The rapid increase of Covid-19 cases has heavily impacted the world. UNESCO reported on (20th April 2020) 158 crores of learners across the countries could not attend school and university due to the pandemic. It is estimated that around 32 crore learners have been affected in India because schools and colleges remained temporarily closed for more than 60 weeks starting March 2020; where one crore children belong to preprimary schools, and 14 crore primary schools children are affected. And for primary schools, the figure of affected children is 13 crore as reported by UNESCO.
The schools and colleges started with online classes. The idea is that education should remain undisrupted, but how far is this true for our little kids? Is online schooling for preschool and lower primary school students the ultimate solution when it serves as the foundation for their mental and physical education?
Today India has the second-largest education system after China meaning that institutions and students are the future of our country, making the maximum contribution to our economy. Thus, people and the government of India worry about the protection and future of students as we struggle to break the chain of this virus.
Meanwhile, the government of India took drastic decisions of the temporary closure of schools, colleges and other educational institutions. Recently, it announced the exemption from the exam for the 2020-2021 batch of 10th and 12th standard students. But to safeguard the future of students’ schools and colleges, started with online classes. The idea is that studies should remain undisrupted since nothing remains constant for long.
But how far is it helping students, especially our little children? Is it serving its purpose? Is online schooling for preschool and lower primary school students the ultimate solution when it serves as the foundation for their mental and physical and why is preschool important for our children?
Why are preschools crucial for young minds?
In conversation with Priyanka Pandey, Vice Principal and Primary Teacher at Kidzee School (Gopiganj), Bhadohi explains, “Preschool builds a child’s foundation. The creative methods stimulate the mind to develop memories and grasp things. Children are taught how to behave, express emotions and communicate. They learn to co-operate, feel inspired and work as a team with their fellow class members. It’s easy to discipline them since all the students wear the uniform and follow the exact timetable. Kids are encouraged to follow a timely routine, that is, to eat on time, playtime, and attend school on time.
Why is there a drop in preschool admissions?
Priyanka shares that there has been a decline of 40% in the new admission for preschool and lower primary schools in India. Based on her experience as an educationist, Priyanka observes that the main reason for a decline in new school admission is because parents are not ready for online schooling. They do not trust that online schooling can give their children the same quality of education as traditional schooling methods. Parents think that they are helpless to explain and grasp the instruction for online schooling for their children. They have little or no education and computer knowledge, so they face many problems operating a laptop.
The income factor of parents is another reason that is hindering the education of children. Parents with low income can not afford a smartphone or a laptop for online schooling. If they can afford it, they do not want to learn the basic skills of operating a computer. Coupled with both the issues, parents think it is a waste of money to invest in education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The traditional schooling method is deep-rooted in India. The school and faculty carried a significant load, like writing the homework in the textbook. Today, all of this work has to be done by parents, but either they do not have time or do not want to take the load.
Challenges with online schooling
Despite the revised and guided online classes, some parents fail to follow the norms that cause distraction during the online classes. Some students join the session late. Few leave the class when the guideline outlines the rule – parents or guardians of preschool and lower primary school students (up to Grade 3).
The rise in domestic violence is adversely affecting the mental growth of students as they are spending more time in the home. Some parents bicker with each other, family members, domestic helpers or neighbours during the live session. The entire class hears them. In such cases, the student feels embarrassed. The shame begins to eat them from within. Gradually they slip into depression, and they start to avoid attending online classes and don’t want to attend online classes.
The impact of online schooling on young minds
Shweta Darbari, 39 years old, a single parent and founder of Elite Eternally, who witnessed this, has more to add. She reveals, “Online classes are good. School is supportive and helps her to prepare for the online class. But the disciple and motivation to thrive are missing in Nyra – that a child learns at a school. The online classes physically disconnect her from her classmates and teachers. At school, she can have a 360-degree view and get inspired by looking at the manners and performance of her classmates. Today, social behaviour is one aspect of education, and as a parent, I want my daughter to have social manners and etiquette.”
