Teachers, once again stuck in online teaching mode, said they are now focusing on what will help their students get through this academic year and focusing on the core areas of knowledge.
From focusing on activity-based learning with elementary school students to ensuring that students in higher grades can complete their answers on time, teachers at different levels use different techniques to help students.
Some said they let students draw what they know about a topic, others watch games to test their knowledge, and still other educators encourage students to take part in writing and spelling games and take quizzes to build on previous learning to remember.
Vijay Kombe, an elementary school teacher from Wardha, said they teach many things at the same time and it is not easy. “Std-I students are fine because we had to teach them from the start. But since there was no anganwadi for them, making them sit is a task. Std II and even Std III students are taught almost from the beginning, which means many need to be introduced to the alphabet and numbers.
So after teaching them the basics again, we also need to cover the syllabus for their own level, which will be another Herculean task. We realized that being strict with them doesn’t work. They are too used to cell phones and their attention spans are weak in face-to-face classes.”
Kombe turned some lessons into games or activities. He said the children are enjoying the learning process, which is essential in these times when there is so much to learn and so little time. “We also appeal to parents to encourage children to repeat classes and do homework,” he added.
Assessment reports from various governmental and non-governmental agencies indicate that all students experienced learning gaps during the pandemic as schools closed to face-to-face classes.
Komal Somaiyya, who works as a domestic help and is a mother of three, said: “My youngest son was in Std I last year and now he is in Std II. He doesn’t know the alphabet, let alone how to read and write. I am illiterate. His older sister and my second child are in Std V. Her teachers always said she was a good student. My eldest son is in Std VII and has barely touched his books since lockdown. All our hopes rest on the teachers. Only my husband has a smartphone and all three cannot use it at the same time.”
Some groups, particularly students in rural areas and urban slums, have been disproportionately affected due to a lack of online devices as well as a lack of supportive structures around them.
This inequality is a daily struggle for teachers across the state. Getting students to read, write and do basic arithmetic has become a difficult task for elementary school teachers.
According to the 2021 Annual Survey of Education Report, smartphone availability among children aged 6 to 14 in rural Maharashtra has doubled in the past three years, but the increase in numbers does not necessarily mean an increase in access.
Teachers say the hardest part is getting kids to sit and write in younger grades. Their associations want the education department to start classes in areas where there are not many Covid cases so that the learning disability can be saved.
For those teaching the senior grades and Std X, where students show up for the board exam, it is a struggle to get the syllabus finished in time for the prelims and board exam in March, despite a 25% cut. Students need at least a month to prepare for the exams.
Teachers in senior grades said weaning children off cell phones was another challenge. Shamshuddin Attar, a Konkan secondary school teacher, said he conducted a pre-examination for his secondary school students and found that the majority did poorly.
“It seems we have to repeat so many topics that we’ve already done online because the students didn’t understand them. The writing speed has slowed down because many could not fully answer the questions. Mock tests/pre-exams must be taken several times and students must be encouraged to attempt them before appearing for the end-of-semester exams. Students also seem to be addicted to cellphones. Parents must be specifically instructed to keep the devices away from children as we are very short on time now,” Attar added.
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