Teachers’ Day, celebrated annually on September 5 in India, recognises and appreciates teachers for their vital contributions in the field of education and in shaping the future of the country. This year has proven to be a whole new ball game for teachers who have had to adapt to the unprecedented situation of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Manipal Journal spoke to professionals from diverse teaching backgrounds to know how teaching and learning have been reshaped in Udupi district.
The pandemic has shown that the current education sector isn’t a level playing field and the mandated switch to online mode isn’t feasible for all sections of the society. As a step forward, ‘Vidyagama’, a continuous learning plan for children was launched by the Karnataka state education department to keep education in government and aided schools on track. Elaborating on this, a government school primary teacher in Udupi said, “In some places, we use open verandahs, temple grounds or areas under trees to conduct two-hour sessions with a group of students ranging from classes 1 to 7 while following social distancing protocols.”
This initiative was set up to cater to underprivileged children who face difficulties in accessing facilities like smartphones or the internet. The teacher expressed that initially, the school staff were apprehensive about going out and coming in contact with others but as days passed, the fear subsided as precautionary measures were in place. “It gets stressful but the enthusiastic kids, supportive parents, and the drive to impart knowledge to these children help us do our duty as government servants,” she commented.
While technology may not have been a hurdle for everyone, years of traditional teaching made the transition to this digital mode complicated. “We had online workshops to make the shift smoother and we have the computer lab staff helping us. But students in remote areas or those who were facing technical glitches raised a lot of complaints, so we have started sending pre-recorded classes which will be available to the students for a day,” a faculty member of a pre-university (PU) college in Udupi shared with The Manipal Journal.
Instances of teachers having to continue doing their jobs despite salary cuts have cropped up in the last few months. “We get paid half of our salaries now, but we have been assured that it will get back to normalcy once the situation gets better and parents will also be able to pay the fees,” the faculty said. Challenges when teaching students preparing for board and competitive exams have also arisen. The major concerns lie with the divide between students with better grasping power and those who need more assistance, discomfort among teachers who prefer the free atmosphere of a real classroom, and the roadblock on interactivity during class. “In the beginning, we all saw this as an extended vacation and a much-needed break to catch up on time for ourselves. No one predicted this. Personally, I’m now used to this routine but most of my colleagues are waiting for offline classes to resume,” she opined.
Along the same lines, an associate professor at a university college in Manipal stated that the shift to online teaching was not tough in the higher education environment. “As an educator, I feel that online teaching can never replace classroom teaching,” he remarked. However, he felt that it was a sudden move that left no choice as education cannot come to a halt.
A pre-primary teacher from Manipal shared that this is not the best option in the long run because socialisation, interpersonal relations and participation are integral to the development of students, especially younger kids. On a personal note, she said, “We are also new to this and try our best to make the recorded classes simple and more innovative by incorporating teaching aids like puppet shows and storytelling into the curriculum of kindergarten students.”
Apart from getting accustomed to changes, the teachers had to step out of their comfort zones and effectively utilise the endless possibilities of this new system. “On the brighter side of things, this also challenged us, and got us to ramp up our efforts in teaching and learning new things ourselves. It has made us move along with the times and become tech-savvy. Let’s see how things turn out. We can do nothing but do our jobs with dedication like we have for all these years and hope for the best,” she added.
(Names of interviewees and institutes are not mentioned upon their request)
Featured Image Courtesy: Getty Images/Arun Sankar
Edited by: Vaibhavi Vaman
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