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Remote learning Initiatives in Kerala

Kerala has transformed public education through well-planned, interactive, community-supported, and globally competitive activities, all planned and guided by the General Education Department. Through Public Education Rejuvenation Mission - an Ambitious and Comprehensive Mission Mode Endeavor launched in 2016 - the State Government has been trying to address and improve the quality and equity aspects of education by transforming all government and government Aided Schools as ‘Centers of Excellence’. In view of the pandemic crisis the schools in the state were closed on March 10th and all public exams were deferred by March 19th 2020.

The pandemic has virtually made the social life come to a standstill and has consequentially affected mobility. In a situation like this children are forced to form new habits in an unnatural environment. The current situation affects the emotional and social development of children in one way or other. Children cannot be subjected to long term forced confinement. COVID 19 limited avenues of children to learn, socialize, gain new experiences and engage in creative activities. The pressure, stress and anxiety experienced by the children on this account needed more attention. The spread of the pandemic has forced the education department to proactively plan new initiatives to cope up with the unprecedented situation.

 It is in this scenario that Government of Kerala thought it fit to provide an online platform to students to make use of the holidays from 01/06/2020 onwards. Accordingly, Government devised a program of Online or Digital Classes named “FIRST BELL” to be broadcasted through VICTERS Educational Channel .This format being provided to the students is not intended to compensate with the minimum instructional days which a school year should hold as per the provisions of RTE Act, 2009 and the Kerala Education Rules, but instead to keep abreast with the process of education, which the students would otherwise have undergone in normal conditions. In order to avoid any kind of discrimination especially to those of the marginalised sections, government formulated programmes with the help of the community to ensure access to all children to attend the digital classes and it was decided that each and every child must come under the ambit of the programme. Apart from Television, the sessions were made available on www.victers.kite.kerala.gov.in and on Facebook and YouTube. In case the classes could not be viewed due to power failure or otherwise, the classes could be downloaded and used later or repeatedly viewed thereby ensuring that no student is denied of the availability of the classes thus envisaging a continuing process of education. 

Firstly, Specific ICT online training was provided to 81000 Primary school teachers, which was completed within 5 days, by effectively making use of Hi-Tech facilities in schools. The teachers used SAMAGRA Resource Portal (SAMAGRA) for self-learning with the help of numerous digital contents available in the portal.

Secondly, necessary support systems such as Video Conferencing with a mentor for a fixed number of schools, social media and help desk for doubts clearing and monitoring were also set-up.

System Readiness

Government as per G.O (Rt) No. 1756/2020/G.Edn, dated 29.5.2020 devised a clear-cut mechanism as to how the online platform is to be rolled out under the directions of the Director of General Education with the help of other Educational agencies like the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT), KITE, Samagra Shiksha Kerala (SSK), State Institute of Educational Technology (SIET) etc. SCERT was given the responsibility of coordinating the academic aspects while technical coordination was given to KITE

In continuation of the government order the Director of General Education fixed the responsibilities of various agencies including SCERT, Samagra Siksha Kerala, Public Education Rejuvenation Mission, KITE, SIET, and stake holders such as Students, Teachers, Head of Schools, Assistant Education Officers, District Education officers, Revenue District level officers, Regional level Officers and State level officers and suggested the role and responsibilities of parents/caregivers, Parent Teacher Association/SMC through a detailed guideline. The guide line also suggested how the system can ensure facilities for each and every child including children belonging to the disadvantaged and vulnerable sections by utilising different possibilities with the support of the community.

Technical readiness

The state has already been able to ensure a technology friendly educational environment. ICT is part of the curriculum from primary stage itself and hence all students in the state syllabus are familiar with this. Kerala has its own educational TV channel; KITE VICTERS and KITE (The nodal agency for implementing digital initiatives in Education) has implemented the Hi-Tech school programme by which 45000 classrooms in 4752 schools were converted in to Hi -Tech classrooms. The 4752 schools include Govt & Govt-Aided High Schools, Higher Secondary schools and Vocational Higher Secondary schools. KITE has also deployed 57,843 laptops and 25,011 projectors for primary and upper primary schools. All the teachers were trained in using and developing e resources and operating the ICT equipments supplied to schools.

