Learning during Lockdown

How do we look at education during the lockdown?

The coronavirus, and the lockdown thereafter, has taken us all completely by surprise and left us grappling with unusual challenges and some unanswerable questions. A lot is being said about this in all forms of media, so let’s cut the story short and look at just one aspect that has been impacted in a significant way, education.

Well, schools and colleges are closed, exams have been postponed indefinitely, and (formal) education has been locked down as well. Teachers are worried that they lost valuable and couldn’t complete portions of the prescribed syllabus for this academic year, while the parents are harried as they are all stuck at home together. But hey, wait a moment; my niece has classes from 9.30 am to 4.00 pm daily! Online classes!

As the millennials say it, online education is the next big thing! It appears that this industry has benefitted immensely from the coronavirus pandemic. Educational institutions around the world are moving heaven and earth to ensure that our children’s education is not affected by the crisis that has enveloped the globe. Hmm… is that the reason or could it be something else?

At Udhbhavaha, we mulled over this and here’s why we decided to stay away from online classes.

Our children will forget what they have learnt during the year; they will become lazy if they don’t follow the routine.
Children today are under immense pressure to impress their parents and teachers with their academic scores, cultural performances and sports achievements, not to forget the one-upmanship within peer groups! When schools become pressure-cooker environments, the fear that children will forget is completely valid. And amongst children of such assembly-line institutions, laziness is a side-effect. At Udhbhavaha, we have happy children, who remember what they learn.

Education is ….
A touchy subject, but’s let’s talk about it. For us at Udhbhavaha, education is about character-building and developing the child to be a healthy, balanced adult, capable of facing the challenges that life throws at us daily. A strong bond between the teacher and the student is a key factor here and this cannot be replicated online. But conventional education is about providing information of every kind to students, and testing / re-testing them to check how much of this information they remember and in the same sequence, it has been taught. Not to mention that this information will be obsolete as the seasons change! This transmission of information can be done online, and I guess that’s what’s happening.

Institutions are locked down, learning is not.
Today, formal education is all about literacy; it has, very little or nothing, to do with learning. Learning happens everywhere, all the time, and each of us, young and old, possesses curiosity and the thirst for knowledge. While at home during the lockdown, children can build strong bonds with siblings, parents and others in the family. They can learn home chores like house-keeping, cooking, grocery purchasing and doing the laundry. These life-skills turn in to habits only after one does them for many years. And come to think of it, none of these are/ can be taught in a classroom or in an online class! So irrespective of when the lockdown opens, learning will continue.
Another important dimension is the experience of this lockdown itself. It is important for children to go through and remember how their life was disrupted; how everyone had to stay at home so that they wouldn’t get infected. The memory of going through this crisis is very much necessary for children to carry with them for the rest of their life. That opportunity is lost when one’s bedroom becomes a virtual classroom.

The art of doing nothing
The world has forgotten the art of doing nothing. And this is something our grandparents knew. It is an ability to just stop all activity and be still, for a few moments or a few hours, when life becomes very chaotic or sometimes, for no reason at all. This helps us to bounce back, totally rejuvenated, and move on. In hindi, the word is “sahajta”, and in kannada it is called “niraalate”. This is a natural ability that children are born with but today’s world makes sure we don’t take it too far. During this lockdown, it will do well for children to spend time just looking up at the sky and wondering….

If the whole world is doing it, then let’s not do it.
At Udhbhavaha, we are strictly following the directives of the Government of India to contain the spread of novel CV. But we don’t quite agree with the manner in which everyone is taking to online education. It is just a reaction, and not a well-thought out decision. Exactly how we approach every other problem nowadays!

I must add here that online education is an amazing tool that is transforming our world in ways we cannot fully fathom. But when it comes to acquiring knowledge, a teacher’s presence in a child’s life is a blessing. And for that, let’s go to school when the lockdown opens!