Virtual classrooms - Are they sustainable?
It was in late Feb 2020, the Indian government decided to shut down all the educational institutions indefinitely as a part of the fighting against the pandemic, COVID19.
A similar situation prevailed in other countries too.
Given the acute stress of the alarming infection rates of COVID19, all the schools and colleges complied with the regulation. But at the same time, the management of the educational institutions are bothered due to chronic stress associated with the long term plans of the institutions and the uncertainty about the resuming the classes.
This stress extended further to the ed-tech companies supporting these institutions technically and academically.
To support the ongoing academic activities, some schools and Ed-tech companies came up with a solution to provide virtual classes and training to students and teachers by mid-April.
While the institutions provided infrastructure support, the Ed-tech companies restructured their products to suit the virtual programs.
All the stakeholders - parents, school owners, teachers, Ed-tech companies sighed relief with the solution. But the question whether this is a temporary solution or a permanent solution still looms over the education sector.
To know the context for this question about the reliability of the education sector on the virtual classes needs to be understood to come at a conclusion.
So, let us visit the context of virtual classes first and then we will look at the requirements of the education sector to check whether this solution fits the problem or not.
Virtual classes are based on a computer system or mobile device. A student can access the class over a mobile device or a system from their homes while the teacher sits in their home or school and teaches the subject.
If we look at it superficially, this looks great because we don't need a special building called school or college, all the students and teachers don't need to commute, parents don't need to stress their children for getting ready to school, parents don't need to spend on the uniforms. There will not be any competition among the kids about the brands of pencil boxes, pencils and pens and the biggest advantage is the parent can monitor the kid's learnings online.
Now, coming to the requirements of the education sector. Education is not all about learning the prescribed subjects. Education is about inducing knowledge and wisdom for sustainable growth of kids across many parameters like social, cultural, academic, physical and psychological aspects. This, in turn, creates enthusiasm in the kids to learn more, to socialize, to improve the emotional intelligence and thus helps in thriving for a better society.
If we look at the requirements of the education sector and the solution from virtual classrooms, we can see a sharp ridge between them. Let's look at the shortfalls in detail
Virtual classrooms are no less than a physical classroom when it comes to learning the subject. But the schools provide the kids with a different set of non-academic learnings which is clearly a shortfall in the virtual classrooms.
The formative years ( 5-9 years) are very crucial in providing the right platform for learning from the environment, socializing with kids of different mindsets and family backgrounds, and engaging with the learning systems interactively. As of now, we cannot substitute the school learning with virtual classrooms in all these aspects.
The constant need for attention and engagement of kids at the school is being taken care of by the teachers, whereas virtual classes transfer this responsibility to the parents. As of now, parents are staying home due to lockdown and are convenient with spending some time in between their work from home sessions, but we cannot expect the same once the lockdown is lifted and both the parents have to be in office or travelling. Moreover, it is not an easy task to make a kid of 5-8 years sitting in front of the system for 7-8 hours. Their dynamic minds and bodies need constant engagement.
Another challenge would be with the infrastructure required at home. In a country like India, parents in metros and tier-II cities can afford a dedicated computer for their children. But the marginalized and lower middle class in towns and rural areas cannot afford the requirement of a computer system, a dedicated room for 6-7 hours a day. And we shouldn't forget "Education is a fundamental right"
So, the virtual classes can only be a temporary supplement to engage the kids in learning for 2-3 hours a day and cannot be a substitute for the school learning.
Please share your views in the comments.
Well written .. valid points which can be addressed only by timeReplyDelete
Very good points. It's a complex issue and immediate solution when we needed one.ReplyDelete
Good one ajit.I agree prolonged virtual classes will have adverse effects on children.ReplyDelete