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How has learning changed during the pandemic?

Introduction:

Did you know that the pandemic breakout has led to over 1.2 billion children, in 186 countries to be out of school? According to UNESCO, in India alone, the closure of educational institutions has affected almost 32 crore students. 

The closing of schools and educational institution has forced the academic field to look for solutions through e-learning, through digital platforms. 

We have now reached a point where we wonder if this online learning will continue post-pandemic too.

According to BARC India, there has been a 30% increase in the time spent on educational apps.

What is e-learning? 

In India and other countries, the classroom has now become virtual, since the pandemic breakout. Schools are now dependent on conferencing apps like Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom, for conducting the classes and on WhatsApp for sharing assignment and school circulars.

This has led to a sudden boom in business for many online learning platforms, who sometimes offer free access to their services too. Though the pandemic has changed the schools from chalk-board to technology-driven models, this can never replace the real-life classroom experiences that students are missing, like, peer learning, extra-curricular activities, sports, emotional development and leadership qualities. 

Can everyone afford e-learning? 

Private schools have been able to move to e-learning solutions easily, in comparison to the government schools, which are facing the challenges due to sudden closure.

Many low-income families had to make ends meet to afford the smartphones or laptops for the children, which would otherwise create a gap in the students learning. Many are still not able to afford the same. In many cases, one phone or laptop is shared between the members, hence the access to e-learning is further restricted. 

Accesses to sustained electricity is another problem faced by the schools and the students in many parts of the country. 

Parents are also finding it challenging to be able to work from home, continue with the household duties and sit with children during online classes, especially the younger ones.

The positive aspect of this situation is that schools are now able to reach the remotest location and hence led to effective learning and teaching.

E-learning for all – 

Many states and districts, where the reach of technology has been a challenge, have adapted to innovative methods to help the delivery of education. A few examples would be –

  • Some of the state governments have joined hands with Doordarshan and All India Radio (AIR) to broadcast the classes through regional channels, which is being an excellent help for rural students and visually impaired students too. 
  • Chhattisgarh government has joined hands with UNICEF and launched a ‘SAJAG’ program, where they train the Anganwadis and volunteers as support for children’s education at home.
  • Odisha government has launched ‘Ghare Ghare Arunima’ program, wherein, a set theme for the month, with the materials, are sent to Anganwadi workers, who reach out to the parents to engage children with activity-based learning. 
  • In some districts in Jharkhand and Haryana, teachers have resorted to using loudspeakers to conduct classes for students with no internet access. 
  • Some teachers are also using YouTube as a platform for taking classes so that students can view them when they have internet access.

Many of the educational portals are giving unlimited offers to teachers and students for better editing of projects, smart calendars, auto-translation features and other tools, to make learning convenient and accessible for a long time.

Students are seen enrolling for newer courses online, as they don’t need to travel, making it convenient to learn more in the available time.

Teachers are making the best of their creativity and taking up every challenge to make sure the learning doesn’t stop, even though many have are faced with financial dip, due to decreased or unpaid salaries.

Conclusion – 

Government of India under the program e-vidya has launched 12 new TV channels (K-12)* and use of radio for students with no access to high-speed internet. 

The market for online educational platforms is expected to see an increase of 6.3 times, equating to almost 1.7 billion USD.

E-learning platforms on the internet are offering multiple courses, free online content and assessment parameters to enhance the learning experience. 

Teachers will also have to update themselves on various tools and techniques to teach in an online classroom.

*Reference:

Why should we introduce financial literacy to kids?

Financial literacy is a basic understanding of finance and finance-related details. The concept of financial literacy is to help a person in utilise skills of finance for economic benefit. The economy has become the core element of survival. 

When we talk about ‘financial skills’ – budgeting, investing, and other financial management, are recognised as skills. Financial skills help an individual in making fair and reasonable economic decisions. Any mistake with regard to finance has a negative consequence. The value and importance of finance should be taught, as well. Most people are unaware of the power that the economy holds in general. Financial stability is essential and helps if a person knows how to handle their finances.

A school’s curriculum should include financial literacy. Finance and finance-related knowledge should be imparted from school days itself, as the subject has more to do with the real world. Financial literacy should equip the student to understand the harm done when it comes to – 

  1. Poor credit card decisions
  2. Unnecessary investments
  3. Incorrect debt management
  4. Other such consequences

Finance education should begin from a young age. The justification behind this is that a child, at a young age, can learn the functions and understand the importance of finance. The school takes the responsibility of educating children about different subjects.

A school can divide the entire process of learning finance into different stages: Pre-school, Middle School, and High School. 

In Pre-school, the child learns and understands the foundation of finance. The foundation itself should be firm, as, upon this, the child begins to know other details regarding finance. There are various textbooks available about personal finance for kids.

During Middle School, the child should learn about banking and other financial subjects, such as the basics of drafting, issuing a loan, etc. The child is more mature, and thus, learns the value of money.

When the child reaches high school, they learn about the more critical and minute details of banking, investments, and so on. Before the child joins a college or university, they should be very aware of their finances.

This particular division can be staged according to classes in school as well. It is to help future generations to make wiser and better financial decisions. 

