March is usually a hectic time for teachers in India as the academic calendar draws to an end and there are lots of loose ends to be tied up before the school closes for the two months summer vacation. But March 2020 was extraordinary as schools had to be hastily shut down. The tradition of Annual examinations cancelled with uncertainty and panic everywhere, as the threat of the pandemic loomed all over India. In March nobody would have imagined that the next academic year would pose a series of challenges for all stakeholders.
Several schools began online classes for the senior students in May. After the initial hiccups, in the first half of May, this new phenomenon began to gain momentum and soon all schools including Government, Aided and Private began their online classes by the month of June.
Albert Einstein has said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”. The academic community promptly took the plunge and so students and teachers who have been comfortable with the conventional classroom teaching turned tech savvy, transforming every home into a classroom. But do they experience contentment? The faculty whines that online classes eat into their personal time and space.
At home, family obligations clash with online classes as women when at home are expected to be housewives and mothers 24×7 even if they are a professional. Moreover, for many women technology is a domain they have not ventured into and hence handling of devices proved another herculean challenge. The rapport that teachers built with their students in class could not be built through screen as they found faceless, unresponsive kids at the other end, making lectures dull and monotonous.The parent community protested that the long hours of online classes took a toll on the health of their children with many suffering from blurred vision and headache.
Many students used mobiles and they complained that their data got exhausted due to the online classes, leaving them with no network for their evening studies and assignment. Another great challenge is the limited number of devices in each household, as this was an unprecedented problem and the Indian educational scenario was not prepared for this predicament. In several countries regular classes run simultaneously along with online work as students receive their homework and assignments in the evening online and have to submit them online. While in India we still follow the notebook system.
Due to network issues, students are asked to turn on their cameras only to answer questions but require to continue in off mode the rest of the time, as a result they tend to get distracted and become lethargic when a lecture is going on. Disrespect towards teachers by using offensive language, mocking and mimicking them are regular occurrence and it is not in all homes that a correction takes place. ‘Guru Brahma, guru Vishnu, Gurdevo Maheshwara, Guru sakshat Parabrahma tasmai shri Guruvey namaha’ is the value we have inculcated in our children from time immemorial. The advent of technology cannot be responsible for shoving out our age old custom of equating teachers with God
Whatever is said and done, this is a revolutionary change in the field of education. Online classes are here to stay. Eventually everybody will adapt and get comfortable. But now the crucial debate is whether home schooling which always remained within a contradictory spectrum in India is a viable option for parents who have been discontented with the rising school fees and the school systems and worried about the increasing crimes within the school campus. Undoubtedly, the pandemic and the subsequent online classes will prove to be a harbinger for the advent of home schooling in India.