As the Covid-19 pandemic has shut down schools and colleges, pan India, and disrupted learning, most of the schools and colleges started shifting towards digital education. But this shift to online education raised several questions, like the unequal access to technology, health impact on the students due to their prolonged exposure to screen time, etc.
In order to address these concerns, and establish a set of guidelines for digital education, the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD), has come up with Pragyata guidelines for digital education. These guidelines have been formulated by the NCERT and they are only advisory in nature. The schools and colleges are encouraged to abide by them. However, since education and digital education falls under the domain of state government, the states have been given the flexibility to customize the guidelines based upon local needs and demands.
For accessing digital education, there are two key resources that a student requires, a communication device and high-speed internet connection. But every student may not have access to these resources. Experts have pointed out that unequal access to technology will result in inequality in education to students. This major concern has been taken into account by the NCERT and MHRD, and the issue has been factored in the Pragyata guidelines. This concern rather has been given the highest priority in the guidelines issued by the ministry.
The Pragyata guidelines recommend that every school should conduct a survey to determine the kind of digital infrastructure that can be accessed by its students and teachers and then must decide upon the mode of teaching based on the survey, rather than assuming what access do the students have.
In order to address the health impacts of prolonged exposure to screens on the physical and mental health of students, the Centre has decided to limit the duration of an online class. For pre-primary i.e. for kindergarten, nursery and pre-school, the guidelines do not recommend any screen time for children but it recommends the teachers should spend not more than 30 minutes with the parents. Parents can further self-teach the kids at home. Then for classes 1 to 8, the guidelines recommend no more than two sessions of 30 to 40 minutes each in a day. Similarly, for students of class 9th and 12th, no more than 4 sessions of 30 to 45 mins each with adequate breaks in between.
These guidelines were very much needed, and they are expected to address the concerns that have been raised due to the sudden shift towards digital education.