BENGALURU : A few weeks ago, the Karnataka state government banned online education (both live and recorded classes) for children in grade 5 and below. We’re still not clear if it’s temporary, but it has put students, parents, and teachers in a state of suspended animation. Meanwhile, everywhere else in the world, online schooling continues. While I have a lot of respect for everything our education minister has done for us, I have some concerns about what things will look like.
I understand that access to online education remains a problem in many parts of the country, and that we are incredibly privileged to even have a place in this debate. Our collective solution, however, has to involve a path towards providing that access to more kids -- not denying it to everyone altogether. As educators, we have spent months looking for ways to make the online medium more meaningful. We built physical activities, designed games for children of all age groups, and found creative learning tools from around the world to ensure that kids use their time indoors meaningfully.
Our lesson plans have been customised to include components that help kids cope with the sudden shift in things, the seemingly endless uncertainty, and more. Teachers have been trained to teach and handle logistics of power failure and poor internet, while keeping the classes lively. And we know that it’s working, thanks to the hundreds of messages we are receiving from parents, unhappy that online learning is suspended.
As a parent, I am all for the structure that online schooling brings. I am not alone in feeling this way; parents planned a tweetstorm over the weekend, asking for schools to restart. We are working longer hours, juggling too many things, and abandoned the idea of homeschooling on the second day of lockdown (seriously, hats off to Billie Eilish’s parents).
Here at SaPa, we are seeing a rise in enrolments. The facts seem to point to one thing -- parents want their kids to be learning. The concern over increased screen time is real, but inevitably, kids are spending more time on their screens anyway. It’s better that they use it to build a routine that doesn’t involve hours and hours of video games and TV shows. With no improvement to the situation and a recent spike in cases, we are keeping our kids safely indoors. Indefinitely. Virtual learning is our last hope of giving them some community time, social interaction, and structure. (The author is a singer, songwriter, educator and social entrepreneur. Views are her own)