The JSBF Report
Virtual Classes ‘Distanc’ing Education
Updated: Sep 14, 2020
By Tharun Rana Vuyyuru
The unexpected invasion of CoVid-19 plundered the classroom way of learning, and this pulled the reigns of physical engagement of classes and pushed the educational fraternity to a virtual learning setup. And, this shift came immediately after the governments call for a nationwide lockdown to tackle the virus and this lead to the closure of all educational institutions under the garb of social distancing. However, the shortcomings through this medium are usually taken for granted without a coherent understanding of the situations of the students and the teachers. In our subcontinent this shift cannot effectively work because of the very fact that virtual teaching becomes very difficult for instructors who were used to physical dispensing of knowledge and this shift without any space for formal training impacts their pedagogy and thereby hindering proper educational engagement.
Credits: Bianca Bagnarelli
The functioning of online classes reeks of many flawed assumptions. The institutions subsume the student’s efficiency to be the same during the impending crisis through virtual learning, and this sudden shift has predicaments on their mental health. The suicide of the fourteen-year old Dalit girl from Mallapuram (Kerala) gives more insight over the mental stress created on children when their economic plight is taken for granted when there is an expectation to shift to online classes without any predicament like access to all the functionalities. Adding on, houses may not be havens of proper learning environments and this could further disrupt the child’s comprehension. Semester assessments during these precarious times have become a Trojan Horse thrusting the burden on students with almost no scope for any outdoor recreational activities.
Virtual classes are to become the cornerstone for discrimination against students falling in the low-income category who cannot afford smartphones or laptops. Unfettered access to the internet is not an option, and even with regards to disabled students and those with the need for special care are almost precluded from this dynamic. Around 706 million students do not have access to the internet at their residence, which is nearly the entire population of Europe, who are now directly eliminated from any chance of online engagement. Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General expressed her dissent in explaining the inequalities which are intertwined in this mode of learning and suggested for a global coalition to resolve the problems.
“A significant amount of students from our school from a part of the underprivileged sector and they do not have facilities to engage in virtual learning and the possibility of accessing these from an internet booth plummets to zero, and this puts them at a very disadvantageous situation in comparison to other institutions adopting this new generation technology” said Ramanashree Vuyyuru, Head of the Institute, Vijaya Lakshmi High School-Hyderabad.
Summer internships for students are severely affected since most of the organisations. Think Tanks have waived their opportunities either indefinitely or have moved virtually, the latter option defeats the entire purpose of an internship if it does not involve hands-on experience and this modus operandi of the organisation shall not qualify any different from the education they receive in classes making the process a futile attempt with little to no learning.
Prospective graduates and students who have applied for higher education and jobs are now pensive about their choices as most of their applications are kept on-hold by leading universities including the Ivy’s are considering the possibility of virtual semesters breaking the engagement of student community which is one of the vibrant cultures of the universities. Those who applied for jobs are quite implicitly running on thin ice considering the incessant firing of employees in most of the conglomerates.
The steps during fighting the pandemic how much ever ephemeral their life is, the diverse impediments shall not be transient. They will only work as a harbinger of instilling the discrimination against the underrepresented who do not have to enjoy equal privileges. UNESCO recommends psychological support for the students engaging in online learning, and this becomes an increasingly neglected area as Indian parents take pride when their children are involved in constant exposure to knowledge accumulation. Parents and guardians should also be cognizant of the overexposure and increased consumption of the internet during these impending situations and this creates an important role for them to potentially prevent this from slithering its way into the student’s daily lifestyle. Tharun Rana Vuyyuru is a 3rd year Law student in JGLS.