Online Schooling: Why We Need To Shun This Habit Once The Pandemic Is Over

The online schooling is going to revolutionize education they say and not only the student doesn’t need to go to a physical classroom anymore, but he can also learn wherever he wants.

How so delightful and gratifying to see a young child sitting in front of the laptop, and listening to his teacher on a Zoom video call, along with other students of his class in the online audience, continuing his learning like nothing like pandemic can ever come in the way of their learning and education! Right?  

Such a great idea, this online learning! We should have shifted to online schooling long back, but then as they say better late than never. The online schooling is going to revolutionize education they say and not only the student doesn’t need to go to a physical classroom anymore, but he can also learn wherever he wants, whenever he wants and of course, whatever he wants.  

Then what’s the problem with it?  

The government, in line with its recent nature, banned schools and colleges from operating with absolutely no notice. And of course, who cares about setting up alternative arrangements while banning? Millions of students were immediately asked to stay put at home and their schooling was put on hold. Everyone thought it to be a temporary pause lasting no more than a few weeks, but weeks soon became months and the government seemed to be in no hurry to physically open up educational institutions. The government, in fact, asked schools to start conducting classes online instead. Okay, great idea. If you are in US or Europe.  

Many millions of households in our country do not have access to basic necessities of life, many millions have to face electricity cuts for numerous hours in a day, many millions have lost their livelihoods during the pandemic, many others forced to vacate their houses.  

And then the schools shift to online schooling.  

Of course, it’s easy to assume that a country with millions of households struggling for food and water, would have as many computers in the house as many children, right? And then it’s also easy to assume that they will have an internet connection to support video lectures. And when the same house has multiple children, and boy child and girl child being present in the same house, they would have dedicated, or at least equal, access to whatever digital infrastructure the house has. And of course, parents of small children in such households will be savvy enough to operate and more importantly, sit with the children during the entire time of their lectures unless their young children are disciplined and focussed enough to do that on their own. And yeah, easy to assume our teachers are well trained, and adequate incapacity, to suddenly switch to the online teaching method.  

Easy, right? Well, we know it’s not. And the government knows that too. Then why push online education as a viable equal alternative when instead the effort should be to get the physical classrooms back to operational as soon as possible?  

When young children are present in a school, they are all equal in the true sense of the word. They have access to the same infrastructure, they are all wearing the same uniform ensuring they aren’t judged on the clothes they wear, their family’s economic or social situation is not exposed to fuel any kind of discrimination or judgement among other students and even teachers. And in spite of all the distractions children face around them, they are all disciplined to sit in the classroom and stay in school premises for certain hours. And equally importantly, when a boy child and girl child are in school, they have equal access to the facilities and learning. The peer to peer learning that happens in a physical classroom shapes the child’s personality and teaches far more to the child than just what textbook covers or teacher teaches, including the social skills to communicate and co-habit with other children from all kinds of cultural and social backgrounds.  

And are we okay to give away all of this, or compromise on even some of these?  

With every online video lecture a young child attends, he not only exposes his social and economic condition on the camera with the backdrop of his house, but his experience and effectiveness of his learning is dependent on the quality of infrastructure his family is able to afford. And the challenges the family has to go through to arrange even that humble infrastructure is a different matter altogether.  

The worry is that if schools start considering online lectures as an equal alternative to physical schooling, the practise will continue even when we get past the pandemic situation, whenever that happens. And that will continue causing damage every time child from an underprivileged family is getting on or trying to access the online class. It will be a matter of time before the burden on the family and the embarrassment on the child will give away to either child dropping out of schooling altogether or he/she going through the motions without paying any attention to the schooling, thus rendering the entire learning ineffective. And this divide between families who can be the valid beneficiary of online schooling and those who can not, will widen to create and perpetuate the divide between educated children and the uneducated, and eventually between employed youth and the unemployed.  

We all know how learning can be differently effective when a child goes to a government school vs a private school. And now, what we are doing is we are making the effectiveness of learning different for each household that the child comes from, and the economic/social situation of the parents within the same school. Perpetuating this method of schooling for young children will only ensure the educational, and consequentially the economic condition of the household never changes. And that creates a gloomy outlook for the future of our country’s children, and ominous for the country as a whole.  

So is online schooling a viable, equal alternative to real schooling in a physical, co-habited environment? No, definitely not. It is a temporary fix and should be treated as one.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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