Published: 17th July 2020
Productive screen time maybe necessary for meeting learning outcomes, say private schools in Delhi
In the guidelines called "Pragyata", the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has recommended that the duration for online classes for pre-primary students should not be for more than 30 mins
The HRD Ministry's cap on the duration of online classes has thrown private schools in a quandary as they try to strike a balance between "good" and "bad" screen time while trying to address curriculum concerns of senior classes.
The guidelines have been framed by the ministry, following concerns raised by parents about schools conducting online classes like regular schools, which has increased children's screen time after the COVID-19 pandemic mandated a shift from classroom teaching to online learning as schools continue to remain shut for over four months.
"The reduction of screen time for students during online classes is quite apt for primary classes but for senior classes, it might cause problems. In junior classes, the syllabus can be covered through projects and other co-curricular activities. The recorded flip classes are yet another way to complete the syllabus in junior and middle classes," Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School Shalimar Bagh, said.
"Moreover, in junior classes, parents can still help children cover up the syllabus by giving them ample practice at home. However, in senior classes, most of the topics being vast and elaborate require in-depth understanding and explanation. Hence, the screen time given by the MHRD may not be sufficient. Rigorous revision and practice will be a herculean task for the teacher and the students in senior classes if we continue in the given scenario," she added.
According to Manit Jain, Co-Founder of The Heritage Schools, there has to be a distinction between "good" and "bad" screen time.
"While most of the guidelines are relevant it is important to make a distinction between good and bad screen time. Putting restrictions on timings without analysing the effect on learning continuity will have an adverse impact on students' development. There are several myths around online learning that need to be busted and policymakers must recognise that productive screen time is not only desirable but is necessary in such times," he said.
"Many countries continue to run their entire timetables as they did when they were running in the physical environment. What if learning remains interrupted for the next 18 months? What might be the potential learning loss? What happens in international boards, where they will not cut substantial portions of the syllabus? "What will happen to the last child who will not have access to a home environment that can compensate for the learning losses?," said Jain, who is also chairman of FICCI Arise, a collegium of stakeholders aimed at promoting quality education.
In the guidelines called "Pragyata", the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has recommended that the duration for online classes for pre-primary students should not be for more than 30 minutes.
For classes 1 to 8, the HRD Ministry has recommended two online sessions of up to 45 minutes each while for classes 9 to 12, four sessions of 30-45 minutes duration have been recommended.
"The recommendation provided by the HRD Ministry is based on complaints by parents that regular online classes have increased children's screen time after the COVID-19 pandemic. The research is not done scientifically as according to new online teaching research, during online classes, gaze does not remain fixed for a long time and it is not at all dangerous for the students.
"So, I completely feel that this is not a good idea to reduce the screen time for students as this will hamper student's learning and growth," said Harish Sanduja, Director-Schools, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions.
However, a few schools said they have already kept in mind concerns about screen time and have been planning their classes accordingly. Nidhi Bansal, Pro-Vice Chairperson, Pacific World School, said, "Our current timings followed aren't very different from the latest guidelines issued by the HRD Ministry, however, we would definitely revisit our course of action in conducting online classes to reduce chances of any such unpleasant situation with our students."
"When young and impressionable minds are exposed to online teaching for such prolonged periods with no prior training or guidelines, there is a possibility of them being exposed to multiple threats like cyberbullying, age-inappropriate content.
As a school, we have no other option but to conduct online classes for completing their academic syllabi," said Pallavi Upadhyaya, Principal, Delhi Public School, Ghaziabad.
Sangeeta Hajela, Principal, DPS Indirapuram, said, "The right approach would be to not dismiss the directive as unpractical but to also look at the disclaimer which allows one to review, adapt and adopt the advisory according to the local needs." According to Ryan Pinto, CEO, Ryan International Group of Institutions, "The process of improving online education should continue to evolve and therefore we hope there will be regular reviews to these guidelines and appropriate changes can be made for an effective teaching and learning experience." Universities and schools across the country have been shut since March 16, when the Centre announced a countrywide classroom shut down as part of measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
A nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, which came into effect the next day. While the government has largely eased restrictions, schools and colleges continue to remain closed.