Schools can hold live online classes for a maximum of 1.5 hours per day for Classes 1-8, and three hours per day for Classes 9-12, according to the Pragyata guidelines for digital education , released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) on Tuesday. For kindergarten, nursery and pre-school, only 30 minutes of screen time per day for interacting with parents is recommended.
These guidelines, prepared by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), are only advisory in nature, and State governments have been asked to build on them and formulate their own rules, based on local needs.
Over 25 crore students across the country have been out of school since mid-March. The Pragyata guidelines acknowledge that these students live in households which fall into different categories: those who have computers or smartphones with 4G internet access, those with smartphone but limited or no internet access, those with television with cable or DTH, those with a radio set or a basic mobile phone with FM radio, and those with no communication devices at all.
Noting that students from different categories may be present in the same classroom, the guidelines advise schools to first survey their own students before making decisions about the mode of teaching. “The goal is NOT to try and recreate face-to-face (F2F) classrooms over the internet,” it emphasised. “Schools should not assume that teaching-learning through synchronous communication is the only requirement or even desirable in order to support effective digital learning.”
Synchronous or real-time communication could be the ubiquitous Zoom classes that many private schools have already begun, or other video or audio conferencing, allowing instant feedback.
“Children exposed to digital technologies or gadgets for a longer time are prone to severe health issues,” the guidelines said.
“Hence sitting with digital gadgets for longer hours or their excess use can be avoided by designing age appropriate schedules of digital education,” it added.
Keeping the overall development of students in mind, it recommended that “online synchronous learning may be undertaken for not more than two sessions of 30-45 minutes each on the days the States/UTs decide to have online classes” for Classes 1-8. For Classes 9-12, the recommendation was for not more than four sessions per day. A 10-15 minute break needs to be provided between sessions, it added.
Apart from such live classes, it offered a number of recommendations for “asynchronous learning” with tools to allow students to download lessons or listen to radio and TV programmes, communicate through Whatsapp and SMS, study on their own and undertake creative projects.
While States and schools develop timetables, they must keep in mind that multiple children in one family may need to access the same devices, to survey the digital infrastructure available with teachers as well as students, to assess the levels of possible parental involvement, and to remember that teachers may also be parents needing to supervise their own children’s learning as well, said the guidelines.
They must also make arrangements to reach students who do not have access to any digital infrastructure at home, or who have special needs, to ensure that no child is left behind.