Hyderabad: Online classes for students, at least those taken by government schools, are more a self-congratulatory exercise for the state education department that it is doing something for students during the pandemic. Detailed inquiries with teachers and heads of government schools have revealed that nearly 50 per cent of their students have learnt next to nothing.
Major questions have arisen in the process. How much learning is going through WhatsApp classes mostly on five to seven-inch screens of smartphones? Is there sequential continuity in subjects and classes, like in physical schools? Sending home and class work to teachers on phone is more a hit-and-miss affair. Then there is the problem of a different teacher each day teaching the same subject, says Telangana State Gazetted Headmasters Association president P. Raja Bhanu Chandra Prakash.
Students are really missing their teachers who come to class day after day. There is familiarity and understanding of what the teacher says over a period of time. How much the students have understood online will only be known when syllabus for classes they have been promoted to begins on August 16, Chandra Prakash observed.
Worst-hit are students enrolled in government schools of rural areas. Most of them come from marginal sections of society, with a sizeable number of them not having smartphones. If by chance they have it, they cannot afford to pay for 1-2 GB data needed every day for children to watch classes. There are also distractions that come with a smartphone being in hands of students, observed Mohammad Kareemuddin, head master of Ahmedipur Zilla Parishad High School in Gajwel mandal of Siddipet district.
He said data whether a student has access to a smartphone or TV with cable connection is being recorded at the time of admission. This to some extent helps in encouraging students to share their mobiles with fellow students, or watch lessons on TV in small groups. “We have 186 students with 12 teachers in both English and Telugu medium. As per our survey, 163 are attending classes via television while rest study via smartphones, which they share. Data usage becomes a problem as parents are reluctant to use it all up by sharing their phones outside of the family. This means submission of worksheets by those not having smartphones becomes a serious issue, Kareemuddin pointed out.
While teachers and school heads say they are doing everything they can, the reality is not every teacher or head of school is taking great interest in what students are learning through online classes, sources in education department said.
According to Maddela Pranay Kumar, a social studies teacher at Wadiyarim ZPHS in Chegunta mandal of Medak district, his school has around 256 students. “Each teacher sends a time table for classes through WhatsApp groups. Then comes the checking if they actually watched a class and how much have they understood,” he said.
Headmasters’ association president Chandra Prakash reiterates that best learning can happen only in person. Most students learn by repeating what teacher teaches in the class, as most students coming from very underprivileged backgrounds do not have the right atmosphere at home to learn. In online learning, there is no repetition or asking of questions. “Our fears are that most students have not been able to keep up and are losing out seriously on learning,” says Chandra Prakash.
Following are numbers of students whose future is at stake*
7,62,300 students of 4,187 zilla parishad high schools
1,28,300 students of 479 government high schools
2,30,000 students of 3,075 mandal parishad upper primary schools
9,100 students of 90 government upper primary schools
7,50,000 students of 17,048 mandal parishad primary schools
1,05,500 students of 1,181 government primary schools
*Student numbers have been rounded off to nearest hundred...