Bugbear of online education

Covid19 has pushed parents to home-school their kids. Schools do their part by conducting online classes over WhatsApp which, simply read, means that students are given brief explanations of the lessons followed by assignments that the kids have to complete and submit, also via the same mode. For the teacher to get 40 lengthy WhatsApp messages which then need to be downloaded to the teacher’s iPad/laptop/desktop for correction is a tall order. This hardly serves the purpose of education since teachers are hardly able to gauge if the students have actually comprehended the lesson and imbibed its holistic meaning. Besides, if the home has become the new school then parents are actual teachers while the school and their teachers are virtual educators. The students are caught between the two. In their minds, they believe that the teacher can never be wrong. Most parents are trying to teach their children that a mathematical problem does not necessarily have just one solution. There are several ways to arrive at a solution but students will argue that their teachers have taught them a certain way and that’s the only way.

Most students, especially the younger ones are fidgety and restless at home. They just want to get  back to school. But it’s not because they value their lessons. The most important reason is because they want to touch base with their mates. There’s so much to share, so much to talk about the lockdown and the hundred and one things they have done during this period. Friendships formed during school days are known to survive the ravages of time. To be kept away from friends and soul-mates for three months is distressful. After all, it is to a trusted mate that one confides in more than one’s parents. It is to learn social skills and life skills that parents send their kids to school. These are psychological aspects of education that are often forgotten.

The classroom is more about human connection than about book knowledge. In the age of Google and multiple learning platforms there’s very little that the student does not know. But between knowing something and turning that into a lifelong skill is a huge chasm. Education is more about mentoring the student and helping him/her understand that life is not one joyride but a series of hard knocks and failures as well. Students have to develop the mental and emotional resilience to take those knocks and come out wiser. The classroom is also a place for collaborative learning; for clearing doubts on complex subjects like Mathematics and the Sciences. Teaching is both a science and an art. The student is a creature with multiple intelligences and the teacher has to explore these to bring out the best in the student. The online mode of education misses out on the real life experiences of the classroom. But Covid and other disasters demand that online education encompass those lived experiences of the classroom.

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