of the new normal.
While many schools have already begun with their curriculum for the year, a lot many universities are gearing up for the same after launching various small scale pilot projects in the name of webinars. The Ministry of Education and UGC have also gone out to say that Online education, although was adopted as a temporary replacement, should be henceforth looked at through a long term lease. This recommendation has been heard with a lot of valid criticisms from various stakeholders in the sphere of education. We, through this article, want to show a glimpse of the concerns and viewpoints of various teachers and other facilitators of this field.
The most debated topic of online education is inclusivity. According to certain surveys conducted by the University of Hyderabad, only 45% of students had access to laptops and 50 % had irregular internet access available to them. This is the case of the premier central university and to even stipulate the conditions of other minor institutes and colleges and local school bodies is stressful. Rahat Lokhandwala, A ‘Teach For India’ member who has been working at a municipal school in Wadala says that their aim at ensuring education for every student enrolled is currently a farfetched dream as many students come from households that run with a single smartphone for all kinds of operations.
Children are living in conditions like these and much worse in this country and to believe that Education can continue at a place where they can very easily compare the privileged positions of their peers to themselves through a borrowed device, according to me is an utterly convenient stance form our side.
Several factors within the issue of access are relevant in this study-
1. The gendered difference between the distribution of household chores,
2. The mental wellbeing of students especially in such stressful situations is taken for granted,
3. The assumption that all teachers possess the skill sets to efficiently handle new mechanisms like zoom, Google Meet, etc.
Other than obvious doubts like the impossibility of teaching practical subjects like chemistry which involve experimentation in the lab, a lot more serious questions need to be asked if this ‘for the time being’ innovation can add up to the experience of an actual classroom.
Can students ideate, think aloud, and question things around them through a screen that partially reflects their facial expressions? Can a student who is using a phone while attending a class be caught or will a teacher’s inefficiency in this medium be recorded and further questioned by the authorities? or will it be shunned away as a technical glitch or will it be shared across the internet for comic purposes?
The situation gets even worse when we take the case of students who have always had limited access to education. Vineha Tatkar, a volunteer at ‘Read A Story Project’ tell us that their students come from a background we are unfamiliar with and teaching them through calls during the pre-pandemic period itself was exhausting as most teachers working for the organization found it difficult to measure their student’s progress because the traditional method of gauging the student’s understanding through eye-contact and body language seem to be of no use on this medium.
This bottomless pit of doubts, questions, and curiosities has no end especially when it comes to a topic that deals with the future of the country’s next generation. Hence, moving forward, the question of online education ’s viability needs to raised more often, at least till it is tailored as per the needs of the stakeholders involved.