The state secondary education board has issued a notice reminding school students that they cannot bring smartphones to the classroom.
The notice comes at a time when dependence on smartphones has gone up among students after two years of online classes during the Covid pandemic.
The use of smartphones has been barred for teachers, too, unless they are using them as teaching tools.
A notice issued on April 11 by the board’s deputy secretary, academic, said: “Students are being strictly forbidden to bring mobile/smartphones inside the school premises. Teachers are being requested to refrain from using mobile/smartphones inside classrooms and laboratories during the course of teaching learning process to ensure that students’ attention is not diverted.”
“Random use of mobile/smartphones, bluetooth in classes by teachers is strictly prohibited. In case mobile/ smartphones need to be used as teaching aids for a particular class, please seek written permission from the HOI (head of the institution) in advance,” the notice said.
Several school heads said such notices from the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education used to be routine before the pandemic.
But this year’s notice is more relevant than before.
Since the resumption of physical classes, teachers have reported a tendency among students — even in remote areas — to fidget with their phones whenever they get a chance.
“Although we don’t allow smartphones in school, over the past two months, we have seen instances of students trying to sneak in phones. I believe as the students got habituated to using smartphones as a tool to attend classes over digital platforms, they are now finding it difficult to let go of the habit,” said Debabrata Mukherjee, headmaster of Sanskrit Collegiate School.
Classes were held online for close to two years from March 2020 as a precaution against Covid.
Over the past two years, teachers’ dependence on smartphones has gone up as well.
Several headmasters, including Mukherjee, said teachers, too, needed to be dissuaded from using smartphones in schools.
Metro had reported on February 15 that students in schools affiliated to the state board were seen checking their devices in between classes or playing games in washrooms when in-person classes resumed earlier that month.
Students had been using mobile phones to attend classes in the last two years and the devices have remained with them even after in-person classes resumed on February 3.
“There is an inclination to check messages, browse the internet or social media websites or play games in between classes or during the lunch break. But what is more concerning is the indiscriminate use of phones among teachers,” Mukherjee said.
During a panel discussion at the Kolkata Book Fair on the Impact of the Pandemic on Children’s Reading and Schooling in March, several educators had said that the challenges they were encountering with the resumption of in-person classes included weaning the children off virtual platforms, which they were forced to get accustomed to over the past two years.
“The children are so glued now to Instagram and all these platforms that they think they are real. It’s a tough challenge before us,” John A. Bagul, principal of South City International School, had said at the Kolkata Literature Festival.
Talking to The Telegraph on Thursday, Krishnangshu Mishra, headmaster of Dakshin Chatra High School in Baduria block of North 24-Parganas district, spoke of the “abuse of smartphones” among students and teachers.
“I have myself caught students checking smartphones in class on several occasions,” he said.
Mishra, who is also the general secretary of the West Bengal Headmasters’ Association, said he has received multiple reports from other heads of institutions about teachers using smartphones and Bluetooth in class.
“This distracts students and sets a very bad precedent. Reports about the abuse must have reached the board,” said Mishra.