2021 looks very similar to 2020. The pandemic, the work from home, the school on laptop all remained the same. For children that’s another year of not being with their friends, their teachers and in school. Lack of physical school affects the social and emotional needs of the children which are not fulfilled.
Unfortunately the situation will not change for the next few years. The reason being that COVID happens in waves and according to experts, we will witness more waves till considerable percentage of the Indian population is fully vaccinated.
So should we continue with ONLINE as the only format of schooling for the next 3-4 years? I feel a hybrid school model is the need of the hour. Hybrid means when the COVID surge is too high, we conduct online school, when COVID surge is low, we allow children to be in school. This way the academic, social and emotional needs of the child are all fulfilled in the best possible way.
Why an “ONLY” ONLINE model is not advisable
Learning especially for children below 6 years is very different from children above 6 years. Online learning is rather one dimensional, as the children have to concentrate on listening to the teachers all the time. It is hard because children learn through all their senses not only through listening. For some children who are more visual, online learning is a challenge.
Children below 6 years have a difficult time focussing for long. This is because their brain is not fully developed and they need other sensory inputs to concentrate. To draw the full benefit of the online learning, the students have to concentrate hard on the oral instructions given by the teacher. They also have to disregard all the other distractions in the room, which to most children is very difficult. Children end up focussing very less and want to get up from their chairs.
Short Interactions with Teacher
There are on average 20-30 children in a batch. For the teacher to greet the children takes 5-10 out of the 40 mins section. Teacher has to complete the session within a short period of time so interactions with the children are very limited sometimes no interaction at all.
No connection with other children
There are hardly any interactions with other children. Teachers normally do not allow children talking to each other. Once the class is over the zoom calls are closed and children move on. They don’t talk to their friends or hang around for chit chat.
Teacher can’t track the progress of child
Since observation and feedback is limited the teacher cannot manage the child’s progress. The teacher needs help from the parents to be her eyes and ears, but this puts more pressure on the parents. Without correct feedback, teachers can’t really gauge if the child knows a certain concept or not.
The Way Forward
Hybrid Model were we have a mix of online education and physical education. The Online part can be done in small batches 5-7 children at most in each batch and the learning is heavily tuned to the ability of the child. When the COVID cases in the city are lower and government allows other social activities, we know that the risk of the virus spread is lessened. Physical school can then start keeping all precautions in place.
This way teachers can get to see if the children have understood the concepts online and if not they will redo the concept in the physical school filling the gaps in the learning if any.