How can children learn about inclusivity and diversity?

What Is Inclusivity and Diversity?

By definition, inclusivity is the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups. Diversity is people belonging to different dimensions. A person belonging to a different race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

We live in a diverse world, where children encounter people of different races, cultures and abilities. They make friends with children from different familial structures too. 

Teaching your children about diversity and inclusion is essential, as we all want to raise tolerant, accepting and empathetic children. 

Sometimes, a group will make fun of a person; engage in leg-pulling or name-calling. At other times, the group may act like the person does not exist at all. Usually, one person in the group leads the shaming and others follow the bullying as well.

To make matters worse, adults will suggest “ignore and find someone else to make friends with”. This leads to the child having low confidence issue and over a long run have a self-destructive way too. 

Why should children learn inclusivity?

India has disparities based on geographical, socio-economic, ethnic and gender lines. Inclusive growth can benefit every section of society; the country’s government should pursue it. 

In India, there should be an increased focus on gender equality in schools and institutions. Also, the children from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes population are being supported to bring them into the mainstream, by providing special category for them in the school reservations. So the children can easily make a place for themselves in society.

Children meet people of different races, cultures, and abilities. They make friends with children from different familial structures too. 

If we want the child to grow up, then we need to expose them to inclusivity and diversity from the very beginning. There are many benefits of including inclusivity in children’s lives, not only for children with special needs but for all the children. 

Children learn to accept other people and know that each person is unique. When children with special needs are provided with equal opportunity in the programs and activities as children without special needs, children learn. They learn life-skills, problem-solving skills, have a positive self-image, and respect for others. 

How do we make our children more inclusive?

We must first monitor our behaviours and environment. Think about how we approach diversity, acceptance, and inclusion. This includes the acceptance and endorsement of different opinions and viewpoints. 

The best way to include inclusive habit in a child is by following methods:

  • Encourage the child to make a wide range of friendships; at home; at school; at park/play area and other frequently visited place. As they learn to get along with different kind of people, they will learn to be more accepting too.
  • Do not encourage the use of the nasty word, labelling, fake apologies and cracking cruel jokes on others. 
  • Teach the children to stand up for others.
  • Please keep track of the child’s online activities; tell them that even sharing a hateful post is also like bullying.

Parents report that children enrolled in integrated settings display less prejudice and fewer stereotypes and are more responsive and helpful to others. 

Teachers report that the children become more aware of the needs of others and develop respect for human diversity. Children also learn gratitude for all we have and compassion for the struggle of others.

The process of inclusion allows each person to develop his or her talents and strengths. It also provides opportunities for all of us to develop the much-desired qualities of compassion, empathy, and helpfulness. 

It can teach our children and us that the greater the diversity, the richer our capacity to create a more humane and respectful society.

Books and games are instrumental teaching tools for children. Read a book together and have a conversation afterwards, which will be incredibly impactful. 

Links for the same are below:

11 Children’s Books That Teach Inclusion

7 Books That Teach Kids About Diversity

Classroom Activities from Teaching Tolerance

How is the pandemic affecting children?

As we are constantly bombarded with news about COVID-19 and its spread, we experience a lot of anxiety and stress. Children face similar anxiety and stress, too.

Detecting physical symptoms of COVID is simpler than knowing about its effect on our mental health. This applies particularly to children, as all their regular physical activities have suddenly come to a stop. Schools and daycares have been closed; children can neither visit the park/play areas nor can they meet their friends in person. This can lead them to experience anxiety and stress.

Detecting physical symptoms of COVID is simpler than knowing about its effect on our mental health. This applies particularly to children, as all their regular physical activities have suddenly come to a stop. Schools and daycares have been closed; children can neither visit the park/play areas nor can they meet their friends in person. This can lead them to experience anxiety and stress.

It is hard for children to understand why their parents are stressed. Also, with easy access to digital gadgets; children can now gain a lot of information online and have a lot of queries about the pandemic.

Parents play a critical role during this phase, as children will be curious and ask more questions. They will also need clarification from their parents on specific issues. Hence, parents need to prepare their child emotionally for social distancing and isolation during the pandemic.

Psycho-education of parents and caregivers is crucial, as, during these difficult times, parents are the child’s biggest support.

There are certain things that parents can do to get the child to understand the situation, like:

  1. Reassuring them that this is a temporary phase.
  2. Give the children much-needed attention, especially when they feel like talking or have some query.
  3. Look out for emotional changes in the child and have regular conversations with them.
  4. Pre-plan the daily activities with the child, keep a fixed routine for schoolwork, playtime and recreational activities.
  5. Keep them in touch with their friends, grandparents and their loved ones through video calls and phone calls.
  6. Keep a check on their screen time on the devices.
  7. Try to keep them engaged in physical activities.
  8. Most importantly, take good care of their health and wellness. Develop a habit of self-hygiene in a fun way.

If the child is already in an abusive environment, the isolation during a pandemic can further deepen their mental health crisis. Childcare helplines have seen a huge spike in the calls regarding the health, nutrition, child abuse reports and medical assistance.

