Dr Madhuri Sagale, Principal, Orchids - The International Schools, Thane

Dr. Madhuri graduated with a Bachelor in Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery and went on to pursue medicine for a brief period. However, she was more inclined towards the field of education so pursued her Masters in Psychology, and then eventually completed her B.Ed to get into the profession of teaching. She was felicitated with Orchids Annual Star Award for Innovation and Team Building and Marketing among all the schools. Dr.Madhuri was nominated as Secretary for Vasa Virar Sahodaya CBSE schools. In her career as an academician for over 15 years she has been felicitated with numerous awards, notably is the Award of Excellence from EBS Women Achievers by Ms. Kiran Bedi (ExIPS officer) for the contribution in the field of education for special needs students (2016). She presently serves as the Principal, Orchids – The International School, Thane.

The COVID-19 pandemic practically brought the world to a halt. The subsequent lockdowns that were announced were the last thing that the schools and the education institutions were prepared for. An abrupt end of the academic year was rejoiced largely by the students, but the schools were grappling with the situation of discontinuity. The lockdown at first seemed like a temporary situation, but it kept getting extended with no sight of schools being reopened. A loss in one whole year of education is not something the schools could put their students through. The second-best option was to continue – classes, examinations, and other extracurricular activities – online. Remote learning came with its share of advantages and disadvantages.

For one, remote learning has more accountability than other modes and therefore seems to be the second-best option during this pandemic to offline classes. The only other alternative to physical education, remote learning has also helped in the continuity of education for lakhs of students across various cities. It has also ensured that irrespective of being at home, these sessions with predetermined timings leave no scope for stepping into habits of procrastination by the learners and facilitators as well. Also, education has moved from rote learning to deep understanding. Teachers now have access to various online tools to keep their classes engaging while ensuring that there is no shortcoming in the content of the lessons taught.

Since students are not spending time travelling back and forth, they get to enjoy a lot of extra time with their family and for relaxation. Many parents also feel that there has been a great improvement in the food habits of their children. No more unfinished tiffin boxes! Schools now also have a chance to enable access to online resources that help cultivate life skills and hobbies. Many parents had now become actively involved in their children’s daily lessons, unlike before, where the report card was the only time, they could know how their children were faring.

Of course, on the surface, it looks like education in India was revolutionised but like every change, this mode of learning has arrived with its share of difficulties too. Remote learning has also brought some issues which affect the health and well-being of students. Children in their growing-up years are now exposed to long hours of screen time, and this has caused great stress on their eyesight. It has also been known that prolonged exposure to screen time can affect memory, and hamper language and thinking skills in the children. The sensory-motor stimulus is far less in an online environment compared to the physical classroom. Long hours spent staring at a screen can lead to monotony, and the lack of physical exercises can also lead to childhood obesity.

Apart from all these issues, a major concern that most students and teachers have faced is a lack of good devices and a great internet connection. Some teachers and students have had to face extreme adversities in order to be able to adapt to this revolutionised way of education. Some teachers had to walk kilometres away from home daily to get network access to teach. Some teachers also faced a lot of difficulties in adapting to technology and faced a lot of criticisms and challenges. This system showed how greatly we were lagging in terms of technology-aided education and coping up with it has been quite challenging.

Online education was the only best option that schools had in order to continue their education. It would have been a great disservice to the children if their education were to be stopped owing to the pandemic. But this method of education may not be viable in the long run. The health adversities that children may develop due to the exposure are mortifying. The key is to balance the two. While online education may not be the only way forward, it can surely aid in teaching and continuing education. It is the need of the hour for the educators to come together and apply their intelligence coupled with creativity to design and deliver a curriculum that keeps all the students engaged while deepening their learning even in a pandemic.

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