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Remote classes help bring students together

China Daily,March 25, 2020 Adjust font size:

A girl attends online classes in a tent outside a remote village in Hubei provincein February, 2020. [Photo by Wang Yongsheng/For China Daily]

Meng Xiaomei, a teacher at Beigeng Township Primary School, a boarding school in Xincheng county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, said schools in Guangxi started the new semester via online and TV classes on March 1.

However, only half of her students' families have cellphones or computers, and although Guangxi has started airing classes on a local TV channel, not all the students have access.

"More than 70 percent are 'left-behind children', who are looked after by their elderly grandparents while their parents are working in big cities," Meng said.

About 20 percent of the students have no access to the classes because they don't have the necessary equipment, she said.

"Many students have called me and asked when they can return to school," Meng said. "They are afraid they may fall behind in their studies."

Some students initially liked the idea of having classes on cellphones because their parents usually forbid them from playing with the devices for extended periods, she said.

However, the excitement and novelty were quickly replaced by a feeling of inconvenience due to the paucity of communication between students and teachers, Meng said.

She added that the teachers have returned to school and started preparing for the new semester and helping to sterilize the campus.

"We are ready to greet and welcome the students once the epidemic is over," she said.

On March 6, the ministry issued a notice ordering local education authorities and schools to help solve any technical challenges faced by students with relation to online learning.

Schools and education authorities should conduct thorough research on the difficulties students have encountered in online study, and should offer targeted and specific help to those in need and make sure no one is left behind in online learning, it said.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, said although the students' strong determination to overcome study difficulties is commendable, schools and education authorities should learn about those difficulties before deciding to launch online courses.

Instead of encouraging students who do not have internet access or a TV at home to go out to study, education authorities should work with other government departments to help them obtain such access, he said.

It is not feasible, and it is lazy policy by the education authorities to ask all students to attend online classes, he added.

If students do not have access to the internet or a TV, schools and teachers should offer alternative methods of education, such as mailing textbooks, calling students on the phone or even making home visits when the epidemic is overcome to ensure no one has been left behind, he said.

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