The Tribune Interview

‘Pandemic-driven online exam shift is not credible’

Increased exposure to digital screens has taken a toll on students, feels Principal of St Soldier School at Friends Colony

‘Pandemic-driven online exam shift is not credible’

Manjinder Singh, Principal, St Soldier school

ACADEMICS IN PANDEMIC

While a majority of schools in the state have reopened after a gap of nearly seven months, school authorities are still finding it difficult to adapt to the new normal. Manjinder Singh, Principal, St Soldier school, Friends Colony, while talking to Ajay Joshi, shares that it has been over a week that schools are still finding it difficult to bring students to the schools.

The pandemic pushed the educational institutions to shift to digital mode to prevent students from skipping their studies. However, the online classes failed to equip students with the technical education. He believes online education can never be an alternative to practical education and learning. Excerpts from the interview

How has your school been dealing with the challenges posed by Covid?

Now that the situation is normalising, we are hoping that we won't be facing the same challenges in the coming months. The whole online education concept came as a challenge for us. Initially, we lacked the technical support to reach out to a large number of students, so teachers used to send recorded lectures to students and waited for the lockdown to get over. But as it kept extending, teachers had to try their hands on online education, hence by June this year, we introduced our students to online classes. It was troublesome for the teachers to understand the whole concept of digital education and focus individually on every student.

Manjinder Singh, Principal, St Soldier school

Undeniably, conducting examinations in schools is more credible than the online exams. Though, teachers diligently frame question papers, students remained a worried lot. As even the average scorers were getting marks equivalent to the good scorers, there was a feeling of discontentment among the toppers. There is no proper verification of the exams conducted. The authenticity is only guaranteed through viva tests.

As the schools have reopened, what is the response of the students?

As the schools reopened only for Classes 9-12, the footfall is still not much. Most of the students told their teachers that their parents were not allowing them to attend school due to the Covid threat. In addition, those who are attending the school prefer offline classes over the online. Students complain how their concepts remain unclear in the digital classes. Presently, only 20-30 per cent students are coming to school and we are hoping above 50 percent attendance after Diwali.

What psychological changes have you observed among teachers and students amid pandemic?

The pandemic came as a big shock to us. In the beginning, we thought this would be over in a month or two and teachers also recorded lectures accordingly. However, now, not only do the teachers, even the children have begun to feel the heat. The concept of 6-7 hours of teaching and learning has unexpectedly changed to a full-day course and teachers are overburdened. After reopening of schools, the teachers not only have to take classes in the school but also digitally. Likewise, the timings of lectures as per different schedules affect students. Due to online education, the teachers feel as if they have lost control over the students.

Are online examinations equally beneficial for the students as compared to the physical exams conducted in schools?

Undeniably, conducting examinations in schools is more credible than the online exams. Though, teachers diligently frame question papers, students remained a worried lot. As even the average scorers were getting marks equivalent to the good scorers, there was a feeling of discontentment among the toppers. There is no proper verification of the exams conducted. The authenticity is only guaranteed by the viva tests.

What will be your concern once the classroom teaching begins for all students?

Apart from the health and safety of the students we will have to do more hardwork and will have focus on completing the syllabus of the students. We will make sure that there won't be any psychological change among the students.

What infrastructural changes have been made for the digital sessions?

We have installed Internet devices with better bandwidth in the school. Projectors, webcams, WiFi and screens were placed in four classrooms specifically, so that teachers can easily take their online classes. Besides, teachers sans gadgets were given the equipment. The classrooms were named zoom labs.

How were the admissions this year?

The pandemic has drastically impacted the admissions this year in almost all the private schools. After suffering huge financial losses, parents even preferred to admit their kids to government schools. The admissions in the lower classes, including KG reduced largely.

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