The ABC protocols of Lockdown & Unlockdown times continue with central and state governments operationalising “Mission Begin Again” SOPs for essential/ nonessentials services & businesses. With the first lockdown in March 2020, many of us as educators spoke about this on webinars that expect this year’s learning with more time i.e. in lockdown and in the virtual space than in physical classrooms. Does that mean learning comes to a standstill? Do we treat this year as a “gap” year? Well, when I hear parents saying, “no big deal”, I worry. When I read media reports about “ban online education” statements issued by government officials, I worry even more. Because the “no big deal” comment comes loaded with an over compensation to “make up” lost time and packing a child’s day virtually with every possible Ballet, IQ, Reading, Cooking, Public Speaking, Writing, Drama, Sports, Coding class that exists, results in the child becoming a machine who needs to “skill” up and “optimise”. Psychiatrists are warning against this tide – without qualified and certified facilitators, these children will are being ‘transported’ from one virtual world to another! Just as they were in the physical world – from one physical class to another to ensure that they remain “ahead of the curve”. What curve, what does “being ahead” mean??? So, am I against this? Well, I surely do not endorse 10 different type of sporting activities virtually, or 20 different virtual language classes that focus on writing, speaking, listening goals and surely do not advocate IQ classes – what are these anyway??? Virtual engagements when well balanced, being respectful to the child’s ability and pace, with eye breaks and structured through activities and tasks, conversations and discussions, not to mention packed with good sleeping patterns, fitness and eating habits means that the alternative to physical learning spaces that is, virtual engagements are the viable answer. But please understand the difference. As a parent, and an educator, I have always believed that a school’s vision, the leadership and its teachers are my “go-to place” when it comes to my child’s education. I carefully researched and applied to a school that I believe would work with my family vision and values and educate my child in a way that was scientifically planned and work with my child’s ability. I trust the school to therefore provide me direction, guidance and lead the path forward. At every point. If this path cannot happen as I was used to in the physical world for the time being, the path must continue to engage with my child in some way that continues this journey uninterrupted and meaningfully, and perhaps course correct its outcomes, re-align the content, focus more on skills and survival. As a parent, I want my child to be “taught” by a team that is qualified and looks at the learning process as a whole and not in compartments and plans sessions – live or recorded in a manner that will work age appropriately for every child in that class, accepting and adjusting to connectivity issues that we have in our homes …. Wherever we may be. This is not about national or international schools, this is about parents and school managements, and trust and empathy for each other. Parents may have ability challenges, many need to skill up, many do not have devices, many are juggling many responsibilities, many are undergoing financial challenges with their own work and many are just overwhelmed with the lockdown and cannot cope – emotionally!

 

Educators, with their years of experience and expertise, and because many are in the same boat emotionally, and financially are aware too! They are undergoing a similar challenge with their teachers having to switch to a world that they were unfamiliar with, a world so align for most that they needed to work harder, many have accepted no increments as fees cannot be increased, many have been laid off given parents are not paying fees for “on-line” education. Many educators have rentals, tax payments with penalties that they need to factor in, many have had to invest in IT and sanitation equipment that is expensive, many have had to multi task and juggle, and many are also emotionally down and out. But the need to be that role model and a create platform to learn for the children, keeps them going. So, if there is an understanding that the boat we find ourselves has challenges on both sides, should we not be talking to each other and addressing it? I think it starts from a place of trust. Instead of “banning” school online education as is the new normal now, and registering children for varied online classes (by the way the screen for this is an unhealthy 8 hours a day to keep your children occupied), why cannot parents invest time and effort and communicate with school leaders to understand how to cope with this unpredictable world – share concerns, ask for help to IT enable and honestly, trust that the school has more efficient answers with the experience they have. While families were in lockdown, schools have been working, speaking to each other, been in discussions with global operators to understand different models that exist, have equipped themselves so that the child’s learning journey remains uninterrupted. Instead of running from pillar to post to enroll students in different learning platforms on line would it not be better to have children “school” virtually with trusted teachers, working with a time-table that allows for brain breaks, discussions and activities and engages with them, with a social presence and remaining mindful of every child’s learning needs? Continuing that journey with real time communication and working together with teachers, and managements to make sure the child has the holistic education planned in a seamless manner would be the sensible choice? Every child is important, and while some have access, some do not, so what can we do as parents to help those sections of society to enable them? Empower them? Let governments assist with IT infrastructure, NGOs facilitate this, and CSR funds get channelised to mobilising resources? Our focus towards educating our children, wherever they may be should be the goal, and volunteering with our schools to help out as guest lecturers would be a more rewarding process? 1840 was when remote learning was introduced and world over since 2000 – most progressive countries use the power of AI, and machine learning as blended models of education in their classrooms. It is called evolution. Our debate in India at the moment centres around – “On-line it is not like the physical world” – ofcourse it is not, no one denies this, but in the quest for safety and security and developmental growth of the child, have we as parents cared enough to understand how every session teachers are making notes, optimising their delivery to make sure every child understands, equipping children to become digitally literate because whether you like it or not, technology is an enabler and is helping us normalise. The grandparents whom you have not seen for 3 months, get excited to engage with their grandkids on zoom – and notice how the little ones share a screen with their school work, and share photos of what they helped out in when they were with you in a kitchen …. Notice how they guide their grandparents to unmute and mute, or explain how to view it as a galaxy screen. By the way, the hug that they cannot give, today is possible thanks to technology in the virtual world!!

 

A parent heard me explain all this and said, well all this is fine, but I am happy to keep my child at home, and manage – I do not need a school. And her daughter promptly joined the conversation and said, “Fatema aunty, can you please tell my mum that I want to be in school and not log into all the classes that she wants me because I do not want to do all of that. I just want to chat with my teacher, and as much at some times I hate doing the home-work, I miss that. I am bored of just watching. I want to talk to my friends, and class-mates and teachers that I know. Not strangers on- line.” This 2nd grader represents the voice of the child hoping the world would normalise. And by embracing and empowering them with e engagements with their own school, this seamless journey helps cope with extension after extension in lock down times. Parents embrace this ‘Click Brick Click’ world order. It is here to stay, and the one thing that we can
control is normalising their world of learning. Allow educators to lead the way with research and direction, with an eye on socio emotional learning and skills that make these children more resilient. And these are possible by engagements and not simply downloading links. You need to know what to do with the information, and that is the role of the teacher. To inspire. All of them want to.

An Award winning educationalist (K-12), on the Advisory Board of several schools & edutech companies, she’s a veteran of 3 educational start ups and the Founder of ACE. Pioneering change-maker, she’s passionate about revolutionalising education. |