Education is experiencing unprecedented change in all educational institutions across the globe. The implications of moving pedagogy, in terms of the number of hours of classroom teaching, and reducing it by almost half of the usual allotted time has not only affected learning but has also affected the pattern of assessment for students. The evaluation instruments themselves need to be evaluated prior to use in this new learning environment – blended learning, social distancing in classrooms and alternative Class days, etc. has to a certain extent deviated from the actual validity, reliability, and fairness of the system. The recent notification from the Government declaring that this year will be a ‘No Detention’ year for all students except for those appearing in Class X and Class XII Board examinations is a tricky statement.
1. Completion of syllabus:
In a rush to complete the syllabus, educational institutions in the country are keeping Saturdays as a working day. Yet, some are taking extra classes for the students to finish the syllabus. While it may look possible to complete the syllabus for school children in the primary section, it may be difficult for senior classes, college and university going students who will have to bear the brunt. The syllabus for senior classes is vast and with five days a week for classes, it will be impossible to meet the board’s requirement of a minimum of 200 working/instruction hours.
The question that now arises is if there is a need to complete the syllabus at all and if yes, then it would imply consuming a maximum of the student’s time with shorter weekends etc. A student will lose all his/her personal time and may start missing out on their recreational time and neglect their health. At the same time, the quality of education will be affected. They will have no time for self-study, also a cut in the extra-curricular learning like dance classes, art classes, guitar etc. The extra burden and pressure on the students during the weekdays will hit them hard and we cannot be blinded by the after-effects that it will have on them in the long run. Students from across the globe and at all levels of schooling have been forced to quickly adjust to this strange, uncertain and challenging situation of self-study, which for many is difficult since they are not acquainted with its practice. At the same time, self-study can be quite lonely in particular for kids who can learn best with a group of friends/classmates.
2. Cognitive, social and emotional growth:
Researchers are yet to fully understand the ways in which the lockdown will affect children due to reduced or delayed social interactions. But a recent study provides evidence that some adults’ social cognition has indeed been affected by the COVID-19 lockdowns which unfortunately may continue again with news of rising cases doing the rounds in the country. Many opportunities for social learning have been lost in the past year. Although it has reduced, yet the damage will affect children’s development. Children are keen social learners, developing skills such as sharing, conflict solving and empathy at a rapid pace. These days, many children have already attended parent and toddler groups or nursery before they start school. So even if they have no siblings, their emotional and social cognition has already started developing.
While trying to understand how cognitive, social and emotional growth results in better learning amongst children, it may be mentioned that the development of the brain begins soon after conception and continues at least through young adulthood. It is shaped by a complex interplay between genes and the environment. There is evidence for critical periods in brain development, such as adolescence when it comes to social cognition. Social cognitive development, however, begins in the first year of life, when children begin to develop “theory of mind” – understanding what others are thinking – which continues through age five. Play is an important part of this process, as it involves a lot of physical contact and the development of friendships, helping children to cope with emotions and stay mentally strong.
The value of assignments has long been debated in the education world – but now; the discussion has become even more complicated when assignments are pile up in bulk for all subjects. At present, educational institutions for millions of students means doing lots of assignments at home or during tuition hours. The immediate question that arose is the amount of assignments given to students, especially when the number of teaching hours has reduced in a big way.
The cultural narrative about assignments generally focuses on how many assignments students are doing. It’s treated as a problem: when is it too little? when is it too much? or when is it just right? Having too much assignment is certainly part of the problem when it comes to student stress levels. However, the amount of homework alone doesn’t tell the whole story. The type of homework students receive can also be a source of stress. For instance, when students perceive assignments to be boring or repetitive, or if they feel it is too advanced or confusing, they are likely to be stressed, regardless of the amount of assigned work. In addition, students are often stressed about how well they do on their assignments, particularly because assignments completion and quality are usually factored into students’ course grades.
Perhaps as educators, it would be wise to consider the changes that need to be amended in the curriculum and pedagogy, particularly how to make up for lost learning over the spring and summer and how to prioritize essential skills and understandings. Streamlining assignments by increasing student’s engagement, and alleviate some of the stress that so many students are experiencing would be ideal.
With the number of class days and teaching hours becoming limited, children cannot and should not be expected to learn and progress across the intended curriculum through self-learning methods, which is why taking feedback from the students has become imperative. Feedback has a significant effect on student learning and has been described as the most powerful single moderator that enhances achievement. Feedback is valuable when it is received, understood and acted on. How students analyse, discuss and act on feedback is as important as the quality of the feedback itself. Through the interaction students have with feedback, they come to understand how to develop their learning. Learning autonomy is a practice that has evolved into our education system, much more with efforts to complete the syllabus and to help students learn on their own. However, many children, particularly younger children, may not yet have developed sufficient autonomy for self-learning.
When students lack regular feedback from teachers, they may fail to maintain their current learning levels and struggle to develop new knowledge and skills through self-learning, as required. The reopening of schools will come with uncertainty among teachers and students about how to return to normal instruction. Learning levels may have shifted or loss may have occurred, students will have endured varying levels of isolation and stress during the school closure and students and teachers will need to readapt to social life. When it comes to learning, students can and should not be expected to learn the same scope and breadth of content as in non-crisis conditions. Notwithstanding the modifications and alternative approaches that can be put in place to mitigate the impact of the crisis, expectations of the outcomes of assessments during the crisis must be tempered.
Thousands of teachers across the country claim to have changed the way they teach. Adjusting to overnight changes of blended learning has led many to wonder about their role as a teacher. Ujjwal K Chowdhury, pro-VC, Admas University, Kolkata said that “the role of a teacher has evolved from someone who disseminates knowledge to mentors who aim to not only help students finish the restructured syllabus but also help each student to deep-dive into a sub-subject of their liking”. Activity-based learning is also one of the most common ways of teaching adopted by teachers off late to match the present scenario of learning and assessment. Neha Kalra, ICT teacher at Euro School West Campus has said that parents have started sharing regular feedback and are becoming a support system. Meanwhile, teachers have also realised that the student is the centre of the learning process and teachers must constantly rework to make it meaningful and interactive.
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