Various Digital Initiatives already deployed during the Covid Lockdown period paved the way for the smooth rollout of the “First Bell” programme.

Online Specific ICT training

ICT training online was provided to 81000 Primary school teachers by effectively making use of Hi-Tech facilities in schools. Necessary support systems such as Video Conferencing with a mentor for a fixed number of schools, social media and help desk for doubts clearing and monitoring were also set-up.

A special program called Avadhikala Santhoshangal (Happy Vacation Times) was conducted for kids to recoup the lost class days in schools, with the intention to provide an opportunity for enabling a creative and intellectual environment for kids at home. As a first phase of this program, digital content was created for all students from Standard 5 to 9 in the SAMAGRA online resource portal developed by KITE and enriched by SCERT Kerala, as part of the Hi-Tech school project. This included content that promoted learning through stories and poems; small and hassle-free experiments; paintings, other forms of creative work, reading cards, magic shows, IT tasks, mathematical experiments, etc.

Kerala used to conduct Training sessions for all Primary and Secondary teachers during the summer vacations which cannot be physically conducted due to lock down. Hence Online state-level Training was conducted for Primary Teachers through VICTERS educational channel, which were simultaneously streamed through Web portal and Social Media. The same was also made available on teacher’s login for later viewing. Online Teacher Training Online teacher training for Primary teachers of the State was initiated on May 14th 2020 and more than 80000 teachers participated in it. Session on school safety during natural disasters and epidemics , Health concerns during Lockdown, Precautionary activities related to COVID , session on new trends in Information were included in the training program.

Akshara Vriksham (Tree of Letters)

Creative content such as stories, poems and articles prepared by the students during the lockdown were collected, compiled and published. Through this program, the students were able to submit contents varying from articles, short stories and poems on Environment, Hygiene, Covid-19 and Prevention against diseases, and were published in School Wiki portal.

Over 50,000 entries from across the State were received. SCERT Kerala then selected the best contents, which were published in 30 Volumes within June 15, 2020.

Digital Textbooks and Teacher texts

All school textbooks were digitized and made available in the Samagra Portal and in the SCERT website. Students can download
the textbooks and use them. Teacher texts, which are the transactional aid, were also made available in the Portal.

Content Readiness

It has been the major challenge for Online Education. The system did not have much previous experiences to address situation like this. KITE has developed an online learning platform: Samagra Resource Portal, which is a repository of digital resources of all subjects from Class 1 to 12, with the academic support of SCERT. The teachers are extensively using SAMAGRA Resource Portal (SAMAGRA) for effective transaction.

Recognizing the role of good digital content in enhancing teaching and improving learning outcomes, the Education department of Kerala in association with MHRD launched the DIKSHA programme for grades 9 and 10 for the academic year 2019-20. SCERT Kerala is the nodal agency that implemented DIKSHA project in Kerala. As part of DIKSHA, 108 energized (QR code imposed) textbooks were introduced for students of Classes IX and X for the academic year (2019-20) catering to all the four mediums of instruction – Malayalam, English, Tamil and Kannada. A total of 1703 QR codes were placed at the hard spots identified by the respective subject experts. These QR codes have simplified access to digital content for topics in the syllabi providing contextualised interactive audio-visual content and illustrations. This has made the learning interesting, increased the curiosity among students and has promoted a culture of self-learning among students. Over the last academic year, it has clocked a total of over 90 lakh scans.

 The system entrusted Samagra Siksha, SCERT, SIET and KITE to develop the content for FIRST BELL Programme and prepare 30 minute episodes based on the content fixed for each age group for their classroom study. SCERT has to vet the content before broadcasting. The department has specified that 2 hours of content will be aired for Plus 2 classes, 1.5 hours for SSLC, 1 hour each for 8th and 9th classes and ½ hour each for classes 1-7 daily from Monday to Friday. The classes will be re telecasted once within the same week. 

