By ABHAY MAJHI
When Back to Future II released in 1989, audiences would have speculated, but not with absolute certainty, that the video conferencing technology will be a norm in the future. Though the movie showed the future of 2015, it wasn’t until 2020 and thanks to a deadly pandemic we could really live the predicted future of Robert Zemeckis. With most of the world’s population already adapting to a life of claustrophobia, the institutions too are finding newer ways to redesign how they function. In this endeavour of change, the educational houses seem to have discovered their modelled pedagogy- making everything online! The second day of Valley of Words Literary Festival 2020 began with a debate competition between Kendra Vidyalaya and Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya schools, each introspecting on the question: “Can Online Classes replace Classroom Education?” With four enthusiastic participants and an esteemed jury, the argument on the topic even ventured into discussing and deliberating on the issues and problems of the education system in the country, while also giving a very clear picture of the state of online education.
Two of the participants spoke in support of the topic while the other two spoke against it. The participants, who defended the topic, talked about how the online classes have provided the dynamic young learners with ample amount of time to discover their interests and explore options of learning beyond books. At the onset of the pandemic, the schools adopted the online mode of teaching which has again benefited a lot of students who seemed to have lost on the classwork, only because of the discriminatory system of sitting arrangement in schools. Now every student is treated as a front bencher, with no discrimination from any teacher or the difficulty to be noticed in a large room of equally energetic children. The students also enjoy a lot of time away from school and focus on multifarious extracurricular activities of their desire which are often not offered in schools. They argued about the scarcity of quality education and that online education can actually be a solution to that. Good teachers can reach all students without having to worry about the distance and time. With the complete closure of schools and other educational institutions, this makes online the perfect mode for imparting knowledge as it can work without a break, if provided with a powerful broadband connection and correct devices.
On the other hand, the other two participants thoroughly lambasted the new trend of redesigning education into an online learning mode. Instead of the more technologically inclined medium, they chose the traditional means of pedagogy. What the online teaching lacks is the essential emotional connect with the students, a mandatory element for the overall growth of a child. The face-to-face interaction between the pupil and the teacher is lost in the view to attend to a more sophisticated type of learning. Moreover, the internet based style does not adhere to the holistic development of a child, which includes the socialisation of individuals, the importance of teamwork and a collective sense of being in a community. All of this cannot be taught inside a house where the child is sitting in front of a rectangular screen, aloof from all his friends and colleagues. On top of it, more than 27 percent of children in rural areas do not enjoy the luxury of having even a decent internet connection. This makes this system discriminatory and does not act equally for everyone.
Although the session was shrouded in heated arguments as the students vehemently spoke against one another’s views, the debate offered ample amount of food for thought on a topic that needs to be deliberated further and largely in all spheres. The world is still trying to fathom the effects of the pandemic and in these confusing times, online learning has come as a saviour of academics. After the pandemic and lockdown, it will be hard for everyone to return to normalcy; even the education system has to work on building on a cohesive way of learning where both the traditional and modern ways are respected.