New Delhi: A study conducted by researchers at Azim Premji University, Bangalore, has found that online education is ineffective and inadequate for schoolchildren’s development. The researchers surveyed at 1,522 teachers (in 1,522 schools) and 398 teachers across five states.
The report, titled ‘Myths of Online Education‘, is focused on schools that cater to children from economically marginalised families, to understand how they are coping with the pandemic-induced changes. An overwhelming number of these teachers and parents wanted in-person education to restart as soon as possible.
Of the teachers surveyed, more than 80% said they were not able to build an emotional connection with students because of the changed medium. More than 90% believe that it is impossible to properly assess students online. In addition to this, 50% of the teachers said children weren’t being able to complete their homework assignments online, and so weren’t learning at the same pace or as thoroughly as they would have otherwise.
“It is mostly one-way communication; we make PPTs and share pictures and videos. But it is difficult to know how much children can follow. It also feels bad that majority of the students are not able to participate in the class. We do not know what will happen to those children,” a teacher from Raipur, Chhattisgarh is quoted as saying. “We also share some readings on WhatsApp and some homework which some children do and send back. Now textbooks are also not available with most children; only some have taken textbooks from their siblings or neighbour.”
“Parents have, likewise, echoed their own dissatisfaction with 70% being of the opinion that online classes are not effective for the learning of their children,” the study notes.
Not only has the quality of education been impacted, in some cases online classes have created serious access hurdles for students. Almost 60% of students at the schools studied, according to the report, are not being able to attend classes regularly. This is because of “absence of a smartphone, multiple siblings sharing a smartphone, difficulty in using the Apps for online learning, etc.”.
For children with disabilities, these issues are exacerbated further, the researchers found. A recent report by Mudassir Kuloo on The Wire had detailed the issues children with disabilities in Kashmir are facing, particularly those with visual and hearing impairments.
Three of the states looked at in the report – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have implemented some form of online teaching in government schools over the last few months. The other two, Karnataka and Uttarakhand, have not put in place any state-level initiatives for online education.
“Only 20% parents have smartphones. Majority of them are labourers. It is difficult for children to access the content as parents go for work in the morning and come back in the evening. Half of them [who have smartphones] do not give phone to children as they think it is not good for children and can hamper values. The connectivity is very poor; I had to come outside of school to talk to you. Most of the families are economically weak and are not able to afford smartphones,” a teacher in Rajasthan’s Tonk district has been quoted as saying.
The teachers also said that they themselves have not received the requisite training to easily use online platforms. “More than half the teachers (overall, 54%), shared that their knowledge and user-experience of such platforms and modes of teaching were inadequate,” the report says.
Given the results of their survey, which is supported by evidence other researchers and journalists have found as well, the report has found that online education is likely to increase existing inequalities in access to education. Schools should be reopened in a phased manner, the researchers argue, to prevent this:
“The study…points to the urgent need to reopen schools in a phased manner with adequate provisions for the health and safety of both children and teachers in the public school system. It also suggests the need to adopt context-based, direct teaching-learning solutions with the physical presence of teachers during the transition period of the reopening of public schools. “