To reach out, you can write to Mind Mosaic at contact@mindmosaic.in and we will connect you with the concerned authorities and helplines.

Stay safe. Maintain social distancing.

Q & A with Dextrus Workspace

14th October, 2020. Live Twitter Chat with Dextrus Workspace. Dextrus is a workspace with the single focus of creating the right work environment to enable you to be the best at what you do.

Q1. How do you approach counselling/Therapy for Kids? 

A1. I begin the process of counselling by telling the child that I am here to help them express their emotions and tell me what is affecting them. It is essential to gain a child’s trust. The child should feel comfortable. Therapy involves activities and sharing of ideas that help the child face their emotional turmoil. Play therapy along with worksheets and conversations. Play Therapy is also effective for children with special needs. It works very well with children under 14 years.As Plato said, you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation. It is essential for me to connect with the child and provide a safe environment. 

Q2. “Mental health problems do not happen to children; it’s just a mood, they will grow out of it”, how often do you face such myths? 

A2. Yes, most often, the mental health of a child is not taken seriously by the people around him/her. As statistics show, about 10% of children are affected by mental health problems. This includes behavioural issues, stress, and anxiety. 
I remember a child’s parent having unrealistic academic expectations from him, which had made the child go into a cocoon. He had stopped having any interaction. The parents ignored it for two and a half years thinking it is ‘just a phase.’ Also, seeking professional help is largely stigmatized in our country. I still have parents telling me that they do not think their child is ‘mad’ to see a therapist. 

Q3. What is your advice to parents facing mental health concerns, their own or of their kids? 

A3. Parents need to look out for warning signs, whether their own or of their kids. Warning signs such as talking about hurting oneself or hurting others, staying aloof, mood swings, withdrawal from social interactions, being sad for a long time and substance abuse, etc. For children, it includes falling grades or lack of interest in the activities they enjoyed earlier. It is essential to understand that mental illness can begin at any age. Parents need to accept that they or their child has a mental health problem. 

Q4. How can the mental health of guardians/parents impact that of the children? How often are parents aware of this impact?

A4. Mental Health of a guardian/parent can hugely impact the child. Children can feel anxious and depressed if their parents are overly critical of their behaviour & actions. There is an increase in the number of adults seeking therapy & many of them are child caregivers. According to a research, children are by nature egocentric. This means that a child views and interprets the world from their perspective. A parent’s mental health illness can lead to the child feeling guilt, rejection, instability, and uncertainty.Most often, parents are unaware of the impact of their mental health on their children. If at all they do realize, the damage is already done. 

Q. 5 What is the importance of adding mental health modules in school curriculums? 

A5. Good question. Being a counselling psychologist and a curriculum developer myself, I feel that mental health education should be mandatory in the school curriculum. Mental Health support at school can impact the child positively. The school should discuss and recognize the warning signs that I mentioned earlier. Children spend most of their time at school. The school should create a safe environment. The curriculum should have modules discussing empathy, resilience, mental health illnesses, empowerment, etc. This will help in gradually ending the stigma attached to mental health. Mental Health awareness needs to be learnt early in life. 

Q6. As adults, we spend most of our time at the workplace, which has its toll. How can our mental wellbeing at work impact our mental wellbeing at home? Can you share some examples?

A6. Adults spend most of their time at work. Work pressure, deadlines, bringing work home can affect the dynamics of a healthy home environment.  Example – A parent would spend only the weekend with her daughter. The parents would take her to the mall every weekend. There was hardly an emotional connect with the child. During therapy, I found out that the child was struggling with loneliness and anxiety. With both the parents working, the child could only interact with them on weekends.Another example is where the parents had unrealistic academic expectations from their child, the kid could not bear the constant pressure and tried to run away from home. It was only after a year of such consistent attempts; they tried to seek professional help.Parents need to prioritize their time with the child. Prioritizing is becoming increasingly difficult due to the pandemic with the children attending classes at home and parents working from home. Time management is crucial. Parents need to follow a schedule which lets them focus on their child’s needs and also be good role models while inculcating discipline. 

Bonus Question: Can you shed some light on how accessible is mental health therapy for families in India?

Answer – Excellent question. I am glad I am getting to answer this. Do you know what is the mental health workforce in India? 
According to a WHO report, mental health workforce in India (per 100,000 population) includes psychiatrists (0.3) and psychologists (0.07) Mental Health is a social justice issue. We must consider making mental health easily accessible and affordable. Our health insurance should also cover mental health. Some professionals work pro bono on some instances and even offer discounted sessions.Some organizations offer free or discounted therapy, especially to students. However, the stigma attached to mental health is still prevalent. People need to be sensitized about it. It is as simple as visiting your general physician for a cough or cold.A therapist undergoes extensive training to understand how the mind works. Each mind is different. I have been told by some people that they would rather indulge in shopping or food than take care of their mental health. It is not just accessibility but also the importance one gives to it. Therapy is now accessible through the phone, text, online, but people are still sceptical about it. A lot of times, people think therapy is just ‘talking’.There should be regular discussions and awareness. 
We only discuss mental health when it makes it to the news!