ECONOMYNEXT – When the corona virus pandemic hit educational institutions around the world, they ended up scrambling to deliver course content to students digitally.
Now, with little assurance that a full-time return to mainstream school would be possible in the near future, policymakers and educators are busy framing the framework for at least a hybrid learning system.
Yet to what extent would switching to a digital delivery method be beneficial for students? Can they thrive in an environment where socialization with peers and participation in extracurricular activities is limited at best? How viable is it for students living in rural areas with little or no internet access>
This is the harsh reality of rural students and those from low-income families, who lack the facilities to keep up with their wealthier peers, a fact that has become more evident during this pandemic.
Two student panelists who participated in a âLiving the Transformation of Educationâ webinar in the Restart Education in South Asia series were very clear on how they view online education. The webinar, the last in a series organized by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) in South Asia, was held on November 18.
Zubayer Hossain, a student from Bangladesh, and Tashi Chophel, who studies at Royal Thimpu College in Bhutan, both agreed that their preference was to attend regular school, prompting moderator Roshan Gandhi, CEO of City Montessori schools, India, to say their frank opinion was helpful. like his own students, relying on his post may not be so forthright.
Hossain says he and his peers prefer being able to go to school for several reasons. He points out that isolated learning that is the norm in the digital delivery mode robs students of the ability to interact with one another. Recognizing that they could still talk to each other on the phone or via the internet, he says it’s not the same as meeting face to face.
Attending school helps students interact more closely with their teachers, discuss their studies with their own classmates, or seek help from their elders in school. teachers outside of school hours, he adds.
There is also the possibility that students “attend” an online course but not actually participate, by turning off the microphone, he adds. Apart from that, there are many who cannot afford to buy data, computers or even a suitable environment at home to concentrate on their studies, he explains.
It is more about âthe students watching the screen,â Hossain adds, explaining that self-study is a challenge and that virtual realization of practical exercises is difficult due to the unavailability of the required materials.
Echoing Hossain’s sentiments, Chophel explained that face-to-face teaching allows students to have better access to their instructors, and that students tend to become complacent when taking classes online.
Additionally, students who struggle with a subject are frustrated due to the limited interactions with teachers and peers. Studying online is stressful for students with disabilities as well, he adds. âThe camaraderie and caring, which takes place face to face, can never be replicated online. “
He also stresses that students who have difficulty understanding how computer tools work will be harmed. “It has to be equal for all, and you need the right kind of education to understand how to use these tools.”
Such situations affect the mental well-being of the students they stress. Even those who do well in their studies fall behind and in some cases there is little support for girls to continue their education.
Rajeela Mahjabeen Kausar, teacher at The Learning School, Pakistan, told the webinar that the new way of learning for students and teachers was difficult at first, but has gradually improved since.
Teachers, she explains, have adapted to new ways of delivering content and they’ve put more effort into preparing lessons in PDF format to share on WhatsApp groups.
Despite all this, it was found when the students returned to mainstream school that a learning loss had occurred. Teachers should help students relearn certain subjects and use them in groups.
There are also psychological issues students face, she adds, although teachers have made an effort to make sure students don’t feel lonely while studying online.
In Pakistan, too, parents prefer to educate boys and are less supportive of educating girls, she says. In addition, more supports such as Tabs for all students, including economically challenged people, and familiarization workshops are needed to ease the transition to online education.
Online learning is less teacher-centered, says Krishank Malik, director of the Arya Global group of institutions, India. The element of trust needs to increase in an age where the emphasis is on online learning, and one way to do that is open book testing, he says.
The challenge of making sure students master writing skills when typing becomes the trend is to download worksheets for kids to print and fill out.
The switch to hybrid is inevitable despite initial resistance, says Malik. However, it is time for educational institutions to be aware of the tech companies that would try to step in to fill the void and take advantage of it.
In the past, schools had to deal with private lessons that supported the pedagogical element, later companies persuaded parents to invest in energy and memory boosters to help children perform better. This time around, it would be the tech companies, he warns.
But it can be avoided, says Malik, because schools already have the infrastructure and are invested in education without profit. Educational institutions already have many resources and trained teachers, and should share them, and also create social networks among students for this purpose. Installing more screens to deliver lessons means reaching more students, he adds.
It will also mean requiring less school space and reducing the need for school buses to transport students. Parents should see the value of investing in the tools required for online study rather than paying for the courses.
The hybrid method will allow parents to spend more time with their children, and even school admissions could be moved online, ending the queues. Achieving all of this is the responsibility of schools, he adds, before tech companies reach out to parents to promote their brands.
But more importantly, says Malik, student feedback is essential, so that schools can make changes with the needs and preferences of the student body in mind. (Colombo / November 26/2021)