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Muscat Daily melting pot evaluates online education

21 Jun 2020 By SHADDAD AL MUSALMY

Educating children in the time of the pandemic has brought about new realities and opened up a discussion for better adaption to circumstances of all parties involved – students, teachers and parents. Adjusting to the ‘new normal’ in the education field, however, requires us to unlearn what we have always known: rows of desks, heavy bags, mass lectures and lack of real parent-teacher communication, so as to establish the new reality.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, online education has become an essential enabler of learning, and to define new facets of distance learning, Muscat Daily organised a webinar supported by Oman American Business Centre titled ‘Educating Our Children in The New Normal’ on Sunday.

Watch the video: Webinar: Educating Our Children in The New Normal

Welcoming the panelists that comprised educators, teachers, parents as well as psychotherapist and psychologist, Dr Susan R Groesbeck, Head of School, ABA, said the webinar, which looked at the change in the learning system, was essential to show more facets of the new normal.

“The shift was not as difficult as thought. Online education was not entirely new but COVID-19 gave the opportunity to change it further. Parents have been supportive and I can say the pandemic has been a blessing as it has also brought good things to the society. It is a different feeling and we are on the right track to do well in online education,” Rakesh Singh Tomar, founder and principal, Indian School Bousher, said.

As this online education is somehow ‘a new normal’, parents need to accept the change, said Nutaila al Kharusi, psychotherapist/MD, Al Harub Medical Centre. “Parents have to accept the new reality by managing both, household chores and student affairs. We all have to learn with the students as we move ahead as this is a new thing for each one of us. Parents should speak to their kids and help them understand on what is going on. However, not too much information should be given to young ones,” she said. 

Tomy Bosco, head of technology, Knowledge Oman, was very optimistic about the future of online education. “I am very optimistic as students are getting what they need in terms of technology. Parents need to support their children and spend time with them as they study online. However, there is a need for ‘protected’ moderation of study. The availability of good teachers, too, would make education more fun for children,” he said.

The pandemic should not stop students from getting education from any where, said Shakera Wadee, educator, Myschool Private School. “Even in any circumstances, education needs to be explored and imparted. As Late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos said, we will educate our children even if it is under the tree. So, no matter what, we need to shift the methods of learning and we have to be open and adapt to any situation,” said Shakera.

Online education has put pressure not only among students but also on parents. “Parents can help normalise the situation by focusing on communicating with their children. Parents need to identify children’s anxiety and work with them as they go,”  Roopa Koshy, counseling psychologist, Al Harub Medical Centre, said.

Parents, though, have not been far behind and working with their children to adapt. “I worked with my five-year old kid to adapt to the new normal. During this time, I worked as both, a teacher and a parent, and we have to explore new ways to shift to the new reality,” Sue Hunt, a parent, commented on the parent perspective.

Teachers too have been having fun switching to the new normal as they interact with their students online even though there has been an emotional gap. “The emotional gap has been a challenge and I miss my students physically, but online education has kept us together. Because I am familiar with my young students, switching to online study was easy, as they knew me from the beginning. Familiarity helped us to switch to online,” Mehal Iqbal, teacher, Al Zain Nursery, said.

Even though elder children adapt to online education better, they must be supervised now and then. “Older children are now more independent. They adjust easily but we need to keep a watch on them if they are studying well. We need to engage with them and their teachers,” Suparna Banerjee, a parent, said.

The webinar was an enlightening session for the participants as well as the panelists who drew a range of insights and practical tips from each other. Relishing the relevant points raised at the seminar, the participants expressed the view for holding more such interactions to bring all the three stake holders – students, teachers and parents – on a common platform frequently, to iron out doubts and gain insights from each other’s experiences.

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