Monitoring & Evaluation readiness

The education department formulated a method for ensuring proper monitoring that each and every student will come under the ambit of the programme. Teachers and officials of the department will ensure the following

  • Collect feedback from the students and their parents. Also, collect, check, approve and share the activities of students.
  • Create class/subject level groups with the parents and students on social media and utilise it properly. These groups must be managed by the teachers. Also, ensure that the group is used only for study-related activities.
  • Ensure that all students (especially lower primary class students) view the class in the presence of an adult.
  • Evaluate the students using worksheets and other methods. Ensure that students are provided with the necessary support based on their performance.
  • Should maintain regular contact with the parents/caregivers and understand their difficulties and let the school authorities know about it. These problems should be discussed with a view to find suitable solutions.

Major Hurdles and the way out

Before introducing the Online platform, the State Project Director, SSK conducted a primary study early in the month of May, 2020 as to the number of students who do not have access to online classes. The study report mentioned that, out of 41.3 Lakhs of students in Kerala, about 2.61 lakhs students were found to be without access to online classes.

Hence it was decided that the online classes from 1st to 14th of June, 2020 will be on a trial basis during which the marginalized sections of the students would be identified and steps were taken on a war footing to ensure online classes to all and to rule out any instance of pressure, stress and anxiety in the minds of the students and parents. It was also decided that the initial classes in the first week will be re-telecasted from 8th June to 14th June, 2020. The teachers were directed to identify students who are having no facility in their houses to access online classes and to bring the same to the notice of the Headmasters of the school and to sort out the issue with the help of Local Self Government Institutions, people’s representatives, Kudumbasree Units, SC/ST Departments, Co-operative institutions, Libraries etc. The teachers have to ensure that the students of their respective classes are making use of the online facility and no student is deprived of the same. The teachers are to furnish consolidated report as to the outcome of the online classes to the HM periodically. Similar directions were given to the Headmasters/Principals of the schools to take all necessary steps to ensure that all students are benefitted of the online classes and if necessary, to facilitate TV/Computers of the school to designated common study centres which include libraries, Anganwadis, Akshaya Centres, classrooms arranged by the SC/ST department, MGLCs, or using facilities under different departments, study centres arranged by Kudumbasree, BRCs, CRCs, local talent centres (Pradeshika Pradhibha Kendrangal) and Uruvidya kendrangal situates in tribal hamlets under Samagrashiksha. The students shall be brought to the centre by ensuring the COVID 19 protocols. KITE has issued direction to all the Headmasters of Government and Aided schools to make use of 1.2 lakhs laptops, 70,000 projectors and 4545 Television associated with Hi-tech school, Hi-tech lab scheme for the use of online classes. 

The Govt appealed to the community to support our students for ensuring that each and every child comes under this venture. The response to this appeal was tremendous. People cut across all political perspectives, civil society organizations and a large number of individuals came forward to be part of this venture. Public sector undertakings, cooperative societies and private enterprises were ready to contribute funds as part of their CSR initiative. Government also gave permission to LSGs to utilize their fund for this purpose and also allowed the MLAs to utilize their development funds for this, through government orders. Local public and teachers had taken great efforts in ensuring that facilities are being ensured for all students. In the light of the steps taken in this matter and in view of the enormous support received from the public and other agencies towards this initiative, the number of students identified to have no access to online classes have been substantially reduced to 17774 by 11.6.2020. It has again come down to 872 by 14.06.2020. Accordingly, sanction was accorded to start further classes in continuation to the trial classes from 15th June, 2020. As per the statistics, as on 16.06.2020, the number of students identified to have no access to online classes has come down to 47 and the same will reach to a nil figure quickly. The matter of accessibility with regard to Online Classes was challenged before the Hon’ble High Court in Writ petitions where the Hon’ble High Court has disposed of all the petitions after expressing satisfaction on the activities and actions taken by the State Government.

