Online classes offering mixed experiences, blended-learning is future for schools: Educationists

New Delhi, IndiaWritten By: Sidharth MPUpdated: Jun 23, 2020, 07:43 PM IST


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With the rising cases in India’s large cities, uncertainty prevails over the re-opening of schools. 

School-going kids across India’s major cities, towns have pretty much been under a lockdown for nearly 100 days owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the rising cases in India’s large cities, uncertainty prevails over the re-opening of schools. During this period, some children have been privileged to continue their formal education virtually and many haven’t been as fortunate.

Educationists point out that while most families are spending time like never before, besides imparting life-skills to children. There are also certain unfortunate cases where the kids face abuse at home and battle hunger in the absence of mid-day meals.

In a virtual discussion helmed by ParentCircle, educationists looked at the present scenario and the way ahead for re-opening of schools and the practical challenges involved. The panelists included Sheela Rajendra, Dean and Director, PSBB Chennai, Alka Kapur, Principal, MPS New Delhi Simmi Juneja, Principal, DAV Public School Mumbai, Dr. N K Charles, principal, The Vikasa School, Educationist Fatema Agarkar and Nalina Ramalakshmi, Managing Director ParentCircle. 

The panelists were all in agreement that parents are reluctant about schools re-opening and sending the kids back until at least the curve flattens or a vaccine is found. But there also remains the concern of issues differing across cities and towns.

“There are Government schools, government-aided schools, private schools and each would face their own challenges. Not all an afford the up gradation of infrastructure and in many cases government schools have been converted into Covid care facilities. In rural areas there are parents who want schools to re-open due to the mid-day meals that the children used to be served there,'' Alka Kapur pointed out. 

On the possible scenario post-reopening, the educationists feel that the best option is to wait and watch, while closely abiding by the guidelines issued by relevant authorities.

“Safety is of utmost importance and we will take the opinion of doctors and the government. Social-distancing doesn’t come naturally to children and we can’t implement it. We could explore options like odd-even, alternate days classes. But schools in cities face specific challenges due to small campuses. Distancing can’t be maintained in buses, entry and exit points and even functioning with 10% strength may mean upto 300-500 students in large schools” said Sheela Rajendra. 

With most schools having started online classes, the predominant feeling among educators is that both students and faculty are adapting to virtual learning. “Online classes are surely not an eye-wash. Teachers have never touched these gadgets and our senior teachers are struggling even today. But overcoming these challenges is the collective learning process” Dr. Charles said. 

When asked about the need to have online classes for kids below the age of six, Fatema Agarkar told WION, “WHO has said that one hour of engagement ensures social connections. We are not talking about 3 hours long video sessions, but it is about engaging children with different activities - numeracy, language, science, sports, arts, crafts, music etc. In the early years they need attention and we need to focus on holistic learning.”

Collection of fees have been a bone of contention between parents and schools. Especially when it comes to the earlier fees being collected for online classes. However, educationists maintain that online classes involve some investment in technology and infrastructure. “Close to 90% of the revenue goes towards payment of staff salaries. The way ahead is blended learning where it would be a hybrid of in-person classes and remote, digital learning” they agreed. 

Amid the uncertainty of schools re-opening anytime soon, the participants requested parents to look at this time with their children as an opportunity for teaching life-skills. “Technology offers a lot of solutions, but there are many who don’t have the resources to attend online classes. We also need a change in attitude from parents where they focus less on grades and more on what is being learnt. By following a daily routine, parents can lead by example and help kids pay more attention in online classes. As parents ourselves, we must have conversations with kids, listen to them and encourage them”, said Nalina Ramalakshmi.