we cannot equate a student studying in an elite school with his/her counterpart in a government institution, lamented Justice M.M. Sundresh of the Madras High Court on Thursday.

TAMIL NADU
HC begins hearing pleas to restrict online classes
Mohamed Imranullah S.
CHENNAI 21 AUGUST 2020 04:15 IST
UPDATED: 21 AUGUST 2020 01:30 IST

Education system has been perpetuating inequality: judge
One of the objectives of educating children is to bring about equality. Unfortunately, the education system in our country ends up perpetuating inequality because we cannot equate a student studying in an elite school with his/her counterpart in a government institution, lamented Justice M.M. Sundresh of the Madras High Court on Thursday.

Presiding over a Division Bench with Justice R. Hemalatha, the senior judge made the observation while hearing a batch of public interest litigation petitions to regulate the conduct of online classes by private schools.

When senior counsel S. Prabakaran and advocates J. Ravindran and Ajay Francis Inigo Loyola highlighted how private school students were able to hone their skills through online classes while those studying in government schools lagged behind, the judge said such inequality had been in existence even otherwise, and this was not just because of online classes.

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The lawyers pointed out that though the Centre and the State had come up with elaborate guidelines for the conduct of online classes, they were only advisory in nature and not mandatory. They said students were facing mental and physical issues and their parents were facing financial troubles due to the new norm of online classes.

“An autorickshaw driver or a plumber might have admitted their children in private schools, expecting better education, but how can he now afford to buy multiple computers or mobile phones for two or three children, spend on Internet connectivity, and so on? Not all parents of private schoolchildren are well-off,” Mr. Ravindran said.

Mr. Loyola insisted that the schools be restrained from live-streaming the classes and instead be ordered to impart education only through pre-recorded lessons. Such a procedure will solve the problems faced by students due to power cuts and poor connectivity. Children will then be able to access pre-recorded classes at their convenience, he added.

Advocate Srinath Sridevan, representing a private school management as well as its parents-teachers’ association, said it was not right on the part of the State government to have issued common guidelines for students from Classes I to VIII, restricting online classes for them to just two sessions of 30-45 minutes each, every day.

Stating that age-specific restrictions should be imposed after taking into consideration the fact that the children have to be equipped to cope with educational needs when they reach higher classes in the future, he said the permissible duration of online classes for students from Classes VI to VIII must be increased.

While advocate P.J. Sri Ganesh insisted that schools should be prevented from conducting online tests and giving assignments to be done online, lawyer T. Gowthaman brought it to the notice of the court that the CBSE had already issued a circular against online examinations.

On the issue of preventing unpleasant pop-ups on electronic gadgets during online classes, he said that parents could be educated about the availability of softwares that can be downloaded for free or on payment of nominal charges, to prevent pop-ups and to restrain children from accessing adult content.

After hearing all of them, the judges decided to hear Additional Solicitor General R. Shankaranarayanan and Additional Advocate General Narmadha Sampath on Monday. They said that though the court could pass comprehensive orders on the issue, the tricky part was to ensure that the directions were followed by all schools in letter and spirit.

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