The online delivery of content has helped reduce academic loss, however the real casualties are socio-emotional and interpersonal skill development in children
By Raghav Podar,
Necessitated by the pandemic, online education had a prolific rise in the past year. Extensive efforts by educationists towards the transition helped mitigate the adverse impact on academic processes even as school and college buildings stood shut to prevent the spread of the virus. The tryst with online education has yielded reasonable results given the circumstances, but failed miserably in comparison to the myriad of benefits of physical schooling. Debate on the issue of physical reopening of schools has intensified as governments across several states have conditionally permitted physical reopening of certain classes in schools.
While the risk of infection still remains the biggest argument for those advocating continuation of online education, the virtual medium has major limitations in developing socio – emotional skills. The safety and comfort of learning from home is at loggerheads with the need of children to meet their interpersonal skill development milestones. While virtual learning spaces serve as a good medium to deliver content, the critical task of building future ready skills in students takes a beating with the lack of collaborative learning opportunities. This is not to castigate online learning totally, as it has allowed many shy, reserved or introverted children opportunities to find their confidence and blossom which might have taken longer in physical classrooms.
However for the majority, students are missing out on opportunities to make friends, trust, compete, feel disappointed, and build memories formed in school, which one carries through life and develops character. A child needs to learn how to fail, brush themselves off, get their chin up, and continue marching ahead in pursuit of their goals. The critical skill of resilience can never be taught in any curriculum, yet it is developed in small doses every single day in classrooms across our country.
A more severe casualty of the pandemic induced lockdowns and consequent lack of social interaction is in the foundational years of age 3 to 6. These are among the years when the human brain growth is at its fastest. The brain at this age is like a sponge, absorbing all the sensorial experiences it is fed with. The early years lay the foundation for the child’s healthy brain development and the lack of high quality sensorial experiences and social interactions hampers children’s healthy growth. Learning at this age is far beyond just the 3R’s – reading, writing, arithmetic!
This problem is exacerbated in urban areas where children are locked in their homes with little or no access to outdoor and open spaces. There is a direct correlation between sedentary lifestyles and lower learning levels, not to mention obesity and other physical ailments. Parents of many such children express concerns over delays in meeting natural development benchmarks of speech and comprehension.
Not all children are able to effectively comprehend on-screen lessons or instruction. The situation is equally challenging for parents trying to cope with new teaching patterns and for teachers unable to establish a personal connect with each of her students. In its most fundamental sense, education is not a transactional phenomenon; it isn’t just about transacting curriculum. The crux on what good teaching learning is based is the human relationship and the connect a teacher forms with each of her students.
There is a rise in the cases of low self-esteem, inability to analyse and respond to situations and lack of spontaneity among children who have started leading lifestyles devoid of adequate physical movement and social interaction. Parents of such students have vehemently been pushing for schools to reopen even as they make additional efforts to help in the development of such interpersonal skills in their wards. Even as physical schools reopen, educators are taking additional care to bridge the gap in the academic as well as non academic deficiencies in children, caused by the pandemic.
While the pandemic induced lockdowns have given birth to massive challenges, teachers across the country have risen up the occasion and done a stellar job of reducing the difficulties and growth impairments in children. The crisis caused tremendous hardships, but also developed strength and the ability to overcome those hardships in those who converted the challenges into opportunities of growth.
I have tremendous faith in the potential of India’s students, and with concerted efforts of passionate educators, I am sure our young stars will shine through adversity, brighter and stronger!
(The author is Chairman, Podar Education. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)