Online Learning and Corona in Ladakh
COVID-19 virus was fatal to humans, receding to businesses, antagonism to social life, and ruinous to school education among other sectors. The education sector is the most affected among all. The local administration in Ladakh believed that daily children assembly in schools can be a potential carrier for the virus to households all over the district besides being the most vulnerable age group to Covid 19 virus. Before all other sectors, schools were closed first. When, as per past routine, schools were closed in December 2019 for winter vacation, these could hardly be re-opened before March 2021.
The concern of school closure was not exclusive for Ladakh, but all other parts of the world faced the same challenge. As per a report published by the World Economic Forum, globally 1.2 billion children were out of the classroom in April 2020 in 185 countries. Around 57,000 children in Kindergarten to 12th standard were affected their studies in Ladakh. In addition, around 4000 students suffered studies at the college level. Out of the School level number, a total of around 29,400 students suffered in the Kargil district only. The number might be more by around 15,000 all over Ladakh if the students enrolled in school and colleges outside Ladakh are included.
The distancing of children from schools resulted in a drastic change in the education system with the distinctive rise of online learning. Even before the COVID emergence, investment in the adoption of technology in education was highly growing that reached US 18.66 Billion Dollars in 2019. As per reports, the market for the same was projected to be reached at 350 Billion US Dollars by 2025. However, the COVID pandemic significantly accelerated the growth in the use of technology in education, especially for online learning.
Students around the globe adopted online platforms like BYJU’S, Lark, DingTalk, Tencent, and other interactive apps to continue their studies. The most famous online learning platform, BYJU’S saw a 200 percent increase in the number of their users in April 2020. 7,30,000 students which were 81 percent of Kindergarten to 12th Standard students in Wuhan of China resumed their studies through online Tencent Classroom making a history of largest online movement.
Schools in Ladakh also reached to video conferencing applications like Zoom, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and YouTube to interact with their students. Many pondered on the effectiveness of online learning in comparison to traditional or physical classrooms. Global level research studies find that students who have access to the right technology find online learning effective, even better in some aspects than the traditional classrooms. However, in Ladakh the lack of mobile and internet connectivity in far-flung areas, lack of effective medium, and users’ abandon to technology posed as challenges to the majority of students for online learning.
The well-understood and the visible challenge are poor or no mobile connectivity in far-flung areas. However, experienced teacher Asgar Ali said that even in town areas students complained of poor connectivity and buffering of videos and noise in the audio. Positively, the concern of school children accelerated the installation of mobile towers and infrastructures in many far-flung areas. At the same time, students in many villages near the Actual Line of Control or border suffered their studies due to the non-availability of internet and mobile connectivity. In areas facilitated with telecom, the problem does not end with getting access to mobile and the internet.
Educationist and teacher Nasiruddin Khafi analytically categorize the online learners among two age-based groups. The higher classes, who are adolescents, are vulnerable to watch sensitive things on the internet on the pretext of online learning and classes. Expressing concern over the misuse of mobile phones Khafi said that it could cause degradation of moral and ethical values in the coming generations. The Principal of the leading private school in Kargil Muttahary Public School (MPS) Baroo, Murtaza Khalili who has served as a teacher for the last three decades says that he has observed a steep moral degradation in children in the lockdown period. The erosion of moral values among students during the lockdown was also a concern of Principal Sawab Public Higher Secondary School Mohd Shareef. He said that missed or left out syllabus can be recovered but students derailed from moral values are hard to be streamlined again. Principal of Lamdon Model School in Leh district Stanzin Dawa also admitted that misuse of mobile phone is a concern, however, from his interview moral degradation did not reflect as a major concern to him.
The second group, as per Khafi’s categorization is the primary and middle school children who turn more to mobile games and cartoons on the pretext of online learning. In a parent meeting at the MPS Baroo to review the functioning of school curriculums during COVID, parents’ narratives and observations came in. In the online learning process, parents complained of excessive and misuse of mobile by their wards that substantiates the argument built by Khafi. Some complaints of parents regarding misuse of mobiles have also reported to the principal Lamdon School as well. Illiterate parents felt helpless as their children use mobile phones otherwise on the pretext of online classes. As per Khafi, in comparison to fathers, mothers provide mobile to their ward for a long time without proper supervision.
As far as the effectiveness of online learning is concerned, Kargil got a poor result. In the mediums used for online learning during COVID lockdown in Kargil, two-way communication and interaction were not possible. Online learning is not effective due to a lack of non-verbal and gesture communication processes. Mohd Shareef faced a problem in monitoring the students during online learning. Students in higher classes also say that online learning is not effective. At the beginning of COVID lockdown, Muttahary Educational Society, which regulates 16 schools all over Kargil with an enrollment of around 3500 students, had recorded lessons in video format and uploaded them on YouTube. Initially, the videos got around 300-500 views; that reduced to 5-10 views on each video in a very short time span. During online sessions on Google Meet, Zoom or Teach Mint only around 15 students join out of 42 in a class. On average, only 20-25 percent of students in middle and higher secondary classes attend their online classes. Due to poor response, classes halted totally in 2020, especially in State-run schools. Another government High School teacher says that when schools opened in March 2021 around 60 percent of the students had not even purchased textbooks.
In sharp contrast, at Lamdon School, online learning remained quite impressive. At the beginning of lockdown last year, the school conducted training sessions for teachers and students to run online learning. To ensure the attendance of students in class, the examination evaluation process is also modified with the classification of marks to regularity, oral interactions, notebook preparation, etc. This evaluation process ensured the attendance of students in online learning. As per the Principal, more than 90 percent of the students attended their classes in online mode. Pertinently, the school has also issued a calendar to indulge students in extracurricular activities during the lockdown. Despite impressive results, Principal Dawa said that online learning is not a substitute or par to the physical classroom.
In both the districts of Ladakh, during lockdown teenage children indulged themselves in economic activities, adventure, and mobile games. Dawa said that the students during lockdown have learned traditional activities like agriculture, rearing cattle, cooking food, and other household chores. This author found few teenage male students in Kargil in the age group of 13-18 making bricks to sell out. When chased, the money was used in smoking and roasting chicken. More interesting is a group of 8–12-year girls who collected cow dung, dried, and sold out.
Fortunately, the Administration in Kargil was probably the first in all over the country to order the opening of schools. On February 15, 2021, the Schools in non-internet areas of Kargil were opened. In the next few weeks, all other schools opened in the district with proper measures to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus. After a long distance from school, and involvement in economic and adventure activities, the students faced problems in adjusting themselves to school curriculums. Even the teachers find themselves disoriented and distracted from the school routine. As discussed above, 60 percent of the students had not purchased books in mid of their session.
In the short period of around two months after resuming school, the students were struggling to get back to their routine, unfortunately, the COVID cases soared once again in the shape of their second wave. The authorities in the first place stopped the COVID potential carrier. The children went back to roast chicken, earning money and lure parents to get phones.
Amidst all, the administration is mulling on the functioning of “Community Classes” which is yet to function and to be realized. Till the administration come with a feasible plan, some responsible teachers believe that online learning could be somehow effective if the parents monitor the children during classes and abandon mobiles beyond that time. For this, the parents have to strictly monitor children’s timetables and routine activities. After all, in the age of the 21st Century, one cannot say “No” to technology. The Lamdon Model School’s approach is truly a model that needs to adopt in all over Ladakh to make online learning effective. The government should conduct training for teachers for effective moderation of online classes.
Leave a Reply
Good research ? and good analysis
We should pounder over these problems of society especially education system
Our future depends on good and valuable education system. If the education system is good Our future is secure and if the education system is corrupt our future is in danger