‘Sagar Dai, please help me with my online classes. My parents know nothing about it. They don’t even know how to use internet. I don’t want to miss the classes anymore.’ Buney asked me for help.
I was wondering the way she was expressing her annoyance. She had already started to make hate comments on her parents just because they don’t know how to use Zoom app. For a while, I thought if it was really necessary. It had just been couple of weeks of a lockdown and school wanted her to enroll into online classes.
The most interesting thing is she was never taught on how to cope with online classes and syllabus. Sudden announcement of virtual classes by school had left her parents unprepared and with guilt.
How schools are responding to COVID19?
COVID19 has resulted in schools shut all around the globe with over 1.3 billion children out of the classroom. As social distancing is the most effective strategy for slowing the spread of the virus all schools in Nepal were enforced to complete their annual examination by March 18th. SEE including all University examinations were postponed. The results of primary level education were announced through different social media and the internet.
As there was no hint when schools might begin running as normal once again, many schools started switching to online teaching-learning mode. However the transition from traditional education to virtual mode in Nepal is coming with both opportunities and challenges.
Digital education does not have a long history in Nepal. Just recently, the Nepal Government has decided to introduce a ‘digital education system’ for educational institutions including schools to continue the teaching and learning process even during the lockdown. NTV Plus is running classes for SEE appearing students and government is working on online class curricula for grades 6 to 8. Meanwhile, some independent private academic institutions have already introduced virtual classes for the students through Google classroom and different video conferencing platform.
Online Classes in the context of Schooling
As the nation is under unprecedented lockdown, most of the parents are worried about the education of their children. It has been difficult for them to hold their children inside the house and keep them busy in learning activities. That’s why many children are wasting their days playing with mobile and watching TV.
In school students develops their skill just not on the basis of academics but from their peers and extracurricular activities. They are involved in brainstorming sessions and face to face interactions where they could share their ideas and learning. There is nothing like classroom teaching but the education and learning should not stop even during the lockdown. Online classes could be the best alternative to involve them in regular study and keep them busy. It helps to set a routine for them. Since it is a virtual learning class it helps to maintain social distancing as well.
Future of Online Learning
With the distinctive rise, e-learning has changed the way of teaching around the world. Though it requires training, sufficient bandwidth and preparation for online classes, its benefit can’t be denied. Integration of information technology in education has enabled many students to reach out for education more efficiently and effectively. It is more flexible, less expensive and on the rise. It is believed to be the integral part of the future of education.
According to Minister of Education and Science, Girirajmani Pokharel, with the need of the hour, the concerned body has been instructed to prepare courses for online classes in Nepal. But most importantly, prior to everything it is necessary to develop required infrastructure, training programs and assemble sufficient internet facilities to make online classes effective.
Challenges of Online Classes in Nepal
Everyone doesn’t have an access to high speed internet, laptop and compatible phones. Students without reliable internet access and technology struggle to participate in online classes. Moreover, it creates a significant gap between those from privileged and underprivileged backgrounds.
According to Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (2019), only 40% of Schools in Nepal have an access to regular electricity and only 28% of Schools are provided with internet facility. There is no online courses and syllabus developed by government in the academic level. To make it effective, it requires greater commitment from both government and academic institutions along with worthy initial investment and expertise. With just 10.68% of the budget share in education, a dream of integrating traditional education and digitized education looks to be impossible to believe.
Education must be dynamic. Traditional education system is irreplaceable but e-learning is the new revolution in modern education system. The government must focus in the upgrade and online learning technology can play a perfect role here. It is the responsibility of government to invest in those areas which do not have access to internet and technology. Government needs to develop application based online education platform and train teachers, students and parents about its application. Further, online classes from Radio and Television could be more effective in remote areas of the country.
Are online classes being effective for Students so far in Lockdown?
The most need of the hour is to stay safe at home. But at the same time, students need to be involved in reading and creative activities.
With the uncertainty of lockdown, many private academic institutions have asked parents to enroll their children in regular online classes. But could online classes be the alternative to classroom teaching during this pandemic?
To some extent online classes look sensible for higher degree students as they are more familiar with the internet and information system. However, everyone does not have access to the right technology. Also, most of the students staying in rent have returned back to their home where the reach of internet is a far thing. At current state it does not seem to be effective for Secondary and Primary level students. The courses of grades 10 to 12 are over and they are preparing for exams. It has been just a few weeks that the results are announced for primary level students and many schools are in hurry to enroll them in regular classes. And the funniest thing is few Montessori have also started online classes.
Why is all this happening for?
Is this because those academic institutions wanted to guarantee the tuition fee from the very first day of the academic year? Or is this because they truly do care about the importance of retention of education of their Students? Are they even aware about the effectiveness of the online classes and courses they have designed? Do they know how such classes have affected parents and students psychologically?
Though some institutions are working hard to make learning fun, effective and engaging through virtual classes, some look to be unprepared. Students and parents are struggling with hours of online classes. Students are facing problems of eyes while staying in front of the Computer or mobile screen. Also, many had to go through headache and neck pain. The online class is not as interesting as live classes and the bonding with the teacher is also less.
Most often, the student has to face internet issues. Video conferences get disturbed due to poor internet connection and student can’t concentrate on what the teacher is teaching. Everyone doesn’t have a laptop at home. If a family has only one smartphone, but two children, then it is impossible for them to join online classes at the same time from a single phone. Those who don’t have Wi-Fi facility can’t afford mobile data every day. With hours of classes children are being addicted to the internet. If not guided properly they could misuse the internet.
Online classes have kept children busy, but are not involving them in creative-smart works.
So, before starting online classes, academic institutions should prepare its guidelines, applications and appropriate syllabus. They must think about students’ access to the internet. Rather than regular courses, it would be better to plan for interactive sessions, creative, fun-filled and skill activities involving both students and parents helping them to build a strong bonding with each other and teacher.
Er. Sagar Karki
Founder | Better Chitwan