E-LEARNING AND THE FATE OF RIGHT TO EDUCATION IN INDIA

 

Reading time : 10 minutes

INTRODUCTION

Coronavirus was declared a pandemic in Everything was closed down to spread the communication of the deadly disease. All schools, colleges, universities (governmental or private) had to change their mode of operation from physical to online.

We were used to shopping, banking, eating through a click on the phone but the question was how will the education be imparted in this mode. What is the rate of students that will have access to mobile phones, laptops during the whole day? What percentage of students will study and how many of them will adopt this method.

In India, the Right to Education is a fundamental right made through the (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002. Article 21-A was inserted in the Constitution of India to guarantee free and compulsory education of six to fourteen-year-old children.

Do all the children are entitled to this right? Are the parents of underprivileged children even aware of this right or they are assuming that the educational entities will remain closed by the government as and when corona persists?

What if they are aware of their rights but can they afford that much of the Gb net on their child’s online classes. Many people in rural India do not even possess smartphones. About 60% of families have only one simple Nokia 1200 phone to communicate.

Online Education can never be 100% successful in a country like India. It will remain a far distant dream for many who are miles away from reality.

ADVANTAGES

Distance learning can be proved to be quite fruitful if it is used the way it is expected to be used. There are many ways it can be used for the benefit of the society as a whole.

Flexibility

Students can attend an online class from anywhere with the use of a device and internet connection. This kind of teaching is beneficial for working students. Distance education helps students to study whenever they are free without hampering their work schedule. One can study whenever he or she feels like. Learning material can be obtained with just a few clicks. During these times, it’s not much of an option to opt for distance learning. It is mandatorily being followed in schools and universities.

No commuting

In remote learning, students don’t need to spend money and time commuting to their colleges. Students can attend lectures and complete assignments from their living rooms. Most institutions deliver lectures through video conferencing. This means students don’t have to sit idle in the classroom waiting for the teacher to come. Their university opens upon their laptops. The use of whiteboards and screen-sharing options makes the classes more interactive. Real-life class scenarios are created with the help of audio-video visuals which add more meaning to the lectures.

Significant Cost Savings

The overall cost of online teaching is fairly low. Studying from home eliminates the costs associated with commuting, living in an apartment or hostel, and eating three meals a day from outside. This method is an economically viable option for both students and parents. Students can save money for their necessities. Since all the reading material and the books are available online there is no need to or a minimal need to purchase soft copies of books.

Convenient Learning

Since all the lectures given by the professors are recorded in the ongoing class. If a student missed that classed he or she can simply go on to the recording of that particular date. As a result of this, they will be able to learn at their own pace. Everyone does not understand at the same pace. Some students might be too fast in doing so while others might be a little slow. The use of PowerPoint presentations, eLearning materials, and recorded class lectures help students to revisit these as and when they require. they have the access to education All the time be it at 12:30 in the night or 6:00 a.m. for a better understanding of the concept.

Student-Teacher relationship

Many students are shy in asking questions about the concepts. With distance learning, such students simply have to select the “raise hands”, “ask a question”, “for discussions” option available on the application on which they are attending their classes. The teacher will take notice of the same as soon as possible and answer the question. Unlike a physical class, they do not have to wait for the right moment or right time to ask their queries. Even if they have an issue in speaking or raising their hands, they can post their questions on the channel. In an online monitored class, there are fewer chances of favoritism.

DISADVANTAGES

Technology can prove to be fatal for one’s existence. Only people with equipped skills who have the technical know-how should be using the technology. There are numerous disadvantages associated with the use of technology. It can be said that the disadvantages are more than the advantages.

Lack of Social Interaction

Learning in educational Institutions allows the students to meet and talk with people from different cities, towns, villages, and countries. Social Interactions form an important building block for the upbringing of the students. Distance learning restricts the students. Though students can interact with one another through chat rooms, discussion boards, emails, and video conferencing, the experience cannot be matched with that of a traditional campus.

Distraction

With no face-to-face interaction with the teachers and other students, it might be a little tough to keep a track of the syllabus and assignments. That’s because there is no one reminding them again and again about the last date to submit the pending assignments. It requires one to be more attentive and vigilant. Hence distance learning is not a good option for students who keep pushing things onto the next day or those who cannot stick to the deadlines.

Complicated Technology

In remote learning, everything is dependent upon the strength of your internet connection, the working of your computer, and the stability of the camera. There is a lack of face-to-face interaction between students and instructors. So at times the students and teachers might find hard it to communicate their thoughts over the internet. Instances of voice lagging, microphones not working properly, video getting paused or a complete disconnection between the class is very common nowadays. People who are well-equipped with technology might be able to learn through this method.

Exorbitant amount of fees

We all are aware that all educational institutions are operating remotely currently. Because of which they should not demand the total amount of fees which they were previously taken from the students. As the students are not using the institutional infrastructure, the air conditioners, fans, the library, and the hostels, their fees should be reduced to half. Despite many protests and tweets against this issue only some of the institutions decided to lower the fees for the quarter. Why should we pay the total fees when all we are using is college PowerPoint presentations, pdfs, and other material?

