It has been nearly a year and a half since children across the country have had to shift their studies online, with schools closing in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, everything was new and sudden, and schools were forced to begin their online classes without any time to prepare.
In Telangana, the mode of online classes in private schools has mostly been live and recorded videos of the classes with teachers following up with the students on a regular basis. On the other hand, in government schools, the classes were limited to videos on Doordarshan and through T SAT. (Telangana Satellite network). This is an initiative by the Telangana government to air educational content through audio-visual modes. The content from T SAT can be viewed by students on cable TV networks and is also available on YouTube.
As COVID-19 cases havenâ€™t subsided and in view of a second wave of the pandemic, this year as well, schools are left with no other option but to go for remote teaching and learning methods. â€śLast year, it was all sudden, but now we are more prepared. We have been getting feedback on the classes that we conducted last year and we would like to come up with improved digital content and use more multimedia in it, in order to improve the engagement rate with the children,â€ť says Amarnath Vasireddy, Chairman, Slate group of schools in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
He further adds that the online classes need to have more activity-based learning so that the children are more active and engaged during the classes. â€śNo matter the quality of the videos and online classes, even in private schools, we could reach and connect with only 70% of the students. And learning is not only about teaching, but it's also a social experience, children learn from the atmosphere they are in, so online classes cannot be a replacement for the physical classes," he adds.
However, online classes are the only option available for students to continue their education at the moment, though it hasn't been easy. Disturbances and distractions were constant due to network issues. And holding the studentsâ€™ attention was challenging for teachers.
Telangana Recognised Schools Management Association president, Y Shekar Rao says, "The main challenge that we have faced over the last year is poor attendance from students. Mainly due to lack of motivation to attend online classes, while some others do not have a device or proper network to attend the classes from their homes.â€ť He further says that whatever was taught by the teachers during online classes was not properly understood by students, sometimes due to disturbance in network connection, and in many households, the childrenâ€™s parents weren't able to guide them and follow up.
He adds that there is nothing much that the private schools can do in this regard and he wants the government with the help of non-profit organisations to step in to ensure that every student has a device and a WiFi network to attend the classes. Some schools are also giving online training to their teachers so that they can improve their online teaching methods.
Meanwhile, Chava Ravi from United Teachers Federation said with regards to government schools, "The government should discuss with other academic experts and come up with a solution on how to go forward with the online classes. But we do not know what is happening within the education department and they arenâ€™t open to suggestions."
When it comes to government-run schools, things remain the same as last year and there is no concrete plan that has been shared on how to go forward with online classes. Speaking with TNM, State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) Director, Radha Reddy said that this year as well the government schools are going to continue their classes via Doordarshan and T SAT. â€śThe classes will continue like it was held last year. Meanwhile, in the last year we have given coaching to about 600 teachers in three phases on the conduction of online classes and usage of technology,â€ť adds Radha Reddy.
Delay in paying school fees
While private schools were conducting online classes, these classes were limited only to students who have cleared their dues when it comes to school fees. The Telangana Parents Association (TPA) says that they received complaints about children being denied access to online classes in private schools due to fees not being paid.
â€śSeveral parents have lost their source of income and they were not in a position to pay the fee. And the students were cut off from online classes. We have got several such complaints. Schools should be considerate and let the students in for the online classes to avoid more pressure on their minds,â€ť adds TPA president N Narayana.
He further adds that the government should also allocate more funds to the education sector in the budget, as it has been very affected by the pandemic. â€śSeveral parents in rural areas are not in a position to afford any kind of smartphone, nor do they have net connectivity. In these circumstances, the government should step in and provide smartphones to the students who fall below the poverty line,â€ť he said.