“Is it 9 am already?”, asks a worried 6-year-old, as he gets up from a deep slumber. “No, but your school would start soon, so wake up”, his mom responds. So reluctantly he wakes up, and drags himself to the bathroom. After his morning duties are done, he glances up at the clock and notices there is still time to chew the last two bites of his idli and walks leisurely to his table. He opens his laptop, logs in, and sees 14 other friends have joined the google classroom, along with his teacher. There is no sign of a smile on his face on seeing his close friend on the screen. He wants to wave and laugh but he knows he can’t talk to his friends now. He has eyes for only his teacher and he opens his mouth to only talk to her.
“Good morning ma’am”, he says with a loud voice and mutes his microphone immediately. He knows his digital etiquette already. The teacher was speaking to one of his classmates regarding her pretty hairband, so he listens on, with no particular interest, continuing to look at the screen and waiting for an opportunity to talk to his friends. If it was a real classroom, he and 3 other friends would be busy laughing and talking about a topic of their own. But it is different now. All that they could do is talk to the teacher or watch a video that’s being shown until the classes begin. He stares on silently.
The teacher then begins her classes, and he listens, shouting his 1 question 6 times to be heard over the 25 other voices. For the rest of the time, he sits in all different poses staring at the screen and writing when being told to. He completes his work and sits idle waiting for the teacher to confirm his answers shouting out answers, and asking questions , just like the 25 others in his class.
One teacher exits the session, and another arrives in a new session. When you are a kid, there is nothing as fun as looking forward to such breaks between classes. The kids can talk to each other about everything that’s important in their life. Now when one teacher leaves, they end the session and the kids wait for the next session. Not too interesting in a kid’s world. He chats on the side screen at times to amuse himself.
Then the language teacher arrives. She tries to read a poem to the little ones and make them repeat. They couldn’t make out the words, as they aren’t that familiar with the language they are learning, and the sounds don’t seem too clear. They keep saying they can’t understand, and the teacher tries to go slow. She tries her best. The little one keeps looking at the screen, and tells his mama that he doesn’t understand what the teacher is saying. His mama consoles him that after a week he will be able to recite the poem, and he needs to be patient.
He doesn’t complain much, because he knows he is doing something which grownups usually do, and it makes him feel big. And he continues with his staring and writing. He blinks a little more than before, but that’s ok. He has the next break where he can relax a little, he thinks. The next session has another teacher who teaches them grammar. He waits patiently to be called on, unmutes and mutes whenever required and writes on. One of his friends has fallen asleep on the table and another girl notices it. The entire class shouts, “Ma’am she is sleeping!”. The teacher exclaims a “Oh my God” and asks all the kids to do 10 jumps. That should help, she thinks.
Every hour the parents take a peek at what he is doing, taking comfort that the teacher is patient and is teaching something. They are able to observe the teacher’s method of taking class and take pleasure in that. And mainly, they know that their 6-year-old is occupied and is doing something “academic” oriented.
In the 10 minutes break their kid gets between classes, the parents see their little one in a hurry to run away from the screen, zooming from one end of the room to the other with a happy face. They feel a little unsettled but the feeling passes away quickly, as they savor few hours of personal time they have.
Only later during odd hours of the evening, they realize that their discomfit was due to the fact that for the first time ever, their little kid was feeling so elated running away from an electronic device. They look at their kid, accepting that this is the new normal everyone talks about.
Does the little one learn something new? Maybe he does. Can he learn this without online classes? Yes. Is online classes really necessary for kids lower than grade 5? No. So why are the tiny kids enrolled in online classes? The real reason? Because parents can afford it.
Covid-19 has taught us a lot of things. But there are some things that we choose to ignore even if it is out there in our face, staring right at us -the education system that is the talk of the town, at least among parents.
We have quietly gone back to providing education for only the privileged classes. Why aren’t we worried ?
Yes, let’s talk about this. Education is now attainable only for the privileged and that’s clear to everyone. What’s worse is that the government and all of us know and have accepted it.
As a privileged 6-year-old sits to attend her online class, a not-so-privileged 12-year-old stays in her town, playing with her siblings, waiting for her school to reopen. Not everyone can afford a laptop or a smart phone to be able to sit and attend online classes. Only 24% have access to internet in South Asia, says a report.
