With the likely continuation of the nationwide lockdown for the foreseeable future, the education institutions in the country are having a challenging time completing their courses on time. All schools and colleges have now been closed for nearly a month. The Secondary Education Examinations (SEE) and board examinations of XI and XII grades have been postponed.
However, thanks to technology, students and teachers are now able to connect through various online platforms such as Google Classroom, Zoom, and even Facebook. Some private colleges, but not the schools, are already using these tools to run classes online during the Covid-19 lockdown.
For Nikisha Basnet, a bachelor’s level student of psychology at the Kathmandu-based St. Xavier’s College, the only difference between online and regular classes is that “while you stare at the screen during online classes, you look at the whiteboard during regular classes.”
Resham Krishna Poudel, a teacher of managerial accounting at Lord Buddha Education Foundation, also believes that online classes have made things easier for both students and teachers. He says he now has enough time to prepare for his classes, as he no longer has to spend time commuting to the college. “Class timing can also be adjusted. We can run classes even during the night,” Poudel says.
Online classes, according to him, are beneficial for students outside Kathmandu. “The expertise of teachers in Kathmandu Valley can be taken to remote areas, and students can learn from the comfort of their houses. They also save on costly rents they would have had to pay in Kathmandu,” he says.
Yet online classes are not possible without supportive technology; they need multimedia devices and stable net connection. Sadikchya Adhikari, a student of dental surgery at Kantipur Dental College, complains about erratic audio and video quality during her online classes. “Though we can record the video and refer to it again and again, asking questions is not as easy in online classes,” she adds.
Pukar Shakya is currently giving online classes for SEE appearing students. He says it is difficult to measure individual productivity online. “It’s not possible to engage everyone online. Lack of physical presence makes communication challenging,” Shakya says. He is also concerned that students may get easily distracted as they are free to surf the net during the classes. “Technology and gadgets are not sufficient to run a class effectively. I look forward to continuing online classes anyway.”
“Regular classes are preferable to online classes as teaching calls for a particular environment,” in the view of Rahul Shrestha, who is pursuing a master's degree in Professional Accounting at Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia. “Lying on your bed with pajamas is not the best way to learn. There are also many other things at home to disturb your study,” Shrestha says. Yet he thinks having online classes is still a much better idea than having no classes at all and discontinuing regular study.
Meanwhile, the government and public colleges have been unable to conduct online classes.
“In Nepal, those who can afford hefty fees go to private colleges whereas the ones who cannot go to government colleges,” says educationist Devendra Upreti. “Those in private colleges have the advantage of getting their lectures online. But government colleges do not have the infrastructure to run online classes.”
Even our universities are not well equipped and teachers not ready for an online learning environment, Upreti adds.
Sadly, the corona pandemic threatens to further widen the gap between the quality of education offered by private and public education institutions.