When School Comes Home: Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Education

According to UNESCO, 12.8% of the world’s student population and 23 countries have been affected by the closing of schools.

The pandemic has disrupted various sectors in India, including the education sector. In a measure to restrict the spread of the virus, the government has shut down schools, colleges, and universities all over India. Reportedly, 224 million learners are now out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The uncertainty of reopening schools and colleges has affected the education calendar and will subsequently affect student internships and placements.

Due to the lockdown, online education has not only grabbed a lot of attention and become immensely popular, but is now an essential need of the hour for most students. The pressing need to continue learning in every situation has led education to the virtual world.

However, the digital divide has left a large portion of the student population in the dark due to the inaccessibility of technology. This divide extends across the country – separating the rich from the disadvantaged and the tech-savvy from the tech-illiterate – with several youngsters finding it difficult to enter and fulfil the challenges of their online classrooms.

Going to school is the best tool available to inculcate skills in children. School time is not only fun and improves social skills  and awareness but also increases a child’s overall ability. Teachers and parents walk hand in hand to make a child future-ready. But the current pandemic scenario has thrown new challenges in this path. Let us take a look at a few of them:

Problems faced by parents/students

  • Many private organizations are laying off their employees. The fee-paying capacity of many parents working in the private sector is under threat. Those who have their jobs are living in fear of losing it anytime. Several parents are now working from home and managing household chores as well as their work assignments. All this has added to their stress leading them to pay less attention to their children.
  • Many of the parents cannot afford high-speed internet connection or smartphones and other gadgets to assist in their child’s online education. Some areas like the Kashmir Valley have only 2G connections. Attending live-streaming courses online and also sharing large files often poses problems.
  • At least in some parts of India, computer education is not given due importance. Many schools either simply do not have computer labs or do not allow students to use systems to gain practical knowledge. This practice is now proving to be a setback for young students who find themselves ill-equipped to avail an education which is wholly in the online mode now.
  • Eating and sleeping habits have changed drastically in most households due to the pandemic. In addition to the amount of time children need to spend in front of their screens for their online classes, they now have tons of free time which is spent on videogames/ TV or with other devices for recreation. Such lifestyles can pose health problems in the long run and should not be encouraged.
    • Suggestion: Parents must try to adopt some old school teaching techniques as well. Instead of solving worksheets online, they can try to get a hard copy of it. Reading books rather than reading online must be encouraged. As far as possible, the entire family’s routine must be maintained as it was prior to the lockdown to instill a set schedule and increase productivity.
  • Another major impact is over-eating due to boredom and stress that successively might lead to obesity and other health problems.
    • Suggestion: Young children can be asked to help in preparing their meals. This will not only keep them busy and reduce constant munching on junk foods, but will also encourage them to learn basic life-skills and become self-reliant as they grow up.
  • Absence of outdoor activities does not help in channelizing the bottled-up energy that young kids usually have. Episodes of sibling rivalry may have also increased.
    • Suggestion: Kids should be encouraged to participate in as many indoor activities as possible. This will help them release their stress and put their energy to good use. Parents can think of innovative activities to keep kids occupied and to boost their spirits. This would also make them learn household responsibilities and instill family values in them.
    • One can also set alarms for marking the end of every class. This will encourage them to stretch their legs and rejuvenate themselves every now and then.
  • Since they are at home, this lockdown period may seem like a vacation for them and some students may not be taking their online classes seriously.
    • Suggestion: Parents must motivate their kids to study. They must be allowed to interact with their friends through video chats or messages as they may miss their school days.
    • Replicating the environment in their schools and classrooms may be very helpful. One can designate a space, especially for the child’s study. All distractions must be kept at bay to help the child to study with increased concentration. Participating in the process as much as possible and keeping a track of the child’s scores and tests will also encourage them further. Parents can stay in touch with the teachers to keep track of their child’s progress.
  • It would be immensely helpful to keep in touch with other parents. Each parent may have a unique experience with their child during the pandemic. Sharing tips, problems and solutions with other parents may be beneficial for everybody.

Problems faced by teachers

  • Teachers with no prior experience of taking online classes are now facing an altogether different set of challenges. Teachers have to be on top of their game to be able to keep kids engaged during online lectures and keep a tab on each student – all through the means of a screen. The lack of knowledge of newer technology or not being tech-savvy are other demerits. Low attendance, inability to hold the students’ attention in the online medium, the unfamiliarity with new technology, internet connectivity issues and added household chores may have made online teaching a stressful activity for many teachers.
  • Teachers are facing increasing mental stress. Students may misbehave in online classes and teachers may find themselves powerless to intervene and discipline them successfully.
    • Suggestion: Schools can battle online misbehavior by making simple rules. Students may be asked to be in their school uniform or follow a decided dress code. They must keep their annotations turned off and student microphones must remain on mute until they are asked a question. Any distracting objects in the background must be removed. Parents should check their child’s devices for objectionable content or any other distractions during a class.
  • The impact of face to face interaction is lost and teachers find themselves unable to gauge the level of understanding or concentration in their students.
  • A lot of students do not have designated study spaces. Often, they have to share it with their siblings or with other family members. This might disrupt the concentration of the entire class.

Teachers are trying to cope with the new technology and teaching practices whereas parents are juggling work responsibilities, household chores and their child’s education. Meanwhile, students are facing issues like isolation, anxiety about a deadly virus, and uncertainty about the future. The impact of COVID-19 is affecting every nook and corner of our lives.

While parents, students and teachers are facing problems in this lockdown, let us focus on the silver lining here. Teachers now have a new opportunity to learn more about technology. Parents are now becoming more involved and spending more quality family time with their kids. Students are learning newer skills and becoming more responsible as they participate in more household chores. American author Anthony Robbins says “Every problem is a gift- without them, we wouldn’t grow.” So, keep stress at bay and face each day as the world adapts to the new ‘normal’ routine life.

Kanika Gupta is Senior Marketing Executive at Viva Books.

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