Like everything else in 2020, the education system too faced the wrath of the Coronavirus pandemic, where the academics, across India, moved online. Goa was not an exception, where homes turned into classrooms; phones, computers, laptops, tabs became books and blackboards. Delayed examinations and submission of answer-sheets from home, reduced syllabus, everything that a child wishes to have happen someday, became reality. a
The pandemic struck 2020 bringing in drastic changes in the education sector. Though, the experts feel that online learning has thrown open opportunity of hybrid learning, which was never explored in the State’s education era; at the same time the ‘new normal’ missed ‘human touch’.
The first experience has come up with mixed reactions given that Internet access remained beyond the reach for majority of students as well teachers; while in remote areas, especially in lower income groups the spending on technology was also a hindrance.
While on one side the experts as well as teachers feel that the Online Year of Learning helped them to upgrade their teaching skills; the parents felt that students, got more exposed to the technology.
“The pandemic opened up the new era, wherein people have been given an opportunity to venture into the area of online teaching. In future education sector is going to be of hybrid learning. It was an area which was never explored,” educationist Bhaskar Nayak told HERALD.
“However, connectivity, limited access to technology due to financial restrictions, are some of the problems which will remain and that is going to be a challenge,” he added.
The year was challenging for all Schools, Teachers and Students as well as for Parents all who together worked hand-in-hand to get accustom to the new era of teaching-Virtual learning.
At a time, when the students were gearing up for final examination followed by summer vacation, the pandemic struck hard and changed the entire equations.
“It was something new for the teachers as well as students. For some it was a very good experience. Initially little hesitant due to the new technology but as time passed, teachers and students, both started to like it. They got accustom to the new teaching or virtual teaching,” Mariano Valdares, President of Goa Headmasters Association.
Despite the fact that the teachers were not very trained to the online teaching, Valadares said that the teachers used different types of techniques and technology and also trained themselves to reach out to the students.
“As far as students are concerned they were very much happy and got easily accustomed to that technology. Only thing was that they were not able to meet their friends,” he said.
HERALD takes you back to see how really the Academic Year 2020-21 was:
Physical schools shutdown: In March, schools started closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Goa, apparently was the first State to shut the physical classes for all students from March 15, 2020 seven days before the Janata curfew was observed on March 22, last year.
Exams cancelled and postponed: Government cancelled the exams till Class VIII and decided to promote the students to next class. Also all the examinations from classes IX to XII scheduled from March 21 onwards were postponed.
The Class XII board exams which had begun from February 28, were suspended mid-way. The examination was resumed from May 20 to 22.
The Class X exams, initially scheduled from April 3, were postponed and held from May 21 to June 6.
Competitive exams postponed: The students faced anxiety due to the delay in the conduct of competitive entrance exams. The April session of JEE Main was postponed on several occasions and was finally held from September 1 to 6, last year. The result was released on September 11. The JEE Advanced was also affected by the pandemic. Following postponements a couple of times, the NEET 2020 was held on September 13 and October 14, and the result was released on October 17.
The Goa Common Entrance Test (GCET), initially scheduled on May 5-6, had to be postponed and was held in July 4-5, last year.
Academic Year 2020-21 started with shift from offline to online classes: With the schools being closed, the classes turned to online mode and were conducted through learners’ platforms Google, Classroom, Zoom, etc.
Following direction from MHRD, the Director of Education asked schools to make the use of e-platforms like ePathshala for digital books and eContents, SWAYAM for online courses, Swayam Prabha for ETV Programmes, NISHTHA, NROER, DIKSHA, Webinar, etc. for conduct of online classes, though not mandatory.
The Union Ministry guidelines suggested daily 30-minute online classes for pre-primary students and online sessions of 30 to 45 minutes for Classes 1 to 12.
The Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (GBSHSE) notified curtailment in the syllabus of Class IX to XII to the extent of 28 per cent to 30 per cent in the major subjects for the current academic year 2020-21. The syllabus in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics for Class XII is curtailed in line with Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
The State Centre for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has curtailed the syllabus for Classes I to VIII by 30 per cent.
Unlocking of schools, colleges
After six months of closure, the central government in its Unlock 4.0 guidelines allowed States to reopen schools from September 21. However, considering the prevailing COVID situation, the Goa government opened physical classes for Class X and XII from November 21, for the second term.
Examination: State government permitted students of class I to VIII to answer the final examination for the academic year 2020-21 from home and that the exams for Class III to VIII will be in written format.
The Goa Board will conduct the Class XII board exams from April 24 to May 16, while Class X exams are scheduled from May 19 to June 2.
