After six cumulative months of online education we can draw some tentative conclusions about the affect this has on pupils scholastically and psychologically. Apart from enhancing computing virtuosities none of the outcomes are to be welcomed. Online learning has had a most deleterious effect on the results of pupils in most subjects and on their social wellbeing. The lockdown was introduced of necessity. I do not quibble with that. However, it is of the first importance that it be discontinued as soon as the epidemiological situation permits.
The first bout of online learning was a case of trial and error. The repeat of lockdown found some schools and educators scarcely better prepared than they had been when caught unawares in March 2020. There are schools that are barely streaming any interactive lessons even now. The internet is not wholly reliable. Not all pupils have computers. For teachers it is hard enough to superintend a class in person – try doing that online. A pedagogue has no notion what the pupils are looking at on the screen.
Languages and maths are not too heavily impacted by online learning. But try teaching art online. How about drama? Speaking is not even half the battle. The physical aspect of acting cannot be adequately assessed on a small screen.
Even when we had in person lessons in 2020 the quality of education necessarily suffered. It has not been possible to get through all the curriculum. Now exam grades and assessments are all up in the air.
The story is by no means all grim reading. People have discovered some helpful online resources. There is Mathsisfun, sparklebox and suchlike. There are many fantastic online courses. Some pupils have developed greater independence, which will help them with transition to university life.
However, pupils have missed out on face to face meetings, chatting with friends, taking part in group activities. Eyes locked on large and small screens, many are struggling with social isolation and dejection, which pass unseen.We were already an increasingly atomised society even before coronavirus spread its hideous tentacles. Children socialising via their smartphone or computer was symptomatic of a dysfunctional society. Yet interacting with peers and sharing worries with teachers at school anchored them to a supportive network. But lockdown inflicted greater anxiety on youngsters. Research from the Prince’s Trust has found that since the start of the pandemic half of the young people surveyed often or always felt anxious and one in four felt ‘unable to cope with life’. In his recent Mental Health Conference talk Dr. Ougrin, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, explains that many risk factors that led to self-harm and suicide have been prominent in the last few months – anxiety, isolation and loneliness. Parents need to be ever vigilant about this. Teachers need to be mindful of the unexampled pressures that children are under in the current predicament. We need to chart a way out of the virtual school and back into the classroom.
It is said that the only thing permanent is change. In these blog posts I reflect on how schools and universities transform education by inventing social trends and then embracing them whilst breaking with the past.
Educational Strategists & Advisers on UK Secondary and Higher Education
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