Home Schooling and Online teaching giving solution to shortage of Science and Math teachers

Subject: Home Schooling in Sikkim to bridge the digital divide
When the schools were closed in March 2020 on account of the Covid-19 pandemic in Sikkim, little did we realise then that it’s going to be so prolonged. In fact the situation started getting worse with each passing day, in terms of the spread of the infection in the country and the associated uncertainty. We quickly realised that the school closure is going to be a prolonged one. We immediately discussed the situation arising out of closure of schools and loss of studies for the students and decided to go for the online education, using all available platforms. One app, by the name “SikkimEduTech” which was in the pipeline was quickly launched along with the widespread use of whatsApp. 

We also decided to use one local cable TV, by the name Samvaad TV for telecasting pre-recorded lectures. We also used All India Radio for broadcasting lessons over radio. However, despite all these efforts, we found that our reach was limited to not more than 50-60% of the students and a glaring digital divide was evident between urban and rural areas of the state. The reasons were manifold, like poor network in rural areas, non-availability or poor quality of gadgets in many homes etc. Children were also missing their school atmosphere dearly. We then thought of a unique solution which was without any cost and very much doable. We discussed and considered the option of school coming to the homes of students if they were not able to go to schools. The idea came from some of our dedicated teachers who had started teaching children, either by going to their homes or calling 4-5 students to their homes, or some third place like a panchayat office, or even a flat ground in the village. We made it official and issued a circular encouraging teachers to do home schooling, in the way it was feasible for them. The whole idea was to enable the children to study who were victims of the digital divide. The safeguards and protocols issued by the Health Department were being adhered to scrupulously while teaching the children in this mode. 

The best part was that most of our teachers took to this enthusiastically. Today, I am personally a satisfied person that we could do something for our underprivileged and children located in difficult areas. The idea was successful since most of the teachers were residing in their school localities due to restrictions and fear of travel due to the pandemic and their enthusiastic cooperation. This was a simple no cost solution for us apart from being very effective.

Another great opportunity came to us during this pandemic to deal with the chronic shortage of Science and Maths teachers in Sikkim. Sikkim and indeed the entire North East region suffers from a chronic shortage of good science and maths teachers. In fact, many schools, specially in rural and remote areas used to go either without them for most part of the academic year or to manage with sub standard teachers. With online teaching gaining traction, we suddenly discovered that one good Maths or Science teacher could easily cover 4 to 5 schools comfortably. This discovery suddenly provided us with a great solution at practically no cost. Now, we are able to teach our children Science and Maths, even in remote and rural area schools effectively. I hope this solution will help many areas of our country. 
G P Upadhyaya
Additional Chief Secretary

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