TED NewsDesk, New Delhi: On Friday, the Delhi High Court instructed the national capital’s autonomous schools and Kendriya Vidyalayas to distribute necessary devices and data facilities for virtual classes amid COVID-19.
The Court gave its judgment in response to the PIL filed by an education-based NGO- Justice for All, represented by the advocates Shikha Sharma Bagga and Khagesh B Jha. The plea raised concerns regarding the inequality noticed inside the classrooms. It demanded the provision of mobiles and laptops with good data connections for kids from Economically Weaker Section/ Disadvantaged Groups (EWS/DG).
The hearing took place before a two-judge bench on Friday. Justice Manmohan and Justice Sanjeev Narula gave the verdict keeping in mind inequality in the classroom with 75% of the pupils from the general category while 25% under the EWS/DG. The court ordered the schools to provide high-speed data and smartphones to the students who are unable to attend online classes.
Additionally, the court formed a board of three members to safeguard the smooth execution of the decision passed. The board consists of the Secretary of Education, Ministry of Education, India or his/her appointee, the Education Secretary, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), or his/her appointee and a third associate.
“The Committee shall identify gadget(s)/equipment(s) taking into account all relevant factors including their utility, ease of operation, cost, maintenance charges, the life of the gadget(s), the reputation of the manufacturer, child lock etc. within two weeks from its constitution. The Committee shall also decide as to whether any gadget(s)/equipment(s) needs to be purchased by cluster bidding or by individual schools or hired by way of lease or license agreement,” directed the court.
It added, “The private unaided schools shall either purchase or hire or lease the gadget(s)/equipment(s) as directed by the said Committee and supply the same along with internet package to the EWS/DG students within further two weeks. The private unaided schools shall file their claims for reimbursement to the Delhi government within eight weeks from the date of supply of such gadget(s)/equipment(s).”
The 94-page conclusion stated that the parents should not be charged for the Internet and mobile facilities. The tuition fee doesn’t include the cost of such provisions so it should be the responsibility of private institutions and Kendriya Vidyalayas for the same. It complies with the RTE Act which enables these institutions to request compensation.
Calling the method of digital education as a substitute rather than a permanent solution to a conventional classroom, Justice Narula highlighted, “In the present pandemic situation, the shift towards online education has taken place literally overnight, and without much deliberation. One could argue that the unprecedented situation warranted such a drastic switch over. Therefore, I do not find any fault with the approach of the schools that have adopted digital technology for imparting education. However, it is necessary to issue a note of caution here so that the modes and methods adapted during this extraordinary time are not seen as the quintessential purpose of the Act.”
He claimed that the involvement of digital platforms for educational purposes is an essential and evolving process. It is not just an adjunct to the physical classroom method. It involves active “and is not just limited to uploading and delivering content over digital devices. It is a fundamentally different concept still at an experimental stage. The traditional blackboard approach is not adequate in a virtual classroom, as this format demands curating and designing of a different form of content that can be conveyed and assimilated on a digital platform.”
“Without face-to-face interaction, gathering and retaining the attention of students for a prolonged time, and ensuring that the imparted education is understood effectively by each of the attendees in a virtual classroom becomes a demanding task. Blending and integration of ICT in elementary education require strategic planning and building broad-based support amongst the stakeholders. This radically different form of education is bound to pose numerous and complex problems,” he continued.
“Thus, in my view, the digitalization of elementary education, which targets children of ages between 6 and 14 years, by restricting the child to be a passive receiver without an interactive environment, needs a deeper probe. However, this paradigm shift, in the current situation, has happened rapidly. This mode seems to have taken the front seat in the unprecedented emergency scenario we are placed in today. Globally, scepticism is the underlying sentiment when it comes to digital education. Nations are grappling to find the correct answers to deal with the present situation. I would therefore say that we should approach the subject on a cautionary note,” Narula elaborated in his note.