My sister’s school sent out surveys asking parents for their opinions on restarting regular schools after the summer vacation. Some of the possible solutions that the school suggested seemed a little absurd; two cycles during the school day, a reduced number of working days during the week, socially distanced classrooms with simultaneous video conferencing (simul-teaching). It had me wondering: How far can technology take us to give us a sense of normalcy? What will be the cost of creating a new normal in the field of education?
In my opinion, distance learning cannot completely replace regular schooling. The lack of collaboration and socialization is evident in the use of technology. It also requires students to practice self-discipline that many may not possess. In some regions, schools also serve to combat social problems, like poverty, child marriage, and abuse. Distance learning has left many of these communities vulnerable. We need a new system that can implement social distancing while combating the drawbacks of distance learning.
The solution seems to be a combination of distance learning with regular classroom interaction.
However, switching to a new normal with new alternatives is challenging for teachers, instructors, and educational professionals. They’ve worked day and night to adjust to new teaching conditions and new technology, providing mental support and relief to students in need.
They face a new obstacle: Attempting to create a combination of two environments that prove to be effective and beneficial. Though simul-teaching may seem like an attractive option, how will it be implemented? What sort of activities will be needed to engage the physical and virtual audience at the same time? How much training will the teachers need to deliver good quality education? What new technology will need to be introduced to manage both audiences adequately?
Assessments have proved to be challenging in a distanced environment. At my university, professors used a combination of three to four different software to assess our progress, as opposed to a single practical or written session before the pandemic. With simul-teaching, different methodologies will be needed to evaluate and appraise students’ learning. How will group activities be implemented online and physically at the same time? What will be the integrity of such varied evaluations?
Even if schools plan to implement two school cycles during the day with fewer students or reduce the number of working days, the workload on teachers will be immense. To constantly shift their perspective and teaching from virtual to in-person can be hectic.
This system will also hinder the learning process for children with learning disabilities. How will a teacher or instructor compensate for the lack of physical presence that some students require? How will they ensure that their students adapt to different modes of teaching?
We are also overlooking the costs. In addition to the existing electricity, sanitation, and maintenance cost, there is a new set of requirements for a stable network connection, video conferencing services, and assistive technology. Simul-teaching is beneficial to technologically-equipped communities. But for communities that lack access to services that enable a modern learning environment, the students will be left behind, reinforcing the gap between the haves and have-nots.
The purpose of education is to lift ourselves out of ignorance and provide learning opportunities for everyone. If the simul-teaching environment reinforces inequality and creates an impossible environment to grow in, what is its purpose?
This pandemic has taught us a lot of things, but education systems worldwide do not realize that things need to change to adapt to these problems. Why are we struggling to bring back the same old institutions when everything else has changed? Why are we enforcing a system that takes teachers to their wit’s ends? Why are we so obsessed with reproducing the same capitalist structure that barely benefits us?
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