A few months back I was asked to attend a five-day training programme on teaching of mathematics at the elementary level. Since I wasn’t teaching at the elementary level, I objected to attending this training programme, but no one listened to my objection and one of my colleagues motivated me with the simple phrase, “Isko Nibhana Padta Hai (One has to go through this).”It’s just a matter of five days, why argue with authorities and put your job at risk? It seems that “Isko Nibhana Padta Hai” is the theory on which our entire education system is based.
In our government schools, we are only managing education somehow, irrespective of the fact whether anyone benefits from it or not. Most of the students in government schools come from poor backgrounds and they can’t even afford to buy a cellphone. Those who have an Android phone have no understanding of the nature of this double-edged sword called the internet. For them, internet means Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram. For them, attending online live classes on sluggish 2G speed is just some more idle entertainment. Hardly any student can be seen with notebook or pen in hand during online video classes. Instead, most of the students are busy tending to their looks as they consider the glittering screen as a mirror before them. While the teacher is busy in his/her monologue, students adjust their hair and check their profiles. One can’t blame students for this as they are naïve and most of them are experiencing online education for the first time. But since our department has gone ahead with its move of completing the syllabus via online tutorials, one can only consider it as a vain endeavour.
Information Technology has redefined classroom teaching, which was earlier confined to four walls of the classroom and listening to boring lectures for hours. With high-speed internet, even a student sitting in Tangmarg can listen to lectures by a professor in MIT. Gone are the days when we used to pile up books for preparing subject assignments and notes; now everything is available ready-made just at one click on Google. But this is only beneficial if students are aware of how to use internet in a proper and ethical manner. For this they need to be digitally literate.
Last year, a coolie from Kerala named Sreenath K qualified the IAS exam by studying on the phone, connected to free Wi-Fi of a railway station. He became an inspiration for millions of aspirants who always blame their failure on not having money to attend good coaching classes. Sreenath has set a precedent, but our youngsters in the have become addicted to cellphones like smokers. Playing games like PUBG has become their occupation, and scrolling through Facebook and WhatsApp each time a notification pops up is their reflex action. Once you have a cellphone in hand, it is very hard to put it down. As the boss of a mobile phone manufacturing company said, mobile phones are made to be addicted. As long as we don’t educate our youth about the pros and cons of internet or smartphones, I am sure the cons are going to overshadow the pros. The onus is on the higher authorities to educate not only our illiterate population but also our educated youth about purposeful use of internet. The education department can play an important role as they can mobilise personnel who are already working at the grassroots by first training them and then they, in turn, training students in schools.