By Syed Mustafa Ahmad –
When the novel Coronavirus attacked the world in December 2019, almost everything came to stand still. Political life, social life, economic life, educational institutions, etc., came to halt. Among all the things, the case of education is something different. It is the backbone of a nation. Without it, no progress can be thought of. Keeping its advantages in mind, the governments came with the novel idea of online classes. There is no particular definition of the online classes, but it means to get education at any place, barring schools and coaching centres, over mobile phone or computer. This is quite different from physical classes, which we are almost accustomed to. The question that arises is that can the online classes take place of physical classrooms? Let us try to know.
Online classes are more expensive than physical classrooms. A smartphone, recharge, network efficiency, etc., are prerequisites for taking a classroom. If a father has three school going children, he has to buy three smartphones for his children in order to give them education. As this is the truth of our nation that our economy is informal in nature. There is no job security. Volatility is everywhere. In this situation, it becomes more difficult to carry on with this process. Sometimes, it takes extreme form and the parents and their children are forced to get mentally frustrated. However, physical classes are not expensive at all. If the students are from government schools, they get free books, uniforms, monthly stipends, food, etc. They can adjust for days, if there are books unavailable. But in the case of online classes, this is badly missing.
Second thing is that the online classes depend solely on network efficiency. If there is slight network problem, the main aim of online classes is gone to winds. In case of India, apart from digital divide, there are many areas where there are no mobile towers. If by chance there are, then there is signal weakness. The rest is that there is buffering in the middle of classes. Sometimes, it the videos get paused unnecessarily due to video calls. It means there is mind diversion in the middle of classes and students lose attention from the topic. In case of physical classrooms, there are hardly any chances of these things. It goes on smoothly.
Third is that all the students and teachers don’t know how to take online classes. Technical know-how is lacking among students as well as students. Sometimes, there is echo in the middle of classes that mars the basic aim of education. When a teacher or student doesn’t know how to take online classes over zoom application, wise application, etc., it becomes a burden for the already burdened system. If by chance a student leaves the zoom meeting, re-connection is quite disturbing for others. Moreover, if a child has any domestic violence at his or her home, he or she cannot afford to keep his or her mic open on the phone, because it abuses can be listened by everyone and the result is that there is humiliation for a child that makes him or her feel disgusting. In a physical classroom, there is no need for technical know-how. A common teacher knows his or her job of teaching. Moreover, there is no chance of domestic violence, reaching to the ears of students and teachers.
Fourth is that feeling less online classes, result in digital fatigue. Taking classes for seven hours a day for six days, result in a mental stress. There are frequent mood offs after ending online classes. Teachers and students have become something violent in their behaviour. They have lost patience and are seen shouting unnecessarily. In the same vein, students are also fed up with this virtual world. Now, they have learnt a trick: they just Mark their attendances and keep their phones aside, to do other works. Sometimes, they play games and when they feel that they have not responded in the classroom, they open the mics of their cell phones and say, “Yes, sir” or “ Yes, ma’am”. In real world of classrooms, a teacher can check the attention of students, by asking them questions at regular intervals. A student cannot simply utter some words of agreement. Instead, he or she has to remain alert and determined. In physical classrooms, there is no fatigue at all. Teachers feel honoured to teach students.
Fifth and last is that in the garb of online education, students are found watching serials and pornography. Moreover, a majority of boys play games, where they talk to themselves like mad people. Girls are seen over Snapchat and zili application. If by chance their parents inspect them, they quickly switch to zoom classes and let his or her parents feel that they are studying. In this way, students have become cheaters. In place of education, students learn different ways of cheating. In case of physical classes, there is no chance of cheating. A student is not allowed to do any kind of work during teaching, rather than classwork that is going on.
So, the need of the hour is to resume physical classes. Education, that is provided in a physical classroom, can never be imparted through online classes. Sympathy, empathy, love, hated, respect, devotion, etc., are missing during online classes. If SOPs are followed, there is no problem in opening schools. Vaccination must be completed as quickly as possible. It will enable us to defeat Covid-19 and resume physical classes. Let us try our best to help government resume physical classes.
(Views expressed are author’s personal)