“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.”- Tom Bodett
Online teaching is gaining popularity as we sink into a new academic reality. Online teaching and grooming are bound to stay. The government is going all out to make online learning a popular option for students and parents. In this endeavour, several initiatives have been taken, like imparting vital lessons through government-supported Swayam Prabha DTH channels and activating regional channels of Doordarshan, the official broadcasting channel of Government of India.
The initiative should arguably invite all-round support and co-operation from students and parents alike but this is not the scenario as communication gaps and an endemic ‘carefree attitude’ prevalent among students hampers the free flow of information and knowledge inputs from the teacher to the pupil.
Some students genuinely face difficulty in accessing the television channels and video lectures and messages because, either because they do not own a smartphone or they do not have a steady and reliable internet connection.
Several other students have simply adopted a lackadaisical attitude and have gone into a ‘holiday mode’ feeling reassured already that they will be promoted to a higher grade without undertaking much pain in learning. Since the conduct of exams has been waived for most of the students, and inertia has also set in and students by and large do not demonstrate sincerity and initiative in learning.
No doubt, there are logistical and technological challenges that hamper the learning process. Several students belonging to the lower strata of society struggle to even recharge their internet services and several others complain of not having any access to television due to money constraints. When survival is a burning issue and livelihood of most low-income group parents has dwindled and also those working in the informal sector have lost jobs amidst the onslaught of the pandemic, it remains beyond comprehension as to how the objective of education in the ‘real’ sense can be achieved.
There is much discussion taking place on the benefits of ‘virtual learning’ and several private entities have launched an aggressive promotion campaign to advertise their educational services in the form of online tuitions and coaching. There is no benchmarking of these services as in a virtual world everyone is an artist and a teacher.
Alarmingly, such a scenario may lead to half-baked information and insipid knowledge being passed onto students. It may not only result in widespread confusion and speculation on aspects of curriculum but this trend may foster contempt for formal education as it is imparted especially by government-run agencies in the long run. For every query now a student says, ‘Google Hai Na’ or ‘Google is there, not to worry.’
Education is not just about passing exams or obtaining grades but means imbibing of essential life skills and values which shall stay with a person for a lifetime and by exploiting these life skills and techniques, an individual braces for the professional and personal challenges. It is not surprising that the pandemic has created a division in terms of learning among students of economically well off nations and poorer economies.
So, while 95% of students of Sweden, Austria, and Norway have access to a computer to do their schoolwork, only 34% of students in a country like Indonesia have access to computer use.
So while teachers continue to work hard on preparing lesson plans and are also going the extra mile to take online classes, poor turnout in these classes is turning them into robots. Students take online classes casually as there is no attendance regulation.
Covid-19 has surely turned the teaching pyramid upside down by ushering in a regime of parsimonious learning and confused jugglery. So while learning may be happening in bits and pieces, education in the real sense has lost its way.
Life lessons also need to be given primacy and not just lessons of rote learning.