Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Opinion

Oman education: When kids are back to school with a bang

As schools reopen, students are back in action with many new lessons learned and some unlearned. The classrooms will not be the same. They have learned to smile behind mask and still maintain the warmth of camaraderie.

By Reena Abdulrahman

info@thearabianstories.com

Friday, September 17, 2021

From virtual to the real, from the drawing room to the classroom, from the cellphone battlefields to the school playground…  After a long gap the children in Oman, and many parts of the world, are getting ready to enter their classrooms in all its physicality, but with cautious steps.

Of course, back to school is a nostalgia recaptured in all its hues, especially when the students were forced to be in ‘home isolation’ following the Covid-19 pandemic that brought the world to a grinding halt in the beginning of 2020.

All of a sudden, they had to embrace online classes. The tiny mobile screen became their world, which they could not imagine even in the wildest of their dreams till the day before! Parents who cajoled them for their ‘screen addiction’, all of a sudden inspired them to be so. If you have to achieve grades you have to be always with your cellphone.

Now, they are back to action with many new lessons learned and some unlearned. The classrooms will not be the same. They have learned to smile behind mask and still maintain the warmth of camaraderie.

Since the lockdown has made many a thing thought to be impossible in the past, how to use those possibilities in the real world is something that the teachers and authorities have to think about. We have to devise a new pedagogical approach.

Unlike the physical classrooms, the online education has some deficiencies for sure. It never has the ‘look and feel’ of the real classroom and the children have to be more imaginative to grasp many things. The teacher would be a distant image and the writing board a virtual presence. You can never enjoy some pranks with your classmates or steal a glance at the friend sitting next to you. You cannot even forget your notebook or skip an assignment in that two-dimensional world. Those science students who have to use the laboratory might find it even more difficult to do their experiments that are not safe to do at home.

But the schools overcame all those difficulties pragmatically, though the online education is still in nascent stage in many places. The teachers learned how to teach them something beyond the textbooks and the students learned to research more and more in the cyber space. This is the way they fill the vacuum in learning. Listening to the class alone would not amount to learning.

Since many students are now used to the online mode of learning, especially those who joined the class last year or so, bringing them back to the physical feel of the classroom would be a tough task for the teachers. It will be like teaching the chicks that have been caged since hatching to walk on earth! Kids who have been promoted from the primary to the secondary grades during the lockdown would also find it difficult to mix with their classmates whom they have not met earlier. Yes, this is going to be a transition for many, and they might need counseling to cope with the new life.

Moreover, the physical classes will not be the same and the teachers will have to introduce many online methodologies here as well. In all possibility it would be an amalgamation of the virtual and the real, and they would not be able to completely abandon the online platforms that have become part and parcel o education. They have to learn the art of integrating the potential of various mediums to be ‘updated’ in the new order of education.

On the other hand, some parents are also concerned about the possibility of the virus making a comeback and the kids getting exposed to it. In some countries where the schools have been reopened, some cases of infection have been reported.

But, the Oman authorities have taken the decision weighing all the pros and cons, and they are confident that the reopening would not result in anything serious at the health front, especially because the vaccines are getting ready for the children as well.

Now that we have learned to be more cautious, the reopening is likely to be a cheerful experience for most of the students, though they have to maintain the social distancing and be more cautious about health and hygiene – mask, social distancing, sanitizing…

But one thing is for sure. No virus can confine us forever. We would break the shackles and liberate ourselves with a smile. Life is all about victory, isn’t it?!

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