Education in the times of COVID 19

There is a long disruption of educational activities across the globe. Schools and colleges are closed in most of the countries, academic sessions have gone for a toss. Parents wonder what impact this lockdown would have on their children’s education, teachers wonder whether they would be able to complete the syllabus after losing several classes over months.

2,642

The world is passing through a difficult and unprecedented phase. True, there have been epidemics in the past too but none that has been this widespread and so threatening. The pandemic has seriously affected all facets of life, the economies, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality, sports, and education. Each of these is staring at a mountain to climb, a dark alley ahead and troubled waters to swim.

Let us have a look at education. There is a long disruption of educational activities across the globe. Schools and colleges are closed in most of the countries, academic sessions have gone for a toss. Parents wonder what impact this lockdown would have on their children’s education, teachers wonder whether they would be able to complete the syllabus after losing several classes over months.

Several schools have started online classes for the students. It remains to be seen how effective these classes are. The teachers and students in Indian schools are not used to online classes and many of them find it a novel experience. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, the teachers will not be in a position to judge the attentiveness and comprehension levels of the students. The random questions that a teacher may pose may not correctly reflect the understanding of the subject by the student, especially for those who have been accustomed to classroom teaching.

The teachers and students in Indian schools are not used to online classes and many of them find it a novel experience. In the absence of face-to-face interaction, the teachers will not be in a position to judge the attentiveness and comprehension levels of the students.

In spite of the above shortcomings, it seems that online classes will be the only way of teaching possible at least for the next few months. With the unrelenting virus spread and the fear factor associated with it, nobody is ready to commence regular schooling, at least in India. The parents are concerned about the safety of their wards and the schools do not want to take the risk of having all the students and teachers together in close proximity.

Other than the social and health related aspects, there is the economic impact. The schools need to pay the salaries to the teachers and to earn revenue they collect the fees from the parents, thus ending up with an obligation to continue the academic sessions through some means.

What are the advantages of online teaching?

  • For one, it immediately meets the needs of education in these trouble times when entire communities are under lock-down.
  • It eliminates the need for the students and teachers to assemble in one place.
  • It makes it possible for a teacher to impart education for over 100 students at the same time, whereas in a conventional classroom there would be 35 students at most.
  • All the assignments can be uploaded to the system, the students also answer these online and the teacher can review and award them marks, all records being available online.

The precautions we take and the distancing we practice are going to be a way of life. Economies, businesses, people and governments are going to adapt to life in this new scenario and education is no exception. Contrary to what some would like to believe, online classes are not a temporary solution but will become a regular feature of education in countries across the world. Those who can find their feet will emerge in the forefront.

So, is everything about online classes hunky dory? No, not at all. It has its own drawbacks.

  • Even in the regular classroom the teacher finds it difficult to retain the attention of all the children. In an online session, the teacher will be unable to confirm whether the students have been attentive and have understood the lesson.
  • The teacher may ask a few questions and the students may answer them too, but how many of those answers come from their mind is anybody’s guess.
  • Experiences show that online classes are effective only where the students are mature enough and are serious about the studies.

The current phase of pandemic and fear and trepidation may pass but there is no denying the fact that the virus is here to stay and raise its ugly nose once too often. The precautions we take and the distancing we practice are going to be a way of life. Economies, businesses, people and governments are going to adapt to life in this new scenario and education is no exception. Contrary to what some would like to believe, online classes are not a temporary solution but will become a regular feature of education in countries across the world. Those who can find their feet will emerge in the forefront.

Uma Venkataraman is a senior teacher with experience of over 18 years – mentoring students in their final years at school. She has been working at Cambridge Public School Bangalore since 2007 and is currently Head of the Department of Social Studies, Faculty Advisor for multiple co-curricular activities such as Model UN Sessions, Funancial Quest program conducted by National Stock Exchange and Verbattle club.

Uma is a Postgraduate in History, Graduate in Economics, Graduate in Business Administration and holds a Diploma in Human Rights. She is currently pursuing post-graduation in Education.

She is a recipient of Times Award for Innovative Teaching, awarded by Times Foundation (TAFIT), and was a Regional rank-holder in the CENTA (Centre for Teacher Accreditation) Teaching Professionals Olympiad (TPO) 2016. She is a recipient of the Teacher Innovation Award from Zero-Investment Innovations for Education Initiatives (ZIIEI).