Online teaching….just about bridging the gap…

The debate is on; should the school and colleges start regular classes. Never before would have the school management and teachers found it so difficult to convince parents to agree to their viewpoint.

The school management is busy trying different permutations and combinations to find a way to fully or even partially open the schools to generate some revenue so desperately required to maintain the infrastructure and pay the salaries. Many institutions have imposed salary cuts on the teaching and non-teaching staff and many a contractual employee have been shown the exit door. Extra infrastructure is being added and training of teachers is being carried out to facilitate online teaching, which is adding to the expenditure. Not every institution has the requisite funds to create ideal classrooms to support online learning, most or depending on single laptops to pass instructions.

The salary cuts are affecting the motivational level of teachers who are required to put in extra efforts to get used to online teaching more so in the rural part of the country, prepare the lesson, and take classes with minimum resources at hand. It is not easy to create a classroom environment and keep the students gainfully engaged for the entire duration. Teachers have to work overtime to make the classes more interesting.

Parents do not seem to be in a mood to relent mostly due to health concerns of the children and some due to the financial constraints they are facing due to job losses and salary cuts enforced by COVID-19.

Part of student fraternity looks favourably inclined to attending regular classes, after all it is the question of their independence and the quality time they get to spend with their friends specially in the college/ hostel. Many students from lower economic background and rural areas do not have adequate infrastructure at home to facilitate online learning sessions. Imagine the condition of a family managing life in a one bedroom flat with the single room serving as the bed cum living cum dining cum study room for the entire family.

In this ongoing phase of indecisiveness, the main sufferer is formal education, to some extent the student and teacher. Though the classes are being run online but the available infrastructure across the country is not adequate to meet the need of the teaching/ learning process. Lack of face to face interaction adversely affects the understanding ability of the students especially of the pre-primary and primary classes. Schools/ colleges are not just temples of formal learning but also provide an ideal platform for students to interact, learn from each other, develop their social skills.

It is high time the government functionaries and all other stake holders put their head together to find a plausible solution. The transition from online to regular classes will have to be deliberately planned and executed and may require passing through a longish phase of hybrid teaching where a combination of online and limited regular classes conducted in school premises become the norm. COVID 19 has provided a God send opportunity to the Government and school managements to invest in upgrading the facilities especially in government schools they have been neglecting since ages.