When education is given to one class, and the other class is deprived of it, it is injustice. The government should come with a plan to teach ALL young minds and not just a selective few. If the schools are going to be closed till August/September, why not let all the kids learn life skills without online classes?
The lady from corporation who comes to our apartment everyday to check if everyone is healthy has 2 kids who go to a small private school. They are in their 4th and 5th grade but their schools have no way of conducting online classes, and her kids are staying at home, with no way to learn. Doesn’t seem like it’s fair.
My kid suggested an idea to make education available to all. He said government should take print outs with the teacher’s instruction for every lesson, find the kids’ address and post their teacher’s step by step instruction for every chapter. Then they can learn without internet. I was proud of him for coming up with a suggestion that included ALL kids to learn a subject.
Might seem like a drastic thing, but we don’t know how long we will be staying indoors! And we want ALL kids to be educated not just the ones who study in big name schools.
Why are there NO specific rules from government wrt online classes? Who’s the deciding authority here, government or private institutions?
While government schools are closed, the private institutions are functioning really well with their online classes, thanks to the money they received in full from parents. And the government hasn’t come up with a clear solution to what should be done wrt to opening schools for different grades.
On one side, Karnataka government keeps saying online classes for grade 5 and under shouldn’t be there, whereas, some private institutions already obtained the fees and have begun their classes. Maharashtra government announced earlier there should be no online classes for class 2 and under, but a lot of private institutions are running classes for little tots. Newspaper reports that 3 states – Maharashtra, Karnataka and MP have banned online classes for students in grade 5 and under, which we definitely know is not being followed in all schools across the 3 states.
As for TN, the government has left it to the schools and parents decision. It comes down to money. Many private institutions requested parents to pay the fees to start the online classes, offering them concessions or asking for post-dated-cheques. The government for its end, keep asking parents to report the schools which asked fees. What was funny was that no information is provided on how parents should report such schools! Well played.
Are private schools interested in making money or do they really care about kids?
Let’s come to the private institutions which offers online classes. So the current scenario is that all parents who can afford education, paid the fees and their kids irrespective of their ages sit in front of the computer screen, be it whether it helps them learn something or not. But are they actually learning something useful? Interaction between kids, learning life skills and social skills is what many parents mainly send kids to school for. Is that achieved through online classes?
Many schools boast about their holistic approach towards education to bait parents into applying to their school. I wonder what exactly they are teaching them by making them sit for hours on end in front of the screen, without any respect to the young ones’ health. Where’s holistic approach in this?
Tiny tots get sent to online classes just because their parents don’t want to be their kids to be left out!! And also because let’s face it, every parents needs some breathing time. The schools are making use of this and are minting money without any conscience. Government should have a say on whether online classes are indeed necessary for grades 5 and lower and make sure all schools stick to it.
Any class more than 1 hour everyday for grade 5 and under are a serious health hazard. For the eyes and for the mind. There is no clear direction given to all schools and every school has their own timings. When it comes to someone else’s kid’s health, the schools shouldn’t play around.
The problem is that since schools got the parents to pay almost a similar amount of fee for online classes as compared to regular/in-person classes, they feel they owe it to the parents (by that I mean the money they paid) to provide online classes for similar amount of time. Else if the classes were reduced for 2 hours, the parents will be putting up a fight to pay only half the fees. Their argument becomes that they have to pay the teachers, and they need same amount of money. In turn they don’t mind that a little kid is looking at the screen for a long time every day.
It is scary to think what the kids have gotten themselves into. It’s unhealthy and dangerous.
The situation isn’t going to change any time soon. So the government needs to step up. It needs to come up with a strategy to make education available to all. If online schooling is the way to go, the government should inform all private institutions of the maximum time they can keep their online classes for the big kids and the little ones. The future of India, that’s who the kids are. Please pay attention to their future.
Very well written! I teach at the university level and strongly believe that students below the age of 10 should not have online classes. They maybe given offline activities and recordings to listen to for language classes but screen teaching is not something that I endorse for that age. Though I like teaching online, I know that its not the ideal environment for students to learn. Sure, they can learn the subject matter, but things like inter personal skills, leadership, team building, even play will not happen. I also feel for those who are going to join college this year. College is a turning point in ones life and to know your classmates as names on a screen is pathetic.