Karnataka Government Bans Live Online Classes for Kids Up to Grade 5
On Wednesday, Karnataka’s primary and secondary education minister, S. Suresh Kumar, said that live online classes for students between lower kindergarten (LKG) and fifth grade will be banned with immediate effect in the state. Kids in these grades could be anywhere between the ages of two and 11.
The education department added that pre-recorded classes can continue for students till the fifth grade, and guidelines for live online classes for students beyond sixth grade will be issued soon. In addition, they also clarified that any school charging fees for online classes, or those that have raised fees, will be penalized.
Due to the pandemic, many schools have shifted to taking online live classes to avoid falling behind in the syllabus as educational institutions were among the first public places to shut down in order to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
However, amid concerns from parents and guardians that this additional amount of screen time is impacting kids’ health, the Karnataka government arrived at a decision after meeting with educational experts and mental health professionals.
Recently, the Ministry of Human Resource Development said it was working on setting up a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which, if implemented, could mean that children would not have to sit for hours in front of a screen for online learning. As of now, there are no SOPs for digital learning in India, and in their absence, as many reports have highlighted, schools are taking online classes like regular ones spanning seven to eight hours a day.
Many experts and organizations, including the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (NIMHANS) have continuously advocated against online classes, not only because they mean additional screen time for such young kids, but also because there are many disadvantages of digital learning compared to learning in a classroom.
One of them is, kids in this age group learn better through an interactive method rather than academic instruction or lessons imparted via screens. “If the element of human interaction is removed from teaching, then there will be a large gap in a child’s development—a gap that technology can’t fill,” writes education expert Prriety Gosalia for The Swaddle.
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Further, in the evergreen digital vs. classroom learning debate, researchers have always voted for the latter. Experts from Johns Hopkins University write that traditional classes are more suitable for young children because they help them and teachers know each other better while also helping the latter evaluate their students’ strengths and weaknesses more effectively. They instill a sense of discipline, improve their physical fitness levels, and make them more mentally alert, they add. When children sit together to learn and concentrate on a particular topic, they are able to grasp better too.
In India, moving education online presents distinct challenges, given the disparity that exists in access to electricity, internet connections, and gadgets such as computers and smartphones across socio-economic levels, gender, and regions. Reports have stated only 8% of homes with young kids have access to computers with a working internet connection, which illustrates how many children are likely missing out on learning remotely. The pandemic has exposed this divide in digital access, for example, with the case of a girl in Kerala who committed suicide for not being able to participate in online classes.