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In a first, Kerala schools' new academic year begins online

IANS | June 01, 2020 11:32 AM

THIRUVANTHAPURAM:With authorities trying their level best to bring back normalcy to day-to-day lives of people -- thrown haywire by the coronavirus outbreak and subsequent lockdown -- Kerala has opted for online teaching to ensure the studies of schoolchildren in the coastal state does not suffer.

Online classes have been enabled through state-owned KITE-Victers Channel to benefit about 4.5 million students from Class 1 to 12 of state syllabus schools.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan appeared on TV at 8.30 am on Monday and announced the commencement of the online classes.

"Each class will have separate time slot and schoolteachers concerned will have to constantly interact with their students to ensure that all follow the new routine of online classes, " said Vijayan.

For students who miss online classes due to power failure or connectivity issues, there will be a daily repeat telecast, as also availabile on YouTube.

But for the Covid scare, Monday would have witnessed the usual hustle and bustle in Kerala schools as students would have walked in wearing new school uniforms and carrying schoolbags.

Vice-Chairman and Executive Director Anwar Sadath of Kerala Infrastructure and Technology for Education (KITE) -- which is behind the IT-enabled education in over 16, 000 Kerala schools -- told IANS that they have been working on the project for a while, with the biggest advantage that all digital content was ready.

He said it could never ever be imagined that online classrooms would be put into effect so quickly.

"We have prepared time-tables for all classes. The first class of the day was for Class 12 English subject for half an hour in which lectures recorded by two teachers were aired. This service reaches every student's home through KITE-Victers channel, which is aired by cable TV network, " said Sadath.

Daily, there will be four periods for Class 12, 3 for Class X and two each for Class 8 and 9, and one period each for all other classes. Each period will be of 30-minute duration.

"KITE-Victers is holding online classes through broadcast, web and even offline. One or two teachers handle one subject for a 30-minute period. The telecast is watched by all the students of that particular class across the state. At the end of the day, the teachers concerned at every school interact with their students through mobile phones for feedback. It's the responsibility of the teacher concerned to clear all doubts of his or her students, " said Sadath.

Recording of all lectures for the next two weeks has been done while recording for the third week has commenced.

Special arrangements have been made for students who do not have TVs or smartphones.

"In state schools, there are 1.20 lakh laptops, 80, 000 projectors and 4, 500 TV sets. By now, teachers have identified students who do not have access to TVs. We have made arrangements to set up TV facilities which 5 to 10 students can visit near their homes and attend online classes while observing social distancing norms. All these students need to come for just 30 minutes daily, " the KITE officer said.

State Higher Education Minister (Colleges) K.T. Jaleel, who has been a history teacher, inaugurated the online classes for colleges by taking a lecturer on 'renaissance' for History students. For the colleges, it's more of a web telecast.

State Education Minister C. Raveendranth, a former college professor, said that the online classes were just a temporary arrangement and not an alternative to traditional classroom learning.

"Once the situation normalises, students can return to their classrooms. All shortcomings in the online system will be rectified, " said Raveendranath.

A Class 12 student, who attended her first online class, said it was a new experience for her.

"However, I wish to attend school and sit in a classroom with my friends. Online teaching does not give the same experience as one gets when in school. I wish and hope the schools reopen soon, " said the student.

Former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy pointed out that Victers TV channel was launched by then President APJ Abdul Kalam when Chandy was the Chief Minister in 2005.

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