Having rolled on the online classes through digital platform to the students, the program “First Bell” has received wide acceptance from all corners. Many of the classes have been widely appreciated by the public and many teachers have become heroes among Students and Parents all over Kerala. Non Residential Malayalees have been appreciating this effort as it helps extension of our public education to Malayali students all over the world. Some of the classes uploaded in you tube were watched by more than 40 Lakh people where a particular class will have a maximum of 4.5 lakh students only. This encouraged the Department to roll out new classes to ensure that the digital contents are made available to all possible sections of the student Population. Hence the following initiatives were taken.

  • In order to cater Tamil and Kannada Medium students, Classes were started in Tamil and Kannada with the help of specific DIETs and they were transmitted in the local channels and uploaded in the Youtube channels.
  • In order to address the Children with Special Needs Samagra Siksha Kerala developed separate content under the project named “White Board”. With the help of resource teachers materials are being developed for a) Visually Challenged b) Hearing Challenged c)Autistic d) Specific Learning Disablity e) Cerebral Palsy and f) Mentally Retarded students in the primary section and the materials are being uploaded in YouTube. Resource Teachers are also visiting the houses of CWSN students to ensure that the concepts of Inclusive education are being adhered to even in times of Digital Education.
  • Since Kerala is only giving 9 hours air time per day which is distributed among 11 classes, many rare subjects and vocational subjects does not get a chance to be included in the Video content. Hence the Vocational Higher Secondary Wing has started Online classes for 52 vocational Subjects which is being made available through the ‘VHSEeVidyalayam’ Youtube Channel.
  • Online /Digital Education is often viewed as a factor aggravating digital divide. Kerala tries to stand different by ensuring education to all even during the hard times of Covid 19 by providing digital classes to all section of students taking into consideration the needs of the disadvantaged sections and CWSN students. 

A teacher from Kerala visiting a Tribal family to support online education in side the forest

Support from teachers at study centers in Kerala

Activities planned by Kerala Education Department

Massive state-level training for teachers was introduced through KITE VICTERS educational channel, which were simultaneously streamed through Web & Mobile phones. The same was also made available on site for later viewing. (From 14th May 2020)

Kerala started the academic sessions through virtual classes for the students of class 1 to 12 on 1st June 2020. About 41 lakh students benefited from the virtual classes. The special sessions, termed First Bell, were made available for class I to XII via Victers Educational Channel run by the Government. Apart from Television the sessions are available on www.victers.kite.kerala.gov.in and on Facebook and YouTube. Elaborate arrangements have been made to ensure that virtual classes are available to all students. Facilities such as TV, Satellite Receivers, and Internet etc. are provided in Local Resource Centres run by Samagra Shiksha, Local Libraries and Anganvadis. Teachers are instructed to use social media groups at class level and to collect responses from the students to give feedback.

The DIKSHA initiative

Recognizing the role of good digital content in enhancing teaching and improving learning outcomes, the Education department of Kerala in association with MHRD launched the DIKSHA programme for grades 9 and 10 for the academic year 2019-20. The SCERT Kerala is the nodal agency that implements DIKSHA project in Kerala.

As part of DIKSHA, 108 ‘Energised’ (QR code imposed) textbooks were introduced for students of Classes IX and X for the academic year (2019-‘20) catering to all the four mediums of instruction – Malayalam, English, Tamil and Kannada. A total of 1703 QR codes were placed at the hard spots identified by the respective subject experts. These QR codes have simplified access to digital content for topics in the syllabi providing contextualised interactive audio-visual content and illustrations. This has made the learning interesting, increased the curiosity among students and has promoted a culture of self-learning among students. Over the last academic year, it has clocked a total of over 90 lakh scans.

To cater to the demand of students, additional resources that would help students in Exam preparation was uploaded in DIKSHA and was linked to Grade 10 English textbooks. It is to be noted that all these digital contents were created by a pool of trained teachers under the academic guidance of the SCERT Kerala. Based on the success of DIKSHA program, the School Education Department has now decided to place approximately 5000 QR codes in 244 more textbooks from Class 8 -12 for the next academic year 2020-21.

Source : Remote Learning Initiatives Across India



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