TODAY -

Virtual Classrooms as a neo-Pedagogy: Deify or Demonise ?

Paojakhup Guite *



Education sector is no exception to the COVID-19 onslaught. However, thanks to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as it provides a safety net to the sector against a total collapse. Taking refuge in the ICT, education continues its chain of knowledge dissemination to the people.

But, in the backdrop of COVID-19, pedagogy is phenomenally changing its face or orientation. The traditional brick and mortar system of teaching is being tweaked into a novel way of virtual teaching.

This new teaching method is being customized and streamlined to suit the developing needs of students without physical contacts between a teacher and students. Simply put, this is called a Virtual Classroom.

Physical to Virtual

Pedagogy has its history. Even a room of four-sided walls, as a centre of learning, has its precedent. Initially, Nature provided open spaces under the shades of a tree.

However, the under-tree-learning was not regularised and formalised. In the next dispensation, learning took its venue at closed spaces. Both open and closed space learning were physical. Moreover, they are in presence of both teacher and students; thereby a two-way communication (i.e., teaching and learning) was efficient and effective.

Men strived hard to develop tricks and traits so that he could adapt to forces of Nature, if not complete control over it. He began to exploit natural resources and scientifically processed for various unprecedented inventions since the mid-18th century AD.

This process is called Industrial Revolution. Of the many inventions, ICT is a highly sought after technology in this 21st century AD. Therefore, at this critical COVID-19 upheaval, ICT has become the anointed gift of this uncertain modern time as far as communication is concerned.

Job Market Plummets

Ideally, no invention can substitute human beings completely, because human beings and machines always work in silos. At this critical hour of crisis, technology is a sine qua non. Yes, technology does need human resources (HR), but reduces the role of human beings to a great extent.

With technological interventions, the employment rate takes its ugly turn. Teacher employments, both in public and private schools are seeing a record low. To put this into perspective, thousands of teachers in schools, colleges, university, etc. are likely to run the risk of their professions being fired, with no social and financial security left with them.

Only a razor-thin percentage of them will be hired to work in tandem with technology. A recorded lecture by just a single teacher has the capacity to reach millions of students in one fell swoop.

In such instances, the future of D.EL.ED and B.Ed. students is bleak. These students have for years been in serpentine queue to a find a place in teaching profession. But,to no avail - ends up in a virtual classroom. Moreover, since this mode of pedagogy requires no many teachers, the recruitment procedure must be cumbersome.

At the disposal of technology, a teaching and learning process can reach all four corners of the earth, while conventional teaching has the capacity to reach only the four-sided walls of the room.

Following COVID-19 outbreak that has plunged us into a stringent lockdown curb; virtual classrooms are mushrooming up in Manipur. The burgeoning online teaching owes its credit to non-State actors, because they work so hard in order to continue with the chain of supply side of education to meet the demands of students.

Privately owned firms like Enlightopedia, Youth Explore TV (Learn At Home), Pointrex Educational Solutions Pvt. Ltd. etc. in Manipur are really encouraging at this hard time of COVID-19.

Technological Injustices

Technology has a spatial limitation. Despite high teledensity of the country, India always lives in her villages (not stereotyping). India is the second largest in the world by number of telephone users-both fixed and mobile phone.

In rural areas of Manipur, large chunks of tribal populations are still yet to own a smart phone for the entire family. They can barely afford to pay off their children’s admission fees. For them, a Smart phone is a nightmare. These Have-nots will always fall prey to technological disruptions.

This apart, virtual pedagogy has social and political ramifications. In protection of interests of minorities, the Constitution of India under Article 29 (1) says thus: “Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.

Unfortunately, none of the above mentioned privately owned firms conduct their online teaching in a lingua franca that can be understood by all students. Here, especially, rural tribal students of elementary and primary class miss the opportunity of learning in their own mother tongue.

Therefore, there is great likelihood that the new system of online teaching ends up in infringing upon the right of minority communities. Even among the Haves, the benefits will not be shared evenly. Somewhere or the other, a skewed sharing is bound to creep in. This is a travesty of justice.

Efficiency and Economics

Education is a comprehensive term, which imparts all round-developments to students. In a discourse of teaching, efficiency merits attention. Online teaching does not give as much needed education as a conventional classroom teaching and, vice versa.

The former is lacking in influencing students in ways like personality development, interaction and the like, while the latter can have a tremendous behavioral and psychological impacts on students. Doubts can be cleared at the moment in the class, hence raised efficiency in teaching and learning. Teacher-student bond will be strengthened.

Most of the technological platforms run by private enterprises are prone to profit motives. Besides its operating complexities, a student cannot afford and is forced to be deprived of a learning opportunity.

A teacher might not be willing to be employed in this online teaching, given its huge sums of money he earns through private tuition or coaching. In such instances, he may be roped in with a tall promise of high remunerations. The cascading effect will be suffered by students in purchasing online teachings.

Hence, there are nuances and subtle differences in online and conventional teachings. State has to involve in this exercise at this moment of COVID-19 pandemic. Private undertakings in this field may be strictly regulated so that no monopoly on education is in the hands of private entities.

Kudos to Mr. Th. Radheshyam State Education Minister, Government of Manipur for his proactive initiative in launching the electronic format of comic textbooks for Class II, III, IV and V respectively. This is the mother of invention. This will go a long way even after the pandemic is over.


* Paojakhup Guite wrote this article for Imphal Times
The writer is from Saihenjang, CCpur and can be contacted at guitepaojakhup9(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on April 27, 2020.



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