HRD Ministry Issues Guidelines on Online Classes, Screen Time for Students
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Human Resources Development released guidelines stating a cap on screen time for online education for the upcoming school year.
The new set of recommendations — which are not binding but will most likely be adopted by CBSE schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas — state online classes for pre-primary students should not last more than 30 minutes. While students in classes 1 to 8 should not be asked to attend more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each, schools can conduct four sessions of 30-45 minutes each for students in classes 9-12.
A CBSE official, requesting anonymity told Hindustan Times, “The Board takes all directions from the HRD ministry seriously and implements them with sincerity even if they are of an advisory nature.”
Universities and schools across the country have been closed since March 16, when the Centre announced a nationwide classroom shutdown as one of the ways to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. But, to ensure continuity of learning and avoid loss of time, schools shifted to taking online classes raising concerns among parents about increased exposure to screen time and related health issues.
Prompted by these concerns, the Ministry has gone ahead and issued these guidelines as a way to “mitigate the impact of the pandemic” and asked schools to re-model and re-imagine their teaching and learning methods by designing age-appropriate schedules.
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In addition to the time limit, the guidelines have also asked schools to consider a balance between online and offline activities for students corresponding to their age and grades to ensure their physical and mental well-being. Parents and teachers will need to devise ways to communicate students’ offline activities such as reading, playing indoors, and creative tasks, the guidelines add. For those with limited or no access to digital learning, the Ministry has recommended schools to create alternative support groups, or to ask students to seek help from neighbors and identified local volunteers. They also stressed on the importance of including precautions and measures for maintaining cybersecurity and safety while imparting online education.
Further, schools have been advised to schedule live classes only on the weekdays and that the weekend should be “utilised for the assimilation of learning on part of students and parents and planning on part of teachers, and unwinding themselves for the coming week.” The guidelines also stated teachers and students should not be deprived of vacation during the lockdown period.
While the new guidelines may help in reducing children’s exposure to screen time, they might also ease the burden on teachers who say they are feeling overwhelmed by the digital experience, according to reports. They said they are under tremendous pressure and experiencing ‘parent bullying,’ with parents constantly complaining about the poor quality of teaching or harsh tone of voice, and lack of warmth towards the children. Amid this, many teachers across prominent schools have either told their management they won’t conduct online classes anymore or have quit their jobs. This, said the Ministry, has long-lasting consequences because not only is it difficult to find new teachers in the current scenario but even if there are new recruitments, with online education, it will get difficult to establish a rapport with students as easily as they would otherwise have been able to in classrooms.
Therefore, “the guidelines will be useful for a diverse set of stakeholders including school heads, teachers, parents, teacher educators and students,” HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank said.