Covid-19 has caused a crisis in the whole country due to which many of the students have lost either one of their parents or both their parents. How can the school/college expect them to pay a fee of lakhs? They do not have any source of income. Already they are facing financial crisis in their respective families. The college should support such students. so many people have lost their jobs many have lost their lives and all these institutions care about is fees?

Lack of Institutional Environment

Any electronic device cannot replace the experience of chalk and blackboard learning.No document sent by the teacher can replace the notes dictated in the class. An institution teaches a lot more than what is made up for. It teaches us how to greet elders, how to behave with our peers, good mannerism, and proper etiquette which any screen in the world cannot teach no matter howsoever effort they put in. Often, students obey teachers when they see them face to face and they disrespect their instructions when the same is delivered over the internet. We have already seen how and why cyber crimes have increased recently.

FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE

I am a 3rd-year student of BA.LLB(h) program in a deemed university. Online classes were conducted by the university divided into 5 hourly lectures of 5 different teachers in a day, on an average which would combine to 5-6 per day, sometimes even more. Not only that as the teachers had to take the projects and assignments online now, but they would also give us 2-3 assignments per week. So on weekends also the eyes of the students are glued to the laptop or computer screen and we do not have an option neither the university has. If not this way then what else could be done? An alternative to physical classes had to be in place as the 10 days break which we were initially informed about had stretched to almost 2 years.

The way of teaching was evolving. Some students adopted, some had to face major difficulties in the process. Another major issue that comes up in front of the management was the evaluation of the internal assessment examination. Which converted into a 30 question-based google form. Earlier it was a full-fledged 20 marks pen and paper subjective test. The teachers, as well as the students, had to face technical errors. At least 90% of these were genuine, the rest 10% treated it like an escape mechanism, a mechanism to escape the test. Few students couldn’t access the link prepared by the teacher, some students had poor internet connectivity as they were living in plains and mountains. Many could not complete their tests even if they did their test was not successfully submitted due to which the teacher was unable to see the responses of the students. Then this whole process had to be repeated for those who were left out.

The way to conduct final examinations was an online test of 3 hours monitored through an online software called mettl. The answers had to be written on white ruled sheets and scanned and uploaded on the server within the time frame. The problems which students faced in giving their examinations which would determine their SGPA and eventually CGPA for the future cannot be listed within this space. There were a ton of problems in the scanning and uploading stage.

Can anyone imagine the mental stress of students who cannot submit their answer sheets due to genuine technical glitches in the system? Can the new age X-gen computers guarantee us 100% accuracy? Is the electricity switch which connects your WI-Fi 24*7 connected. Machines are machines that cannot replace humans at least up till now. To err is human and completely natural. Students were tortured in this whole process. and unless it is in safe hands. The moment it reaches that population of the society which uses it against its very own society, cyber-crimes are born.

CYBER-CRIMES

As well said by Christian Lous Lange “Technology is a useful servant but a dangerous master”. Technology can be a man’s best friend until and unless it is in safe hands. The moment it reaches that population of the society which uses it against the very own society, cyber-crimes are born.

In recent times, India’s digital progress and screen time has accelerated which in turn has spiked cyber-crime rates. Also, there have been numerous cyber-crime cases reported all over India.

In April 2020, a Gujarat University Student was harassed by a man who had hacked into her online class and behaved indecently with her. She had complained to the National Commission for Women about this.

In December 2019 Some students of a Goa School posted “demeaning” morphed images from their virtual classes on social media.

An Indian Child Protection Fund (ICPF) report stated that child pornographic content has increased by the rate of 95% in India.

In May 2021 A Class 10 student of a private school in Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh was booked for sending obscene messages to his teacher while she was taking an online session through Google Meet.

Such cases are very common these days. Sexual harassment of female students and teachers both are very common. Since the opening of the camera allows the accused to take the picture through screenshot at that moment and misuse it later.

Often students change their usernames on online applications like Microsoft Teams. Google Meet or Zoom and hurl abuses to their teachers while the teacher is trying his or her level best to explain a concept. This is not acceptable at any cost. They think what their doing is just fun without foreseeing the consequences of their childish behavior.

At the end of the day, teachers are also humans. They have not done anything wrong to deserve such disrespectful treatment where a 16-year-old teenager can say anything to him or her just because he or she is not standing in front of the teacher.

These crimes can be curbed if we report to the concerned authorities at the earliest. Strict action must be taken against the culprits. Every individual has the Right to live dignity.

RIGHT TO EDUCATION

Education is important. It sets the base for the elementary learning of concepts in the real world. It nurtures an individual brain. It acts as the building blocks of physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being.

There have been many attempts in the past to make education available to every child residing in this country. Many leaders of the country have fought hard to grant basic education to their generations, the system as it is today. It is their efforts that the people like us have the fortune to consider education fundamental.

Committees

Ramamurti Committee-headed by Acharya Ramamurti was a Gandhian activist. He headed this Ramamurti Review Committee in 1990 which was formed to analyze the provisions of the  National Policy on Education of 1986.

