[Online Classes] Madras HC | Schools can allow students requiring special attendance in view of difficulties faced in online education to attend physical classes with social distancing

A great nation is built on a character of its own citizens. It transforms into the character of the nation leading to its progress achieved through a value system.

— Madras High Court

Madras High Court: The Division Bench of M.M. Sundresh and R. Hemalatha, JJ., while addressing the present petition with regard to concerns arising due to online classes  quoted Swami Vivekananda,

“We want the education by which character is formed, strength of mind is increased, the intellect is expanded, and by which one can stand on one’s own feet.”

EDUCATION

Further, explaining the concept of education, Court stated that,

“A man is both a creator and destroyer. Therefore, he is his own future. A better future can only be secured through the younger generation, existing and awaiting.”

The process of creating a good citizen has got multiple roadblocks created by various factors. Thus, Education will have to address this seminal issue without deviating towards more literacy in imparting knowledge without character.

RIGHT USE OF TECHNOLOGY IN IMPARTING EDUCATION

With the onslaught of information pouring through technology, it is imperative to make sure that the children are groomed in the right way. Further, it was added that as we know, technology as such cannot be faulted but only its wrong usage.

CONCERN

Present matter has raised concerns with regard to the usage of online classes hastened by the pandemic.

Online classes have become one of the necessities than an option as schools are yet to re-open.

Social Divide is another factor which unfortunately gets widened through the imparting of the present education between the rich and the poor through the varied curriculum, methodology and facilities.

At the time of filing of the writ petitions, guidelines of the Union of India and the State Government were not in existence.

Bench stated that since the Court has prefaced on the extensive and exhaustive guidelines of the Government of India and the State Government, therefore it refrains from going into the materials produced.

Hence Court only highlights the important aspects of the guidelines while concentrating on the issues flowing out of the same including the complaints made on the extensive usage by some of the overzealous institutions.

CYBER BULLYING

Specific instructions have also been given to avoid cyberbullying. Clear instructions have been given to students studying in different classes, Parents and Teachers. Schools have been instructed to balance both online and offline activities. Advice has been given to safety and ethical precautions.

ATTENDANCE

On the question of attendance, schools have been informed that it shall not be accounted as mandatory for performance evaluation purposes.

Decision

High Court on perusal of the above stated that this new form of Education is created by the technology which has been imposed upon us by the pandemic. Therefore, it should be used as an opportunity to deal with the situation until the normalcy is restored.

Digitalization has created distinct literate called digital literates.

The Institutions along with the Teachers and Parents will have to play their respective roles with all seriousness.

Court has noted that that there are certain schools that are overburdening in conducting the examinations, making the attendance mandatory and taking classes beyond the time limit mentioned in the guidelines.

Bench does not approve of the above.

Taking care of the interest of the children is the primary duty of the Parents, Teachers, Institutions, Government and the Court.

Court is of the firm view that that the guidelines are to get the trappings of the mandatory directions.

Further, it was also stated that classes of varied categories such as Government Schools which are few in existence, aided and un-aided schools, their curriculum is also different. In view of the said, Court held that the guidelines are to be complied with by all the stakeholders.

Usage of recorded versions of online classes through local television

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 out 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.

Keeping in mind the interests of children, bench issued the following directions:

  • Guidelines issued by the Government of India and the State Government are to be treated and construed as mandatory
  • Time limit for the online classes should be strictly adhered to and any violation would require action
  • State of Tamil Nadu and other bodies, with whom the Schools are affiliated, shall issue circulars to the Schools which are to be circulated in turn to the Parents towards the measures that are required to be taken to block obscene contents.
  • programmes conducted will have to be sent by Whatsapp to the Parents and uploaded in the school portals.
  • At every District level, the Government of Tamil Nadu and the other competent authorities are expected to set up a Committee to monitor and supervise the due compliance of the guidelines by the institutions. These Committees will have to meet once in a month.
  • Concerned schools will have to undertake the exercise of identifying the problems being faced by the parents and teachers in online connectivity and avilability of the device.
  • Schools can also allow group of students identified by them requiring special attendance in view of the difficulties faced in online and digital education to attend physical classes while following social distance.
  • Schools can also explore the possibility of Teachers going to the students and giving education if there exists a facility to do so.
  • Guidelines with regard to attendance, test and examination will have to be strictly complied with.
  • Guidelines with respect to pre-primary students will have to be complied with strictly.
  • Schools will also have to explore the possibility of having end-to-end encryption.
  • Guidelines of the State Government will have to be translated in Tamil, if not done already.
  • There shall be an interaction between the Schools and Parents on the functioning of the online/digital education, as many of them may not be digital literates.

Bench disposed of the petitions stating that it hopes the above-laid guidelines are complied with and makes it clear that all the directions are applicable to the Schools functioning in the Tamil Nadu. [R. Bharaneeswaran v. Government of Tamil Nadu, 2020 SCC OnLine Mad 2301 , decided on 09-09-2020]

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