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Online classes to continue

Parents unwilling to risk sending kids to school
A teacher takes an online class for school students in Kozhikode on June 1

Basant Kumar Mohanty   |   New Delhi   |   Published 07.06.20, 11:00 PM

The online classes for schoolchildren are likely to continue even after the summer vacation since parents are unwilling to risk sending their children to school, multiple school authorities have told The Telegraph.

In the same breath, several school principals and teachers said that online classes are less engaging and less productive, particularly for the weaker students and those very young who need individual attention.

Vijay Singh Rana, a father and a private tutor himself, agreed that online classes were less effective. But he stressed that he would not send his 11-year-old daughter to her private school in Delhi till Covid-19 had been eliminated from the country.

“I’d prefer to have my daughter attend online classes from home for the entire year. There’s no need to take risks,” he said.

“I think classes up to Class X should not be held in schools till Covid-19 cases become nil. Class XI and XII students are grown-up kids. For them classes can be held with social-distancing norms.”

School principals, teachers, educationists and activists say the parents of students of private schools across the country largely support the continued closure of schools.

The parents of students of government schools say they would accept the decision of their governments, which on the whole do not want to reopen the schools.

“I think, till September, online classes are going be the norm. The parents don’t want to send their children till (Covid-19) cases become zero,” said Kiran Mehta, director (academics and activities), Mother Mary’s School, Mayur Vihar, Delhi.

She, however, said that very young children need constant interaction with their teacher and constant compliments from her to learn, and they would find the online classes less fun.

“The small children remain attentive in face-to-face classes. They watch the demonstrations, the writing on the blackboard and enjoy the interactions with the teacher,” Mehta said.

“They are motivated by encouragement and appreciation. The one-hour online class leaves little scope for the teacher to focus on every child. So, children who are lagging behind are particularly likely to suffer.”

She said that children whose parents lack the time or the education to provide backup support for their studies would suffer too.

So would, another teacher said, the children of less well-off parents who lack quality gadgets or Net connectivity.

Ruchi Garg, a schoolteacher in west Delhi, corroborated Mehta.

“In a classroom, the teacher has time to attend to every child. The teacher takes the name of every child in some context or the other,” Garg said.

“But an online teacher cannot focus on 50 children through the screen. The teacher tries to cover the content and then do a bit of interaction, which cannot provide equal opportunity to all.”

Indrani Bhaduri, head of the educational survey division at the National Council of Educational Research and Training, said the pressure of covering the content within a limited time, that too in a mechanical environment, reduced the effectiveness of online classes.

“The rapidity with which the verbal and visual cues are conveyed in an online class leaves little space for the imagination,” she said.

Bhaduri said that online teaching and online homework encouraged passive learning and a harmful dependence on the virtual world at the cost of social skills.

According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, children’s screen time should not eat into the time needed for sleeping, eating, playing, studying or interacting with family and friends.

The teachers are feeling the strain too. Garg said she had to work significantly longer to conduct online classes and evaluate homework online.

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