Delay Academic Year: As the ongoing academic term prolonged, the Academic Year 2021-22 has been delayed and will begin from June 21. The current term is being extended by eight days and will end on May 8.
PARENTS, TEACHERS AND STUDENTS REACT
On being a Virtual teacher: “When it started a year ago, online teaching was very difficult for me. Being a mathematics teacher, I was finding it really very tough to interact and make students understand. Even today, I am not able to get my hand on online learning. Personally, I am not technology friendly…in fact I didn’t even have WhatsApp on my mobile. I installed it in June last year,” a 51-year old teacher Amita Nadkarni, explains how till date, she has not been able to become a ‘Virtual teacher’.
Amita, who teaches mathematics to Class VIII and IX, says that she used to go to school and teach online because she was not confident that she could handle it if something went wrong. “I started making notes and distributed to my students, either through WhatsApp (with help of my daughter) or by visiting their homes personally,” she said.
“But I am grateful to my students, who kept motivating me during online classes and were very co-operative. Though, I am not fully accustomed to the new teaching system, but have learnt a lot,” Amita said with a smile on her face.
The Covid-19 pandemic brought about a paradigm shift in learning by shifting entire classrooms online. After a chaotic few months, teachers, children and parents seem to be getting used to the new way of doing things.
For teachers, the shift has included learning new online tools, interacting with children on the screen and making peace with frequent internet connections.
Goa Board Chairman Bhagirath Shetye says that online teaching compelled many teachers to get their knowledge upgraded. “Teachers, who were otherwise not ready to adapt to technology or e-learning, where forced to go for it. It helped teachers to upgrade their skills and knowledge,” Shetye explained.
He said that though the virtual teaching was not a smooth affair, with several initial teething problems, it by and large helped teachers and students to get explored to new era of learning.
Sudan Barve, Principal of Shri Kamleshwar Higher Secondary School, Korgaon-Pernem says that as teachers started developing interest in online teaching, students lost interest, especially due to lack of connectivity.
He informed that the teachers were trained in conduct of the online classes in May-June, last year and accordingly, the teachers were getting their hand over the new system.
Touching upon why physical interaction is necessary, Maria Borges, a 33-year old teacher say, “Online classes are boring due to lack of engagement. This may make the quality of learning and teaching mediocre. Teachers may feel discouraged due to lack of participation and interest by the students. I have experienced it”.
Students missed physical interaction…their classrooms…grounds….friends
When the pandemic hit last March, that led to closure of schools and lockdowns, a 13-year old Suraj Velip, a resident of Khola-Canacona, had just got promoted to class IX without any examination. He was in fact very happy to get promoted and also a break from going to school and study from home. But as months passed by, the elation had gone.
“Initially, I was happy that schools were closed and we would have online classes. Online classes means getting phones to use…laptop… but eventually, I got bored of sitting at home and not meeting my school friends. Also poor Internet connection made me lose interest in learning. I have become a dull boy now according to my parents and neighbours,” Suraj said.
“You don’t find boys becoming mostly lazy but sadly I have become. I miss going to school and meeting my school friends…also meeting teachers,” he said.
Another student Yogita Naik said, “You find it good online learning but the love, affection, learning experience that you get in schools with teachers, is something different. You cannot match that. It is all that we missed. Though, interactions with teachers were allowed, it was not like earlier”.
Parents and teachers say children were impacted by the pandemic in different ways. The switch to online learning meant less in-person interactions with other children and little exercise, both of which affected children’s physical and social skills.
“Online teaching can be done but we need to see the output. When students started coming to school for interaction with teachers, we realised that the output was zero. Though, we completed the syllabus online, students didn’t cope up with it fully. The face-to-face interaction is what our students are used to,” said Anant Pissurlekar, Higher Secondary Teachers Association Goa, president.
Sudan Barve, Principal of Shri Kamleshwar Higher Secondary School, Korgaon-Pernem also said that students took interest in online teaching for first few months but after four-five months, they started neglecting it. “This forced many schools to go for offline teaching and he entire portion had to be revised,” he said.
Online classes fail
to impress parents
The online learning failed to impress the parents. However, their readiness to send children to school in the coming Academic Year is driven by this learning loss though the fear of covid-19 among students and parents is still there.
“We want schools to resume as the online education is not very effective and it has taken toll over our child future learning. But the COVID scare still prevails. Being parents, we are worried about both- child future and well being,” Narayan Sawant, a parent from Saligao, said.
Mohandas Naik Gaonkar, a PTA member said “it was a challenging year for the parents too. They faced lot of hardship as it was a year of spending for them. Several with no jobs or half salary, had to spend on purchase of mobiles, laptops, etc. On top, they realized lack of interest on academic learning and teaching due to poor internet connection”.