BENGALURU: While pre-primary schools are eager to get back to work, with many starting online classes, parents are a concerned bunch. Experts, including NIMHANS director Dr BN Gangadhar, advise against online classes for them. Parents, on the other hand, are caught between safety worries for children, versus potential loss of academic milestones, and even admission hassles later on. A mother, whose kid is due to begin Class 1 at an international school, says she is unhappy with the proposed introduction of online teaching. “If the classes were to be held online, then we could have done the same through tutorials rather than paying a handsome fee.
It also doubles the parent’s workload since we, unlike teachers, are not equipped to teach kids. The classroom atmosphere also plays a major role,” she says on the condition of anonymity. Agrees another parent whose five-year-old child is scheduled to start online schooling next month. Admitting that the school cannot be blamed, she adds that she does fear about its impact on the youngster. “There’s a vast difference between teaching at home and school. There’s no mingling with friends. Withdrawing from school is not an option, not just due to the financial repercussions but also because the child will lose a year and it will affect his admission thereafter,” she says.
Similar concerns are running through the minds of parents of toddlers too. “Since me and my husband work fulltime, we put our child in Klay preschool and daycare when she was an infant,” says a mother of a two-year-old who did not wish to be named. “Three weeks back, they started weekly 30-minute online classes. But it’s hardly helpful,” she says, adding that the school is introducing a full schedule now. She adds, “A child picks up motor skills better in a physical setup. Next year, my kid has to attend a primary school, and now it seems we are paying money for nothing. In terms of education, we are losing out on time.”
The uncertainty is also prompting some parents to put off schooling plans for their toddlers. Sherine Joseph, an employee trainer and a mother of a two-year-old, says she plans to home-school her daughter. “Given their short attention span, online teaching is a definite no. Kids learn better through personal interaction,” says Joseph, adding that homeschooling will also address the issue of social distancing.
“We need to take it one step at a time. New opportunities will open up but a safe learning environment is essential,” she points out. Babushka Chauhan, who was looking to enrol her two-year-old daughter in a playschool, has also decided in favour of homeschooling. “We know we will have to restart looking for schools from scratch next year. But now, we are making the most of what we have, since my husband works from home and I am not working. We are focusing on life skills,” says Chauhan.
Ishwarya Kumar Ahmed, co-founder and director of Upturn Learning Solutions, that aims to enhance quality of parenting and childhood through innovative spaces, says, “These early years (age 2-3) is when children make initial use of their gifts. At this age, they must be exposed to various sensory inputs. But if you put them in front of the screen, we are going against the natural course of learning.”
From the doc
Even while home tutoring a child at an early age, it’s necessary to provide them daily structure and routine, especially since they are spending time indoors, says Dr Megha Mahajan, child and adolescent psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road. “This is why children who go to school from an early age differ from those who don’t – a lack of structure is anxiety-provoking for them. Online education for young children cannot be a permanent alternative. Children are capable of bouncing back, and it should not cause much harm,” she adds.