Online class isn’t all it is touted to be

Online class isn’t all it is touted to be

E-learning

A survey by the Azim Premji University (APU) reaffirms widely held apprehensions over the efficacy of education imparted to children online. The survey, which focused on schools catering to children from economically marginalised families, was conducted in five states, including Karnataka. It found that online education is ineffective and inadequate for the development of schoolchildren. Online education has been necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The need to maintain social distancing to avert infections has prevented children from attending school. Of the teachers surveyed, 80% said they were unable to establish an emotional connect with their students, while 90% pointed out that the online medium hindered meaningful assessment of students, the report, “Myths of Online Education,” said. Almost 70% of parents surveyed felt that online classes were ineffective in ensuring positive learning outcomes. Online education was all the more inadequate in teaching children with disabilities. The APU study also reaffirms that lack of access to internet connectivity, laptops or mobiles is preventing children from accessing education. The digital divide is deepening the learning divide.

The APU survey emphasises the importance of the emotional connection between teacher and student for the latter’s development. It stresses the role that the human touch, one-to-one interaction and engagement in a school setting play in a child’s capacity to imbibe, reflect and learn. The survey indicates that both educators and parents are worried about the inadequacy of online education; around 90% of parents of government schoolchildren surveyed want to send their children back to school if adequate precautions are taken against the pandemic. India needs to step up efforts to improve the outcome of online education. In addition to improving internet connectivity and access to computers, training of teachers to impart online teaching is imperative.

Tough decisions lie ahead. Inadequacy of online education calls for a reopening of schools, not just so that our children can imbibe faster and learn better but for their emotional and social wellbeing as well. However, unseemly haste could prove counter-productive, especially if we do not prepare well for re-opening. School managements must sit with health authorities to put in place the safest environment for children, whether inside the classroom or en route to school. We must bear in mind that children will be returning to school after months of being locked up inside their homes. They will forget the rules of social distancing and wearing masks and will need to be constantly reminded. A phased re-opening is the best way forward.