To catch up on syllabus, Bengal schools switch to virtual classes

Private schools conduct app-based e-classes, government to televise classes for students of Class 9 to 12 of state-aided Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools from April 7 to 13

Students of private schools who now attend two 40-minute long classes every day, are sent homework and study materials in PDF files through mail. Photo: iStock

Every morning on weekdays Arinjoy Roy, a student of Class 3 of Kolkata-based Delhi Public School (DPS) puts on his school uniform and sits for about two hours in front of his computer for lessons, while in another room his father Ayon Roy works from home (WFH).

Welcome to the new world of quarantined existence. While #WFH (work-from-home) has become the new buzzword, #SFH aka study-from-home is all set to trend with many schools like Arinjoy’s switching over either to e-classes or televised classes.

Apart from DPS, Ram Mohan Mission School, Central Modern School Baranagar, the Heritage School, the Future Foundation School and Don Bosco are some of Kolkata’s top schools that have gone virtual after the imposition of the lockdown.

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Arinjoy’s computer screen has turned into a classroom ever since his school decided to conduct online classes to complete the syllabus with rapidly spreading novel coronavirus forcing the government to close down all educational institutes till April 14.

As per the school administration’s instructions, Arinjoy’s parents downloaded Zoom app, a video conferencing application through which a designated teacher takes live class at a predetermined slot, about which parents are informed on class-based WhatsApp groups.

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Generally, the classes are held from 10 am to 10.40 am and again from 11 am to 11.40 am.

Arinjoy diligently takes notes during the class and when necessary makes intervention by unmuting his audio connection, to get his doubts cleared.

Home tasks and study materials are emailed to students in a PDF file. The teachers will check the homework once the lockdown is lifted and the school is reopened for normal classes.

Gems Akademia International School, another city-based private school, which was scheduled to reopen after a break on April 8, decided to resume classes online from the same date, continuing with the trend of SFH.

“We will have class-wise assignments, online modules, fun activities and practice exercises sent to you with teacher guidelines,” school’s principal Aditi Mukherjee said in an online communiqué to parents.

“We will try and keep the structured teaching-learning going for all the classes till we are all safe to meet again,” she told parents.

Private tutors follow suit, govt turns to televised classes

Besides schools, even private tutors have switched to online classes to complete the syllabus.

The government has decided to start televised classes for students of classes 9 to 12 of state-aided Madhyamik and Higher Secondary schools.

The classes will be aired on ABP Ananda from 3pm to 4pm between April 7 and 13, education minister Partha Chatterjee told media persons. He said the Bangla news channel owned by the Ananda Bazar Patrika group was selected for the programme considering its wider reach.

The government had earlier planned to air its virtual classes on DD Bangla, but due to some problems over slot, the plan did not work out. The ABP Ananda decided not to charge the government for the time slot, a government official said.

As per the format of the classes shared by the minister, students will be allowed to ask questions through email, WhatsApp or over phone. The contact details will be advertised on the channel.

Students of pre-primary to Class 8, can get their “model activity tasks” downloaded from the education department’s portal or by calling at a help-line number (18001028014).

The education department has also told schools that if needed they can also send these tasks to students through SMS, phone or WhatsApp.

Exploring new ideas

Earlier, the West Bengal government decided to directly promote to next class all students from class 1 to 8 of state-run and state-aided schools as the ongoing lockdown resulted in suspension or inordinate delay in holding examinations in different schools.

Meanwhile, the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) has also asked schools to go for online teaching.

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Council’s secretary and chief executive Gerry Arathoon in a letter to principals of all affiliated schools urged them to make alternative arrangements, using modern and digital means. Online learning platforms, which help schools conduct their classes online without any limitations on the hours or numbers of classes, could be an option, he suggested, acknowledging that some of the schools have already started using such systems.

The Central Board of School Education (CBSE) too issued certain guidelines to the schools affiliated with it to “overcome the present situation.”

The schools are asked to embrace technology and also consider using internet and social media platforms, such as WhatsApp and Facebook among others for sending daily guidelines.

But just like the real world, the virtual world too has class privileges. “These virtual classrooms are beyond the reach of students from disadvantaged families or those living in remote areas,” said Arundhuti Roy Choudhury, a national award winning teacher and educationist.

Related news: Eat sweets, sleep, repeat: Story behind Bengal’s sugar rush amid COVID-19

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