As the school year comes to an end most educational institutes and parents are congratulating each other for ensuring a smooth transition to online learning. It is true that most schools, parents, and educational institutes rose to the occasion and quickly transitioned to online teaching mediums. This ensured that children do not lose out during the pandemic. However, we also need to be mindful and examine closely the softer impact of online learning. How can we help children overcome the pandemic impact in the coming academic year when schools will start offline and also children will be back in their classrooms?
Pandemic impact on children:
1. Lack of motivation and discipline
Learning online is not equal to going to school as it lacks the school experience. Children showed a lack of motivation and a sense of self-discipline. With no bus to catch and lax monitoring, children joined classes late, snacked during school time, or even wore casual dresses instead of uniforms. My child, who is in middle school lost motivation and enthusiasm about joining the school. She is an extrovert who loves to engage in school activities and events. She missed being an active participant in those and contributing meaningfully during the planning and execution stages.
2. No interaction with friends and classmates
One of the highlights of going to school is the whole interaction and playing with friends and classmates during the bus journey or in the class. After the initial excitement of learning online, my younger child who is in primary class longed to chat with his friends, and play in school breaks. The online format hardly allows any interaction among children. In addition, it has zero time for free form discussion with no teacher or adult around. This is the worst pandemic impact on children. These interactions are important for the overall development of children. Because social interactions in neutral settings aid in developing skills like setting boundaries, showing empathy, learning coordination, and cooperation.
3. Limited or reduced writing skills
Primary schooling years are the foundational years when children develop important educational skills like reading and writing. As children followed online learning and online assessment patterns, they ended up writing less. This is especially true for second and third language skills for which they might need support. Most times the family is not fluent in these languages. They also cannot help students effectively in learning these languages. Writing skills in older students too were affected due to this pandemic impact. A recent article in TOI highlighted the lack of speed in students appearing for board exams.
4. Minimal interaction with teachers
Interacting with teachers and other people in authority teaches children some basic etiquette of formal communication and articulation of thoughts and questions in English. With minimal interaction possible in the online learning medium, children are missing these finer points that they imbibe automatically. The whole experience of learning from a teacher in the offline medium where teachers observe students body language and behaviour and understand their grasp on the subject was missed during this academic year.
5. Increased screen time
This is the most common impact that every parent can identify with. Increased screen time led to screen fatigue, eye strain, headaches, and other problems. Lack of possible ways to expend energy meant low physical activity and more time on mobiles, laptops, and TV. The whole 5-6 hours that are normally spent in school with zero or minimal screen was suddenly consumed by screen and that impacted health, both physical and mental.
As we inch towards the new academic year as a parent I wish schools come up with ways to overcome these challenges caused by the pandemic impact. They could provide children with some extra game time. Schools could come up with regular free periods to do something collaborative and creative. I wish schools provide some bridge courses for students finding it difficult to learn languages or understand concepts. As we try to cover up missed portions in the next year, we must not forget these softer skills that are equally important.
By Neha Tembe
Winner of Top Mom Bloggers contests conducted by The Champa Tree. She is a blogger and founder of Nehatambe.com. Her article ‘Pandemic Impact on Education, where she shares how online classes have changed the kids’ routine and learning pattern, paved the way for her selection.