She further adds, “With all the restrictions, she is limited with family members. She recalls everything from virtual images – from the online class, television and the internet. Her other sensory organs do not have a memory of new things, e.g., the smell of flowers, plants, animals, and the texture of things. In these aspects, her growth is slow.”
“She excelled in preschool and lower kindergarten, but today, she feels blue. The impose restriction is making her destructive. She broods, complains and has too many questions. For me, it is challenging. Usually, at her age, children are learning discipline. She has abundant energy, and during school days, she played with friends in school and participated in extra curriculum activities. Since classes shifted to online, I attend the online along with her. And I notice the lack of discipline during the lessons. The session is disturbed by fellow students. Someone is late for class, or someone has not turned on the camera or mic. Sometimes house chores or bickering parents cause a commotion, which hinders the attention of the class,” shares Shweta.
Shweta observes that the children are less enthusiastic about activity classes like crafts and yoga. Learning at school stimulated and encouraged her to perform. She enjoyed finishing her homework but all of this has changed.
A mother and homemaker, Neha Srivastava, 30, from Bhadohi, has her experience to share, “It’s challenging to make my 2 years 5 months old daughter, Dhankia, understand the meaning of school that she should be seated at one place during the class. Earlier her attention span during virtual class was short-lived. It’s somewhat better now though it is a tedious job. Being a house maker attending class with my baby, and the managing home goes parallel.”
Why going to physical school is so important?
It feels, amidst the chaos, the cries of our littles ones are unheard. The temporary closure of preschools is hindering the physical and mental growth of our children. The 0-8 years is a crucial period for the growth and development of children. All kinds of foundation laid during this period that helps them to advance in schooling, college and excel at work, UNICEF.
It is clear from the shared information that online pedagogy may not be an idle method of education for preschool and lower primary school. Children need to get together and follow a routine. The need to move out of home comfort is necessary for physical and mental growth and development. Under the supervision of a teacher at school, they learn social behaviour. They are motivated and inspired by surrounding.
Should parents send their kids to school?
Mrs Chanda Sahu, the founder and Principal of Wiz Kids, Kandivali East, Mumbai, outlines the drawback of online classes and the reason why parents should send their kids to school. “The online classes are running fine, but they are only taking care of the cognitive development of the child. However, the physical, social and emotional development of kids under 6 years is hampered very badly. So, we need to make the parents realise the importance of these domains of child development to start thinking about sending kids to school. But before we even get there, parents need to know the safety and the security of their child and what safety norms will the school follow. Schools on their part need to put all these precautionary measures in place and inform all stakeholders involved about it.”
The most difficult part is for the schools to ensure all safety norms are in place considering the Covid-19 situation. This means the following are taken care of:
- All staff members are masked at all times.
- All staff members are duly vaccinated.
- Only school staff and students are allowed beyond the entry point.
- Temperature check of each and every visitor at the entry point.
- The process to be followed in case of a visitor with a high temperature should be clearly outlined.
- Contactless Sanitisers at the entry point and sanitisers should be made available in all rooms away from the child’s reach.
- All furniture, slides, toys and equipment etc., need to be sanitised daily after every batch of kids leave.
- Once a week, deep sanitisation of the premises is necessary.
- All visitors need to be masked.
- Social distancing to be managed
- Student strength to be 50% at any given point in time.
- Alternate seating arrangement for kids.
- Students come in batches and at staggered timings to avoid crowding.
- Initially, alternate days online and offline classes can be managed.
- CCTV access can be provided; it can be best as parents can be assured of all safety norms being followed.
Undoubtedly the growth and development of little ones are hampered. There are many reasons and challenges to reopen the school. We should not fear the virus and send our children to school if the school follows the safety norms outlined by the government and provided parents cooperate with the schools by paying fees on time to allow schools to employ Covid-19 protocols to ensure the children’s welfare and safety.
Contributor: Kavita Srivastava
About our Writing Program Student
Kavita Srivastava (35) holds a degree in MBA. She’s an avid reader of business strategies, digital marketing strategies, mythology, mystic and fine arts with a focus on content marketing. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with nature and animals. Some day, she wishes to adopt a puppy with whom she can go hiking and jogging. Currently, she’s pursing a career in digital content marketing.