Education in times of pandemic & lockdown: Is it helping or hurting our children?

Education in times of pandemic & lockdown: Is it helping or hurting our children?

The current situation has not just affected the country economically but also has had a devastating impact on global education. According to a report from UNESCO, close to 1.6 billion were to be out of school in 161 countries. That is close to 80% of the world’s enrolled students. As the recent LSR case shows, this transition to online learning is affecting every student differently. And the after effects of digital learning are not something that can just be wished away. With children being forced to stay at home, glued to their screens, are online classes really helping them learn? Is online learning more harm than good?

Indian Education Pre-Pandemic & Lockdown

India education has been flirting with the idea of digital for a while now. With programs such as Diksha, e-Pathshala, NROER (National Repository of Open Educational Resources). Diksha has more than 80,000 e-Books for classes I to XII created by CBSE, NCERT and States/UT which are available in multiple languages. e-Pathshala is a portal where NCERT has deployed 1886 audios, 2000 videos, 696 e-Books (ePubs) and 504 Flip Books for classes I to XII in different languages. However, these initiative were always seen as an accessory to offline learning, and not the center piece of education, as is the case now.

Learning Digitally: Where We Stand

  • 35% of children are spending more than 5 hours on screen which exceeds the daily limit set by the WHO (World Health Organization)
  • 83.5% of children use mobile phones while the rest use computers, laptops and tablets etc for their online sessions
  • With schools being shut since 5 months, 89.6% of parents are worried of their kids year getting wasted and the payment of fees still being the same
  • Experiencing the lockdown has left 83% of kids bored at home, 17.5% of them to like it and 49% are eager to return to school
  • Overall behaviour of the children has been affected with the lockdown. 70% have shown signs of behavioral issues, 9.1% are comfortable while 20.8% haven’t experienced any changes
  • Parents have also been affected by their children being at home all day, 71% of parents have been disturbed because of children staying at home, 15% don’t really like it and 14% are worried for their children being at home

Impact on Children

“Children have begun to showcase their want to come back to school. Oftentimes during my class with them online, they tell me “Ma’am when is the school reopening?” “We miss our friends and coming to school”, said Ms. Lilly Chatterjee (Primary grade school teacher at St. Xavier’s Mirzapur). Homeschooling has been a norm since the past 5 months and now children innocently have expressed their views of wanting to come back to school. Schooling is an important part of every child’s life. Not only the educational aspect but also it being the first place for them to ‘socialize’ and develop a ‘personality’. Being stuck at home takes away these tiny joys from the tiny ones.

Stress on Teachers

Online learning is implemented continuously to mirror individual needs of the students and create a ‘personal’ environment for them to learn. Teachers have turned into content curators in order to conduct lectures, take attendance, maintain mark sheets and teach children. Orthodox lecturers are already finding it tough to teach kids through this medium due to the lack of expertise in the digital space. The connect between the teacher and the children is slowly getting disrupted due to the absence of each other’s company. According to Ms. Nikita Desai (Global Coordinator, Design for Change), “With the lockdown and having all the schools closed, children are surely missing out on the human interaction, building relationships and learning a lot through playing with children their own age. However, I would like to look at this current scenario with a lense of optimism. Pandemic came as a blessing for these digital natives where use of different technological tools is unavoidable. Teachers had to learn using these tools overnight while children were already masters of it. Lots of children have been able to share their passion and interests by putting up YouTube videos, going live on Instagram/Facebook and, also by writing blogs”.

Not All Families Are Created Equal

Another worrying aspect of the pandemic has been highlighted by the recent suicide of a scholarship student studying at Delhi’s LSR. She had to take her life as her family could not afford the burdensome luxuries of laptops and high speed internet, which most of us consider a right. What of the teacher, who is operating on half-salary while having to pay for her own internet and device? Such inequalities will only show up more and more as digital learning and other such measures are adopted throughout the country without nuances.

So, has the pandemic really helped children in terms of learning and education? We would love to hear from you! Do drop a comment below or on social media.
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