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FEATURE | SHILLONG, AUG 16, 2020:
Students all over the country will agree that 2020 has proven itself different in more ways than one. For the next, say, ten years or so, no other batch of standard 10 and 12 students will face what this year's batch faced.
We started off as planned with our exams, had our portion of the exams postponed, then cancelled after a long wait of three months; our results delayed, then, coming out with shocking marks. It's been one confusing and bumpy ride with no one to provide us with a reliable map.
With the new Education Policy, a lot of changes are going to take place and hopefully, the system revolutionizes itself from the teachers and students to the administration.
Our state of 'normal' is in the process of changing. Everything has changed from our classroom set-up, student-teacher interactions, and our study material.
IN FOR A SURPRISE
The exams that this year's students were supposed to sit for, surprised everyone. For the MBOSE students that sat for the exams this year, we got quite shocking results with only a 50.31% pass percentage. It was awful. Students that usually performed in the 70s and 80s level came out with a 50% average. What on earth happened?
The CBSE results were still okay but it was the ICSE students that got off lucky with the way their marks were calculated. For the ICSE students, the only scary part was the period where the Board was yet to confirm whether they would continue with the exams.
To me, it felt like being hung on tenterhooks. My friends were so tired of the uncertainty circling the exams that they resorted to witchcraft and other ritualistic chants to sway the Board's fickle opinion on holding the exams to a straight 'NO Exams'. I guess it worked. But due to the long delay in the much-awaited announcement, anxiety did build-up for students, parents, and teachers since the Board was asking for the pre-Boards mark sheets of all students to work out a formula for the papers we did not sit for. Thankfully, they did not use those marks since most of us performed horribly. It was quite a scare though and will probably be used as a warning for the next batches to not take those papers lightly (like we did). People, take your pre-boards seriously.
WHAT'S SO DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS YEAR?
Once the results were out, the next thing we faced was the complicated admissions. Unlike all these past years where a parent or the student themselves would have to go take the forms, the process this year was made available online. But, since most of these schools were not familiar with taking the admissions on an online platform, the whole process was muddled and ultimately, again, delayed. This posed a problem for those students who took a single form from the school of their choice.
In the case of not getting admitted to the schools they wanted, most students being unprepared had to settle for schools that were not of their preference. With the glaring difference in marks because of the various boards, admissions were considerably more difficult for MBOSE students. It is a little unfair.
THE URBAN-RURAL DIVIDE
And what about students who live in rural areas? Travel or the internet in the interiors is terrible. And unlike the common misconception in urban areas, NOT everyone owns a smartphone. Families have more important things to think about—like getting basic necessities for their families to survive on – than wanting to own a smartphone.
The current online teaching methodology is putting an unnecessary burden on the families to provide a smartphone with internet facility for their children. Basic requirements such as texting and calling to communicate can be done with much cheaper older fashioned phones. Online admissions were difficult enough. Online classes are not realistic. Unlike the way urban children are brought up, these children have to do chores at home and help out to unburden their parents, or in extreme cases, even earn for the family. Buying a phone just for classes makes no sense and the family would discourage it.
I'm not talking only about the extreme cases but the majority of the families. These are students that also need to study. They need education to get higher-paying jobs to support their families and themselves. Even if one parent, or both, own smartphones, if they are working adults, they would need to take the phone with them. Leaving the phones at home for their child's online class is not ideal. Also, how many of these parents have just one school-going kid? Most of them have two or three children, all in different classes—meaning they have different sessions going on simultaneously. Some of these schools are having classes all day, with substantial breaks in between, to catch up on the syllabus.
FROM THE OVEN AND INTO THE FIRE
This whole circle of problems means that the online education system is either neglecting the problems of these students or encouraging parents to buy smartphones for their children. It doesn't necessarily need to be a phone but, it basically needs to be a device with access to the internet throughout the day and most parents are not at home to supervise.
Did you notice how funny that sounds? It has all high-quality ingredients to create a wonderfully destructive and over-exposed child. Here it is- straight out of the oven and into the fire. Screen addiction is as real as any other addiction and can derail the learning and educational curve of the student.
THE OVER-STRETCHED VACATION
My online classes haven't even started yet and already this is a mess. Other than a rather long vacation, the pandemic hasn't helped very much. After all, students are people. This long over-stretched vacation feeling wears off after a while and staying at home just becomes dreary.
Communication has gone down the drain; outdoor games with the neighbourhood kids have been banned; we can't go crashing at our friend's place anymore (I did that once and the neighbours barricaded their gates after that). We've conveniently lost our social skills. My aunt keeps repeating that she has forgotten how to dress because of the lockdown (it does sound funny, I know, but please don't visualize it). We've become such sad beings. The only way we know if our friends are still alive is when they're online.
Basically, our lives need to start kicking again. And soon, before we become sourpusses!
(Aavisha Sahu Kharkongor is a 17-yr-old student at Pinemount School, Shillong. A young poet, she received an award at the Edmundian Festival 2019 in creative writing (Poetry).)
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