The Spanish Government are now discussing what happens in September when our children should be returning to school or college.
Having a teenage daughter, I have watched her reactions to the “lockdown” ranging from pleasure when the school closed back in March and having the mindset that she was on holiday to trying to knuckle down with her school work and avoid distractions around her and then, as the time progressed, boredom that she has been unable to meet her friends for so long. I told her that in a week’s time she would be able to meet her friends in groups of up to 10 but still maintaining social distancing. Her response was “I haven’t seen my friends all this time so to hell with social distancing, we’ll all be hugging”. My daughter is intelligent and understands how the virus works and how serious it is but she, like many others, has had enough.
She is fifteen years old and will obey the social distancing but for how long? Just from her reaction alone I can see the schools are going to have great difficulty in maintaining this and it is going to be even harder to keep the younger ones separate so where do go from here?
We are all being made more aware of mental and/or psychological problems and the increase in suicide rates of our younger society so surely preventing them from returning to school will not improve these statistics. They need the companionship and interaction with others on a face to face basis not purely on the internet. What is ironic here is that prior to “lockdown” we could not get them off their phones but now they just want that human contact with their peers.
Some suggestions being bandied around at the moment include ideas such as half the students return to school whilst the other half continue learning online or that half the class go in the mornings and the other half goes in the afternoons or even a week on/week off scenario so they can keep to around 15 students per class but where do these suggestions leave the parents that need to return to work or the mental health and wellbeing of our children?
If the teachers are teaching the students in the class, who undertakes the online teaching? If some students are struggling at home is one week in school and one at home sufficient for them to catch up? Splitting the day to do half a class in the morning and the other in the afternoon but how will the teachers cope with the stress of working in his way? How do they split up the lessons? When you look at a current timetable split over a week, they are not going to be able to cover that amount of tuition. Or will certain subjects be put on the back burner? What lessons would be sacrificed from the curriculum?
Even if they were to build temporary additional classes within the school grounds so that all the students could attend, they would need to be recruiting double the teachers to cover the classes and additional monitors to ensure distancing is upheld at break times.
So, having said all that, is online tuition the way to go for the foreseeable future?
For a long time now parents, teachers and even the medical profession have said that spending too much time on phones, iPads and computers is bad for our kids so why are we now condoning it? Because we are in an extreme situation. Yes, it has helped to keep them up to date with their studies for the interim, but how long can it go on for?
They need the interaction with their peers and, more importantly, their teachers. The internet has been great for the time-being but what of those children without internet connections, or those who have not been able to connect to the education systems? Or the fact that teachers are not always communicating very well, and classes of different lessons have been double booked? Explanations to problems cannot always be done satisfactorily by internet – it needs that personal touch of a teacher explaining it to the whole class and in this way the kids can talk through the problems and work them out together or approach a teacher after class. There are too many distractions for them at home.
I am not condemning studying on the internet. I, myself, have done many courses on line and do indeed teach English as a foreign language online but my students have a goal for doing this whether it be to speak to people within their community, for travel, studying in a foreign country or for business. Yes, it is a serious undertaking for them and for me to teach them, but it is not their main educational focus and I, for one, do not want to see my daughter’s education suffer. Do we want to be raising our children as awkward hermits who have no physical contact or interaction with the outside world?
I am fortunate to be in the position where I work from home ordinarily so to have my daughter studying at home is not an issue for me personally. However, for those parents who have had to take a drop in salary or suffered a loss of income due to the State of Alarm, they will need to return to their working environment as soon as possible so where do they stand if their children are to continue studying at home?
Obviously, there are pros and cons to every situation but personally I think the disadvantages of continuing in this way far outweigh the advantages.
As I have said, yes, we are in an extreme situation but the Government, I believe, must talk to parent/teacher associations and even student groups before making a just and informed decision on what could affect their future.