With the coronavirus induced lockdown, online learning is the new buzz word doing rounds in the Indian educational system. The schools and colleges are shut. The students and teachers are at home. Supposedly, the future of India is at stake. What has to be done? Online learning is the answer to all the coronavirus ills affecting the education sector.
The Honourable Union Cabinet Minister of HRD Ramesh Pokhriyal in every interaction with media and parents drops the name of online learning without fail. Every private school worth it’s salt has latched on to online learning bandwagon in some form or the other. Parents have to share their screens with the off-springs and they are more than willing for this intrusion.
There is no iota of opposition from any quarters about this charade of online learning in India. After all, it is an optimal application of the available technology for the noble purpose of educating future citizens. What would be wrong in that? Read on.
Right To Education – I
RTE Act, passed in 2009, is an obligation on the Government to provide and ensure admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group. RTE puts the onus on the Government for the education of a child and not the parent.
Now, which sane person in India would claim that parents of children going to government schools would be having access to a smart-phone to enable online learning for their children? If the parents cannot afford a smart-phone, how can a child access online learning?
The Government has conveniently palmed off its responsibility of ensuring education to government school children to parents. It has not even put up a facade. The Government talks about online learning happening in private schools and not government schools. The Government has left the students of her schools to fend for themselves. Who is going to bother, anyway?
This makes it amply clear that the Government of India was never bothered or interested in education in government schools in the first place. This is the first learning from online learning fuss.
Right To Education – II
The RTE Act requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats for the poor and other categories of children. If there was ever a doubt that private schools are following the RTE Act in letter and spirit, the online learning drama puts it to rest.
All the private schools are gung-ho about online learning and claim that their functioning is going-on as usual. There is not even a smallest of whimper that a certain section of students is missing out on this initiative. The private schools claim that the parents and the children laud their execution and all of them are a part of their programme.
Does it occur to anyone that when 25% of students are admitted from the vulnerable sections of the society, how can cent per cent of the population be a part of the online learning plan? There have to be some students that will fall through the sieve, but astonishingly there are none.
One can say that this 25% of the children, in the reserved category, have parents that can afford a smart-phone and facilitate their online education. If anyone falls for this bluff, I am the reincarnation of Ashoka, The Great.
This entire ado about online learning in private schools only means that 25% of reserved seats under RTE were never filled by those it was meant for. This is a scandal that nobody will ever talk about; neither the Government nor the private schools and most sadly, not the parents of children studying in those schools. The second learning.
It Is All About Fees, Stupid
The private schools would want to continue charging their fees, even with the coronavirus lockdown. They surely cannot charge transport fees, mess fees, uniform fees and other miscellaneous heads. However, they want to cling on to their tuition fees – after all, this contributes the maximum to their coffers. How to go about this? Online learning is the answer.
With the online learning, the private schools can formally and legitimately show that they are delivering as per their promise and hence the parents are liable to pay their share of fees.
Would anyone dare challenge the efficacy of online learning and make a claim for pro-rata deduction in tuition fees? No ways. The private schools would claim 100% effectiveness of their programme and hence, the 100% collection of fees. After all, there is no one to call their bluff. The third learning.
The Proof Of The Pudding Is NOT In The Eating
So, online learning is delivering. Great. Let’s have an online examination. Where did the backers of online learning vanish? Why is the Honourable Union Cabinet Minister shying away? Why are the private schools completely silent on this aspect? Even the parents are not supportive of this idea.
What use is online learning if there is no online examination? An elephant has two sets of teeth, one for chewing and one for showing. So, is the case of online learning. The fourth learning.
Never Let A Child Be A Child
Coronavirus lockdown is the first extended opportunity for a child to spend time with her/his family up-close. This is the time for the child to learn first-hand what goes on in the household and figure out ways and means to be of help to the parents. This is the occasion to develop empathy for fellow citizens facing a harrowing time and create a base for real-time life learnings.
If nothing else, let the child be a child. Play. Rest. Explore. Connect. Freedom. No, the Zoom class beckons.
The Indian educational system would not let the child be a child, EVER. The fifth learning.
After all, the weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India.