Last month, MHRD had issued guidelines for online classes by schools and recommended a cap on screen time for students. Guidelines say that online classes for pre-primary kids should not be more than 30 minutes whereas, for grades 1-8, it should not be more than 2 periods of 30-45 minutes. These guidelines are useful to reduce pressure from children and parents. Yet, allowing younger kids for online classes is not a thoughtful decision!
We should strictly ban online classes for younger children, till the age of six! Karnataka has taken a strong decision to ban online classes for primary grades which is a good step to protect our kids from a mechanical form of learning and other related health problems.
Online classes are being promoted as a tool to minimise the loss-of-learning while children are at home. Unfortunately, these classes are being also conducted for kids who are in nursery, kindergarten, or grade-1. Most of these kids have not spent even a single day of their life in the schools. Teachers connect with a group of children and conduct classes by using video calls. She gives instructions, does action songs, tells a story, gives tasks to write, and asks questions. People may think this is what teachers do in the actual classrooms. Is this what the ‘prevent loss-of-learning’ does?
Do kids really enjoy and learn in such online classes?
Is this form of learning good for younger kids?
Certainly not, learning for younger children has certain pedagogical, physical, and socio-emotional implications that must be taken into account for any kind of teaching-learning engagement with younger children.
Younger children learn new things mostly in conversation with others including parents, siblings, elders, teachers, and peers. Conversations are foundations for all kinds of learning for children. In classrooms, they learn while interacting with teachers, peers, and the classroom environment. Children respond not only to instruction or questions but also to the environment around them. They strengthen their learning by observing others, following them, and repeating.
The major problem with online teaching is the mechanical approach of the learning-process. In a classroom setting, when a teacher narrates a story “..tiger jumped and ran after the deer”, children not only look at the teacher, they also want to observe others, especially their friends and close ones as to how they are responding after hearing this. They share feelings, they share understanding and so they learn together. Learning is not supposed to be delivered there, but to be constructed in a meaningful way. Online classes do not offer any conducive environment for learning. The passive nature of the interaction, which happens in online classes, would hardly make children feel engaged in the learning process. They just follow what teachers ask or parents hint to do.
We hardly see children sitting and listening to a person even for 15-20 minutes because they, by nature, want to engage themselves in meaningful activities. This becomes more horrible when children are not able to hear the teacher’s or peers’ voices clearly and the video is interrupted frequently. Any mechanical engagement is not only boring for them but against the way children love to learn. Many schools ask children to wear school uniforms during the classes. Does this make sense to children at home? Reports state that it has a huge implication on children’s social, physical, and mental health.
Perhaps, this approach of teaching might develop a less attractive picture of schooling in children’s minds, for those who have yet to enter school.
In response to COVID-19, many educationists say that there is no need to make children learn just to cover the loss-of-learning, rather enable them to learn some life skills from the situation that emerged from COVID-19. We should make them emotionally and mentally healthy first.
We have not seen any major innovation in the field of online learning, except using digital resources to make children follow what we want to do. This is nothing but controlling how children learn at home. We should not force children to learn the way we want, let them learn the way they learn naturally.
Instead of teaching children directly through video calls, we should orient parents to engage children in various activities that lead to learning. And more importantly, help parents to keep their kids mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy. Let us respond to this situation logically. Daily online classes can be reduced to once per week. Teachers can discuss with parents and provide input on how they can engage their kids meaningfully in learning activities.
Stopping the loss of learning should not be at the cost of our kids’ physical, mental, and emotional loss. They are natural learners, they will learn!
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