Observing that online classes in schools is not a substitute to education in the physical form, but is only supplementary, the Madras High Court while directing the State government to make guidelines for online classes binding on the institutions, has sought it to allow schools to hold special physical classes for select students unable to cope with digital education with strict adherence to social distancing norms.
Disposing a batch of writ petitions seeking adequate safeguards in online classes, a division bench comprising Justice MM Sundresh and Justice R Hemalatha said, “It is nobody’s case that the guidelines are not correct, though some grievance has been expressed by one of the counsels to increase the number of hours for higher education, but no challenge has been laid and schools are bound by directions issued by the authorities.” However, on describing online classes as a new form of education imposed because of the pandemic, the bench on offering a slew of directions also held, “The schools can allow a few students requiring special attendance in view of the difficulties faced in digital education to attend physical classes while following social distance.” The bench also sought schools to explore the possibility of teachers going to students to teach.
School Education Minister KA Sengottaiyan said there would be no online classes between September 21-25 and the short vacation would help reduce stress.
Find out difficulties faced by students from poor families: HC tells schools
In a bid to tide over the twin problems faced by poor students in terms of availability of device and connectivity, the Madras High Court directed institutions to undertake a thorough inspection and find out the difficulties faced by such students.
“In government schools which are maximum in number, classes can be conducted in the community halls and for those who cannot afford, steps may be taken either to provide devices or make them attend the classes, if they are few in numbers, while maintaining the social distancing. After all, the idea is that a child shall not be made to lose the class because of any other consideration,” said a division bench comprising Justice MM Sundresh and Justice R Hemalatha. The bench noted that teachers were available now and the classrooms were empty after the lockdown conditions were eased considerably.
Also, holding that the guidelines issued with respect to attendance, test and examination would have to be strictly complied with, the bench asked the schools to explore the possibility of having end-to-end encryption.
Recording the submission that pop-up blocker could be used to deal with them, the court directed the government to issue a circular to all institutions in this regard and sought the Education Secretary to deal with the issue.
The bench held that it did not wish to make mandatory the usage of recorded lectures telecast through television channels. “It is for the respective schools to adopt their mode while keeping in mind the guidelines issued. However, they can also explore the possibility of going for the recorded classes, as it would ease the pressure from the point of view of the students. Similarly, recorded versions can be sent through WhatsApp apart from being uploaded in the school portals,” the bench said, while reiterating that guidelines were to be treated as mandatory directions.