All parents have had to become surrogate teachers over these past few months, and children have had to adapt rapidly to online learning and working from home. But what does the future of education hold?
COVID-19 has shown us that traditional schooling is not the only option, and that there are many other ways of educating our children. Making the decision whether to send your kids back to school soon may feel daunting. Should we rather keep them at home, using online learning curriculums? We asked some experts for their views, to help you make the right decision about your children’s education, post the lockdown:
How their personalities can influence your choice
Some kids have thrived during this online learning time and others have struggled. Is this personality driven? Shannon Schutte is an Academic Coach and Life Skills Facilitator and she believes that being a self-starter and highly motivated are keys to success when it comes to online learning. “A child needs to be able to self-regulate and follow instructions independently for this system to work. Time management is also essential,” she says. Introverts may enjoy being behind a screen but also mustn’t get too comfortable there, while extroverts plus those who play sport or love to socialise must keep in contact with friends over FaceTime or Zoom, to keep nurturing those relationships.
Simone Becker is a Junior School teacher in Cape Town and she rightly points out that school is not just about academics, as it also allows for interaction with other kids, “teaching them socially acceptable constructs”. This isn’t something that can be easily replicated from behind a screen.
Pros and cons of going back to school
Shannon has a daughter currently in Matric and points out that kids will be returning to a “new normal”, which brings with it a certain degree of stress. “Health screening, scanning yourself in and out of venues, sanitising and wearing your mask diligently have been added stressors. It’s a huge responsibility on a young person”.
Ben French is a Computational Thinking and Project Based Educator based in Joburg, and he doesn’t believe that skipping a couple of months of school will hinder students academically or socially. “Ultimately this decision seems to be a personal one, often for the sanity of the parent,” he says. He advises doing what feels comfortable for your family and not worrying too much about academic consequences, unless they’re at a crucial academic stage or have special needs.
Top tips for learning from home
If you’re a parent who’s suddenly been thrust into a teaching-from-home role (in between Zoom work meetings!), we can bet that some days have gone well, and others have been highly stressful. Simone says that you should try and follow the mantra of “less is more”. “This is crisis schooling, not home schooling,” she says. She advises trying to make things fun for your child and if you’re clashing, take a big breath, and take a break. “The emotional wellbeing of your child (and yourself) is far more important than drumming bonds into them,” she comments.
Ben has some valuable insights into navigating the digital world at home with them: “Periods of offline journaling or reading allow students to value screen time and also understand the downsides of constant connection. But you need to practise this digital detox as parents too!”
What does the future of education hold?
The concept of a blended curriculum, where online learning will be combined with in-classroom learning, has already been embraced by some schools. “This is a better option as schools may need to close and open numerous times in future if and when positive cases occur,” says Shannon. This system also accommodates learners who may not be able to return fully to the classroom because of risk factors. “I believe many schools may continue with a form of blended learning in future, with much more reliance on technology in their teaching and assessments,” ends Shannon.
Simone believes that the way in which teachers have embraced digital platforms over this time will lead to a richer education for pupils in general. This pandemic has also shown teachers that they can augment their salaries by teaching students remotely, and many have also discovered new skills over this time.
Finally, Ben points out that online learning enables teachers to make lessons even more relevant for each student: “Is there still space for a one-size-fits-all education?” he asks. It’s clear that the future of education looks very different from what it did a few months ago – but we don’t think that’s a bad thing.