Why banning online classes for primary kids isn’t a good idea amidst Covid-19

online digital classroom

In the midst of isolation crisis, when all educational institutions have been stirred to online teaching and up-scaled teachers’ digital skills through school-based training interventions, few states like Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh had placed a restriction on online classes for primary school-going children. Online learning, no doubt is by far the most compelling alternative in the times of Covid-19 pandemic guaranteeing physical distancing and safe learning at the home-based ecosystem. It has brought a new paradigm shift in formal education systems as completely different from the face-to-face classroom learning. Now, both teachers and students have been on e-platforms to learn new skills for better digitally decked in virtual classrooms. During the past few months, there has also been a swell in the access to online classes across the country. In a survey, it was unveiled that for the first time about 90.2 percent of teachers have been engaged in online schooling amidst the pandemic. The continued endeavors of institutes and the teachers’ and parents’ diligent collaboration have pushed the conventional leaning into a new era of e-ducation.

For the last month, however, due to the surfaced issues of online learning, there had been an overwhelming attack on the blemishes of e-learning. Experts have aired concerns over the digital alienation of weaker sections of the society, internet safety for learners, and the outreach of online classes to outlying areas. Many teachers have reported awful experiences in online teaching. Parents also have quartered complaints about kids’ long-time screening on computers. Psychiatrists had warned for the decaying effect of e-ducation on kids’ psychological health and emotional well-being. Amidst such a surge in troubles and arguments, the government of Karnataka has banned online classes for primary school-going kids.

In early June, acting upon the complaints received from parents and educators, the government of Karnataka has formed a committee assessing the perks and perils of shifting to online classes for school kids. Taking deliberation of parents’ objections about kids’ mental health, the teachers’ awful experiences, and experts’ opinions, on June 10th the government has outlawed online classes for kids of class I to V standard. Similarly, the government of Maharashtra has also banned the online classes for kids up to class II standard and was followed the same by the government of Madhya Pradesh up to class V.

Notwithstanding, for the last few days showing annoyance with the government’s arbitrary decision on the ban, thousands of parents have been congregated on online-protest endorsing online classes for primary school kids in Bengaluru. The protest has built a virtual-storm on Twitter and telegram demanding the resuming of web-based classes for their kids. The protest also gives a sign of advancing its trappings in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra against the unreasonable ban on online classes as its second wave of protests.

The parents argued that e-learning is better than no learning. The protesters have come up with varying appraisals and complementing experiences in online learning for kids. They tweeted that the children had been more engaged in online learning. The kids found interest in exploring new things through virtual navigation of different sources of e-learning. While comprehending the online classes, a protester, Neha Balgotra said “learning should never stop at the crisis time to, online classes will not only provide constructive screen time but also the social support which our kids need for their good mental well-being at this hour”. Likewise, some of the parents underscored that kids are at the developmental stage, and hence completely excluding from the learning opportunities amidst the crisis will wreak catastrophe in kids’ socio-emotional development in the later stages. Also, the sudden withdrawal of learning measures may lead them to develop a kind of discontent in learning.

While expressing the concern over the ban, #RightToLearn, Hitesh Jain said that “being a parent I can’t see my child every day wasting time without learning and that too be in this pandemic where already other challenges exist”. Also, Deepika C. tweeted that “our children want to get back their #online classes, every day counts! When parents don’t have any problem in online classes, children are ready to take up new ways of learning then why this ban?” Besides, the Karnataka High Court also asked the government in plea against the ban on online classes for primary school kids that left kids completely denying access to e-learning during the crisis.

Furthermore, parents argued that the ban imposed on kids to access online education has violated the fundamental rights conferred under the Right to Education Act, 2009. #RightToLearn, Neha Mishra pointed out that “every child has the ability to learn differently and the choice of HOW should be given, not imposed! My child was just about getting back to a normal routine and the most importantly LEARNING. It’s something that she should relate to in this already disrupted situation”. The decision has desecrated the right of children to learn through any means, right of parents to determine what is more salutary for their kids, and event the right to work for educators as protesters reported on twitter #RightToLearn2.

Further, some of the parents have rebuked the government over the failure to address the risen issues of online learning. They alleged the government over its heavy-handed attempts to neutralize all the problems through banning online classes, instead of rendering necessary support in the form of availing digital resources. Protestors wrote that the government had not done enough to ensure safe online learning for kids and now the government has no right to curb the right to education and the right to freedom to choose the mode of streamed online learning. Similarly, the parents have reported that the decision was taken based on the superficial complaints from parents so they must revoke such a kind of haphazard decision that potentially cause severity to children.

India has over 200 million primary school-going kids with an enrollment rate of more than 95 percent in learning persuasions at government and private institutions. Online lore is something new for teachers, students, and parents. They are many who have struggles and awful experiences in online teaching and learning and have troubles in school- and home-based management systems. On the other hand, stopping kids from learning online will affect their intellectual growth and engrossed learning engagement in the times of pandemic. So in such a situation, outlawing online classes is not the finished solution especially in this period of learning crisis when all other options are sealed irrevocably. Instead of running away from the crisis, it is better to think of creating ways to cope up with the emerging issue of e-learning.

In a bid to deal with the current crisis, as measures, it can be intimated that not ban rather better decisive planning can be the ultimate solution to address the surfaced issues of online learning. Herewith, the government must dispel the hooked ban on online classes for kids and also encourage teachers and parents to adopt new ideas and techno-pedagogies to address the emerged issues of e-learning. The necessary support and economic outlay must be released to enable kids those are from poor economic backgrounds to access to the home-based online learning amidst the crisis. Besides, the government has also to provide ‘time-specific training interventions’ for parents and teachers to equip with the required digital skills that will crucially help pupils in doing better online navigation.

Further, as the pandemic has devised a new learning ecosystem bearing new challenges and issues, so, attempts must be taken squarely to address all those issues. The teachers must open to different instructional designs and new methods and techniques of teaching in the virtual classroom. They must try to employ all kinds of knowledge and techno-pedagogies to ensure better learning outcomes for the school-going kids.

With the mind, the educational institutions also need to guarantee the ‘age-specific’ contents and study-work assignments for kids. They should adopt a ‘balanced approach’ towards kids’ learning, neither should impose greater study-tasks and on the same way, nor the completely devoid of home-assignments. Besides, the screening time is also needed to fix on scientific grounds for kids’ better mental health. According to the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics, the screening time for kids aged between 2 and 5 years should be one hour excluding the interactive sessions.

Aside from, the educational institutions must prop better governance and managerial skills in establishing ‘spontaneous collaboration’ and ‘hands-on supports’ with parents to regulate online classes. Both school administrators and parents should work together through the ‘home-school online partnerships’ to ensure better learning opportunities, creative experiences, better time management, and safe e-learning for children.

In closing, as the comfort home-based learning is about sitting at home and learn alone through online, so, concerns have arisen over kids’ meaningful learning engagement and capability of discerning e-resources and establishing connections with the virtual classroom. In this case, parents or family members must help kids in navigating virtual e-learning ecosystems to have age-appropriate enriched contents and brilliant experiences.

Nawaz Sarif is a Ph.D. scholar at the School of Education, North-Eastern Hill University (NEHU), Shillong, India. He has completed his master’s degree at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi, India. Presently, he works on ‘the development of psychological capital in the young population’. Along with the research, he writes short articles on contemporary issues.




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