Higher Education Minister R. Bindu has voiced her disapproval towards the University Grants Commission (UGC)’s move to encourage blended learning in higher education institutions.
Speaking to The Hindu , Dr. Bindu said the proposal, despite being touted to boost flexibility, could exacerbate the digital divide that existed in the country. “We still have not been able to plug the gulf between the have-nots and haves with regard to access of ICT devices and internet connectivity. The move to switch over to online learning in a big way will marginalise the disadvantaged sections even further,” she said.
The UGC had recently decided to permit institutions to teach up to 40% of the syllabus in each course through online mode and the remaining in offline mode. It also released a concept note that highlighted the benefits of blended learning and suggested a framework for the learning mode.
The thrust on blended learning, which was part of the Centre’s efforts to implement the National Education Policy, could rob classrooms of the human element and also impact the livelihoods of large sections of the teaching community, Dr. Bindu said.
Recalling her experience as a college teacher who like many others had to embrace online teaching last year, the Minister said the digital mode could often deny students holistic education. “As a teacher myself, I used to interact with students on a wide range of subjects that often went beyond the confines of curriculum. But such discussions may not find places in online classes when teachers would mostly stick to the syllabus. There is also the issue of gauging response of students, despite being able to record attendance,” she said.
The Minister will lead an online discussion being organised by the Kerala State Higher Education Council on June 3 to evolve the State’s response to the UGC proposal.