Teachers’ association protests government’s online push
The largest central university teachers’ association has expressed apprehension that the government is trying to mainstream online education, potentially imperilling the careers of students by turning a pandemic-era exigency into a long-term learning mode.
Quality concerns have been raised over online education, not to mention its limited reach in a country with patchy Net connectivity and lack of wide access to devices.
The Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations (FedCUTA) has opposed the new National Education Policy (NEP) that advocates the spread of online learning. The association has planned a protest in New Delhi on Teachers’ Day.
FedCUTA said online education should be used to supplement offline learning, not replace it. However, several reputable central universities have made provisions for 40 to 60 per cent of courses being covered online.
Delhi University (DU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have decided to introduce four-year undergraduate programmes, increasing the usual three-year duration, and permit students to pursue up to 50 per cent of a course in either the online or the offline mode from other universities. The students can earn credits from other institutions and redeem them for award of degrees from their parent institutions.
FedCUTA president Rajib Ray said: “Online education was adopted because of the pandemic. But it is now being forced on us. This is dangerous.”
Ray expressed doubts about the quality of the online courses offered under Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (Swayam), a government initiative where online courses prepared by professors of various universities are available. Students can pursue such courses online and get the credits transferred to their own institutions where they would not be required to study the same courses again.
Prof. Milap Sharma, a member of the JNU teachers’ association and FedCUTA, said teachers were finding it difficult to engage with students online and ensure that they receive and follow instructions properly.
Abha Dev Habib of the DU teachers’ association and also a FedCUTA member, pointed to the distance mode of learning in existence for years. She said the government should strengthen the institutions offering education in the distance mode, where students are allowed to participate from home, if it wanted to increase the gross enrolment ratio.
“But through the NEP, the government is trying to convert regular mode programmes at conventional universities to semi-regular programmes by incorporating online learning,” Habib said.
She said employers preferred students passing out of regular programmes, or in-campus learning, because of the opportunity it provided for peer interactions, discussions with teachers outside classrooms and extra-curricular activities.
Prof. Ramsewak Dubey from Allahabad University and Prof. X.P. Mao from North-Eastern Hill University highlighted the reduction in government funding for higher education in recent times. The UGC has written to universities to take austerity measures and steps for generating internal resources.