Virtual classrooms not an ideal learning environment for school children

1 year ago 83
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Hyderabad: Online classes don’t seem to be going so well for anyone, especially when it comes to primary and pre-primary students. Many schools in the city have started conducting classes online, but there have been some bitter experiences for all those involved — students, teachers and parents.

Sridevi, mother to four-year-old Megha (name changed), has been religiously accompanying her son during his online sessions which began this week. Megha and around 20 of his classmates are expected to join the session at exactly 8:30 am, but this rarely happens. It takes until 9:30 am for all the students, or rather their parents, to take their places.

Then the chaos begins. Once a teacher begins her class, all parents are expected to mute their child’s microphones. “But nobody does this!” exclaims Sridevi, “Meanwhile, all the children keep shouting. Parents try to butt in with advice or questions for the teacher. Ultimately, after every session, the teacher is helpless, the kids learn nothing and I fight the urge to pull my hair.”

The yoga and PT sessions are even more difficult to endure, she adds.

Indeed, this is uncharted territory for the schools, who find themselves in the unenviable position of having to teach “classroom etiquette” to the parents as well. Megha’s principal, in his class orientation session this week, issued instructions to the parents on what to wear while in class. They have been told to dress as formally as they can. “We are not allowed to wear nighties or night-wear during class. Not everyone pays heed to this, of course,” said Sridevi.

Having to follow rules in their adulthood has hurt some parents’ egos as well. “In one class, the teacher asked a mother to ‘mute herself’. The woman got very angry because she thought she was being asked to shut up! It took time for everyone to calm her down,” recalled Sridevi.

In many cases, parents try to coerce their children into answering questions posed by a teacher. They unmute their mic even if their child doesn’t know the answer, and push her into speaking up by whispering the answer into her ears, all for the sake of making a good impression on the teacher.

Meanwhile, the regular issues of network connectivity and technical problems remain a challenge. Many parents reported instances of dropped sessions due to poor internet. Others complained about the quality of microphones and web cameras the teachers use.

However, the biggest challenge seems to be keeping the child engaged throughout a session. Veena, whose three-year-old daughter studies in a famous school in Begumpet, said many of her daughter’s classmates simply stop paying attention and scurry away from the computer. “The teacher has to find some way to get their attention back. In one case, she used finger puppets to get a boy to agree to sit down again,” she recalled. Some parents said their children simply doze off during the first session of the day, and need to be prodded all the time.

Teachers, meanwhile, agree that the situation is not ideal for anyone, but online learning is essential nonetheless. Suchitra, who teaches various subjects to children in grades four to six, said, “The single aim of online classes for such young children is to ensure that they don’t forget all they have learnt till now. Every teacher will agree that online classes aren’t as good as classroom teaching. But they allow us to keep children engaged and active.”

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