February 8, 2021 7:02:52 pm
By Geetika Sasan Bhandari
The big question on every parent’s mind right now is to send or not to send to school. While several schools have not yet opened physically in India, some boarding schools in the country have called in those taking their Board exams and given other years the option of returning in a staggered manner, but it seems the takers are next to none.
Considering that we don’t have enough data about transmission in schools, and whether children are really at a lower risk, it is understandable that governments and parents are erring on the side of caution. According to the WHO, “Data suggests that children under the age of 18 years represent about 8.5% of reported cases, with relatively few deaths compared to other age groups and usually mild disease. However, cases of critical illness have been reported. As with adults, pre-existing medical conditions have been suggested as a risk factor for severe disease and intensive care admission in children.” Also, children tend to have minor symptoms so a case may go unnoticed but that is no guarantee that transmission won’t take place. And with elderly grandparents in the same house or close by, passing the infection on could be a serious problem.
To add to that, children under 18 are not even on the priority list for vaccines (trials on under-18s have also been far fewer), so it’s probably better to be cautious, and perhaps opt for blended or hybrid learning, if it’s offered, where batches are called into school only for a few days each week while the rest of the days are done online.
Of course, we know all of this. But we can also see that beyond a point, online learning is not yielding the results it should but is instead becoming detrimental especially in senior classes where distraction is easy and access to devices and OTT platforms and multiple chatting platforms means concentration is falling. And with Covid 19 having stretched so long, children are also becoming a bit complacent. They aren’t taking their exams or grades seriously because they know this is an anomaly of a year.
In an article in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems, author S Dhawan writes, “Sometimes [a] student finds online teaching to be boring and unengaging. Online learning has so much of time and flexibility that students never find time to do it. Personal attention is also a huge issue facing online learning. Students want two-way interaction which sometimes gets difficult to implement. The learning process cannot reach its full potential until students practice what they learn.”
I think the key sentence here is: “Online learning has so much of time and flexibility that students never find time to do it.” So, should teens be monitored more? Should their devices that are not needed during class hours be taken away (my teen argues that half the time, the teacher’s camera is not working or there’s a crackling sound so she can’t see or hear what’s going on and needs to text her classmates the queries). Or, should we use this time to teach them some key life skills such as self-motivation, self-regulation and self-control.
Eventually, as functional adults they will need to create a routine for themselves that allows a balance between work and play. If they can’t build the foundation for that now (when living, food, and most other logistical details are already taken care of), they will find it difficult to wake up and reach work on time, keep to deadlines, and take time out to run their homes and most importantly for self-care. So what I’m saying is, we can’t do much about the situation at hand, but what we can do is utilise this time to build other, non-textbook skills in them. Encourage them to devise and stick to a routine, that includes baths and meals on time, builds in time for fitness, pleasure viewing, idle time, homework or revision, and most importantly, for sleep. With the instability in the external world, the only way to maintain some sense of normalcy is by having a stable routine at home. The faster you can inculcate this, the more prepared your teenagers will be when the world opens up again.
(The writer is former Editor of Child, and has recently launched a parenting platform called Let’s Raise Good Kids. She has two kids)
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