Bhubaneswar: The new academic year was just beginning in India when it was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. After contemplations, eventually, schools reached homes of students via electronic medium.
While this was seen as an only viable option, the fact is that several areas have no or poor internet connectivity and kids from economically or socially backward sections may not have access to necessary devices.
The ‘Status Report— Government and Private Schools During Covid-19’ filed by Oxfam India discusses this facet. “Role of textbooks and low-tech solutions for education delivery” was a part of the report authored by Ankit Vyas and his team consisting of Binod Sinha, Pratiush Prakash, Santosh Patra and Prakash Gardia among others. The states that formed a part of the study are namely Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.
The Oxfam report states that low-tech and accessible technology (such as radio, physical learning material) is more effective than digital mediums. Over half the teachers surveyed shied away from e-learning due to various reasons such as network connectivity, pricey data, lack of devices among others.
Even a 2020 report of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on remote learning initiatives states that during the pandemic, home delivery of textbooks to children is the best practice. An overwhelming 71% of the teachers also are of the view that textbooks should reach children before schools reopen.
While in other States 80% of children have not received textbooks for the next academic year, 31% in Odisha have received textbooks in May-June period; said the Oxfam report.
Odisha has fared better than other states (which participated in the study) since it was the only State which issued guidelines for distribution of textbooks. This was to make sure that the kids do not miss out on their education.
The report assesses the impact of prolonged school closure on children in government schools and gives the recommendation to reduce the stress.
Here are the recommendations:
- Ensure home delivery of textbooks to all children in government schools to enable them to return to the realm of learning.
- Use inclusive means such as including a few pages of printed material of daily exercise for children along with the MDM and ICDS rations being distributed.
- Facilitate physical classes to support a gradual transition to the reopening of schools by issuing instructions to begin Mohalla classes (while maintaining physical distancing), in areas with low infection rates.
In this study, a total of 1,158 parents (across private and government schools) and 488 government school teachers across five states, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh participated. It was conducted between May and June 2020.
Data from government school parents were collected based on phone/personal interviews while private school parents and government teachers filled in data via Google Form.