Tapas Majumdar Committee- was created to check upon the implications of the 83rd Amendment Bill introduced in 1997, seeking to make the right to education a fundamental right.

Fundamental Right

The following Articles emphasize on the Right To Education ;

Article 21 A-The 86th Constitutional amendment Act 2002 declares the right to education as a fundamental right under Article 21A, part III of the constitution, which means if anybody tries to sabotage a person’s education through any means that concerned person can approach the Supreme Court under Article 32 and High Court under Article 226. The courts can issue writs or order injunctions as a remedy.

The Right to Education Act (RTE) was enacted by the Parliament of India on 4 August 2009, which ensures free and compulsory education for children between the age of 6 to 14 years. It came into effect on 1 April 2010. ‘Free education’ implies that no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education in the school run under the administration of the appropriate government.

‘Compulsory education’ casts an obligation on the appropriate Government and concerned authorities to ensure admission, attendance, and completion of elementary education by all children in the 6-14 age group.

Article 28: It provides freedom to students to be a part of any religious instruction or practice religious worship in educational institutions.

Article 29: This article gives equal opportunity to all students in the educational institutions administered across India.

Article 30: provides the right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions to promote their culture and heritage.

DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY

Directive Principles of State Policy aims to protect and prosper the Right to Education at all times. The Articles which emphasize on it are as follows;

Article 45-states that the state shall take up the responsibility to provide free and fair education to children up to the age of 14 years.

Article 39(f) guarantees that the children of India should be brought up in a healthy and free environment, which implies they also have a right to be educated in a prosperous atmosphere.

Article 46: provides special care for the furtherance of education the Scheduled Tribes, Scheduled Caste, OBC, and the weaker sections of society.

Article 337: This article confers special educational grants in the interest of the Anglo-Indian community

Every child has the right to educate. This right also extends to online teaching but in a restricted environment. Yes, the child can speak up and ask questions in an online session but his or her question should be limited to the scope of the curriculum followed in School or University.

Right to education is made available to all students across India but we all are aware of the digital divide which is prevalent in our country. Almost 85% of our population is not able to access the notes, lectures, and videos uploaded by the educator on the online platform through remote learning as they do not mean to buy necessities in life and a smartphone or a laptop remains a luxury for them.

Due to the government initiatives like Mid-day meals, Beti Bachao Beti Padhao the school was able to record more than 90% attendance of the students. But distance learning is a very new concept for everyone, which many are not able to understand due to the financial strain upon them.

FEATURES OF THR RIGHT TO EDUCATION ACT,2009

These are the main features of the Right to Education Act,2009;

  • Free and compulsory education to all the children who fall in the 6 to 14 age group bracket.
  • Right To education is a fundamental right.
  • No child shall be failed or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education. However this provision has been removed through the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019.
  • If a child above 6 years of age has not been completed his or her elementary education or has not been enrolled in a school yet, then he or she must be enrolled in a class which is the closest to his or her age.
  • However, if a case may be where a child is directly admitted in the age appropriate class, then he or she shall have a right to receive special training within the time limits  prescribed.
  • For the purpose of admission to elementary education, the age of a child shall be determined on the basis of the birth certificate issued by the Municipal Corporation in urban areas, Tehsildar at taluk level and Gram Panchayat Office in the villages. Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1856 might also be looked upon to calculate the approximate age of the child. Non-availability of age proof is no ground to deny admission to a child.
  • A child who completes elementary education should be bestowed with a certificate.
  • Twenty-five per cent reservation for economically disadvantaged sections of the society mainly Scheduled Castes, Schduled Tribes,Socially Backward Class and Differently abled in admission to Class I is granted.
  • Improvement in the quality of education is a must.
  • School teachers must possess adequate professional degree.
  • School infrastructure needs to be renovated once in every 3 years, else recognition of the school will be cancelled.
  • Financial strain is divided between the state and the central government.
  • It focuses on a child centered learning in a child centered environment where he or she is able to develop.

CONCLUSION

In this article an attempt has been made to understand the dynamics of today’s world. We are required to mold ourselves with the change in the system. We all must learn to use technology as it is being used in every branch of our society, be it finance, social media, education, health sector. Those who are privileged enough to have access to the internet are lucky enough. Otherwise in rural areas, people do not have the access to technology which creates a digital divide in the country. The central and state government should enforce the right to education guaranteed to us by the constitution of India. Enough funds should be given to the schools to maintain themselves. Right to education act 2009 was enacted to provide education to all sections of children of the society equally.  There are many advantages as well as disadvantages of using technology. Although the use of it has been reported in cybercrimes. As it is available to all there is no control over who all can access it and what all content can they access. In this paper, an attempt has been made to share my first-hand experience with online learning as a law student. Various leaders have fought to make the right to education meaningful. The recent approach of courts is to ensure that this fundamental right is available to the citizens of this country as the judiciary is the protector of fundamental rights. At the end I would like to add that the scope of this concept is very extensive. It will evolve and take different shapes in the near future.

Author: SAFIYA SHAMS, AMITY LAW SCHOOL,NOIDA,UTTAR PRADESH

Editor: Kanishka VaishSenior Editor, LexLife India.

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