It can only be delayed but it can neither be stopped nor the increasing spread of the use of online teaching tools can be limited into our education system. The COVID 19 pandemic has only allowed the online education tools to spread even more aggressively and much ahead of what it was probably destined for. When social distancing requirements have become the norm, teachers and students are left with little choice but to start using these tools. Teachers are rightly not very happy about the effectiveness of such tools due to the disappointing status of connectivity which has only added to the misery of the students who are already struggling to deal with the lack of tools of online education such as laptops, desktops and smartphones. That less than fifty percent attendance were reported by many in the online classes conducted by the teachers of Delhi University hardly promises any encouraging sign for the use of online tools in education in near future.
Recently, the central government has decided to recommend teaching in a mixed mode in the institutions of higher education wherein both, offline and online components of education will be adopted in teaching. Recently, the government agencies (UGC/AICTE) have decided to allow credit transfers from online courses to the tune of twenty percent for all undergraduate programs in the country. There is an apprehension in the university circle that this percentage might increase in future. Teachers organizations have suddenly swung into action to oppose such a forced move.
Teachers had earlier opposed the introduction of semester system in 2010 but it was imposed against the wishes of teachers’ organisations by steamrolling one of the best teachers’ movements that Delhi University historically witnessed. In this movement, all the political groups working in DU had participated wholeheartedly. Next, DUTA (Delhi University Teachers Association) tried to stop the move to implement FYUP (Four Year Undergraduate Program) but that also met with a similar fate. FYUP was later withdrawn when the then government showed a rare political will and the semester system was reintroduced much to the relief of those who had earlier fought against the introduction of the same system. Then CBCS (Choice Based Course Structure) got introduced again against the wishes of DUTA and the syllabi was further modified last year despite protests. Teachers did not participate in the exercise related to LOCF (Learning Outcome based Curriculum Framework) in DU that led to revision of syllabi. There are innumerable instances where DUTA has shown almost a reflexive opposition to any change either being suggested or being imposed. Such examples have been widely discussed and quoted to convince the world outside DU that teachers are wary of any change/reform in the education.
Identifying and addressing real concerns
In hindsight teachers and their organizations must have been silently realizing by now that a forced change is always worse than a change in which the stakeholders have participated. For quite some time now, teachers have resorted to boycotting all exercises related to introduction in the course structures as DUTA decided to oppose those moves. Later teachers have widely felt that one could have come up with much better syllabi to teach, even in those avoidable course structures, only if teachers had participated in the exercise. This is only because teachers avoided to discuss their real concerns and instead have always tried to defend their opposition by covering and packaging their arguments in trying to identify the ‘real intention of the government to destroy or withdraw from funding education’. This time again the history is poised to repeat itself when the move to increase dependence on online mode of education is set to increase despite opposition. Instead of summarily rejecting a move that is being justified for the requirement of maintaining social distancing in the tougher time ahead, we must try to identify and address our real concerns.
Policy makers are seen themselves offering this solution almost apologetically in want of another better option. They have also not hesitated in accepting that online teaching can hardly substitute classroom teaching. Therefore, teachers’ organization must move ahead and look for their other real worries now otherwise we would again be forced into accepting a system later rather grudgingly that could have been customized to our requirements with some honest effort. For the sake of maintaining standards in education, it must not be allowed to enter the system without our preparedness. Although never accepted explicitly, one of the most haunting apprehensions of teachers’ organization in this regard seems to be that online education might reduce the workload requirement of teachers in education. I think, it is the right time to address this issue once and for always. Let us discuss as to how would the workload requirement be estimated when online mode of education will get introduced?
While it might be true that the policy makers might have also wished that by introducing online teaching in the present system, the requirement of teachers will also get reduced in due course of time. Instead of opposing such a move that can be easily justified in the time of pandemic wherein the lifesaving strategies include having as lesser classroom interaction with students as possible, let us try to work out an actual estimate of teaching workload for online teaching. It has been a well-established fact that students belonging to the age group of higher education, require constant monitoring, encouragement, counselling and consultation to successfully and meaningfully complete an online course. Keeping this in view, those students who would opt for online courses must be put under the continuous mentoring and personal care of teachers. They must help them out in understanding and carrying out timely submission of assignments.
Each student doing one paper under the mentoring of a teacher would on an average require one to two hours per week of the teacher concerned. If analysed properly, introduction of online education might increase the requirement of teacher but then to maintain the social distancing, the government is hardly left with a choice. However, a parity can be achieved by restricting the number of online options so that teaching can be carried out without increasing the teacher-student ratio that was required in offline mode.
Importance of Internal Assessment
With the innovative and increasing use of technology to cheat during traditional examinations our method to evaluate students, needs to be seriously re-looked into. Checking the scripts on a large scale have invariably exposed its futility and unreliability. Evaluating scripts on a large scale by engaging a large number of teachers can result in lack of concentration of evaluators that may defeat the very purpose of evaluation. Increasing demands to show the evaluated scripts through RTIs is set to expose all evils of this system in a near future as courts may rule in the favor of students any day.
Internal assessment of students that requires the teachers to group students in five-six categories has been widely accepted worldwide as the best method of evaluation. Best universities rely on an extraordinary recommendation of a teacher even if a student fails to get good grades. I would prefer the annual examinations to mechanically evaluate students for their capabilities to deal with multiple choice questions only because it can be evaluated technologically without errors. These scripts can also be shown easily to those who would choose to file RTI. However, the real evaluation of their abilities to communicate, comprehend, express, innovate, perform in team activities, individual tasks, quizzes and puzzle solving exercises can be carried out best only by their class teachers assessed in a continuous manner. A mix of these two would reasonably estimate the real capabilities of a student.
Teachers must also realize that real assessment of the capabilities of students will always need a human analysis. To claim more and more space for human touch and teachers’ intervention, now internal assessment must be given its due weight of at least fifty percent in the examinations. Rest fifty percent evaluation can always be done mechanically and in a time bound manner carrying out online/offline tests using MCQs in a proper technologically monitored environment.