Education in the New Normal

As the education system of the country has shifted to the new normal after COVID-19 hit the world, students are exploring new techniques of learning online through virtual classes. Along with kids, parents too are adjusting to the changes and dealing with the challenges of the new educational scenario, for the time being. From monitoring their child’s screen time to scheduling a playtime and doing their best to be tech-savvy to reinventing bedtime stories, parents are going through a lot for the sake of their child’s studies. Amid this situation, You & I speaks to a few parents from town, who help us understand the current educational situation better and share their ideas to live in the new normal.      – Srivalli 

Pics: Pexels


Rachna Mehta

Rachna Mehta

An entrepreneur and a mother of two sons, Rachna Mehta, shares her thoughts on online classes. Speaking about the virtual educational scenario at her house with the elder son Moksh (studying in Grade 11) and younger one Nirvaan (studying in Grade 10), this doting mother says that she makes sure to maintain a routine every day and be involved in her children’s actions.
 
Since both your kids are in senior secondary, how is the entire scenario of virtual education working for you?
The online education is working great for my kids as their school had shifted to this format little before the official lockdown. The school management is executing it to perfection. However, one of the biggest things that we all miss is human interaction; eating lunch with your buddies and laughing and giggling is all a part of growing up. Virtual education has taken that part away.
 
It takes a lot for a parent to balance home and work at the same time, especially when kids are around, how are you coping? 
Our routine is pretty good at home. We eat meals on time and make sure to have it together. I think that’s very important and if that is happening... the rest will fall in place automatically.

Since schools cannot focus much on extracurricular activities through online classes, how do you think a parent can help in balancing it at home?
Everyone should do some form of exercise and movement, especially nowadays. We have some basic gym setup at home, so we all make sure that we use it once a day. Besides that, kids take our dog out for a walk in the evenings. We also take out time and cook together. My younger one likes to bake, so he spends his extra time exploring that.

There is a lot of difference between a classroom and an online lecture. What do you feel can be done to make the virtual classes as productive as the one in schools?
All schools are putting in a lot of effort for that, but it won’t feel like an actual class ever. However, the knowledge imparted by the educator won’t be any different. Other than school, I think that this lockdown has opened an opportunity for online studies from different parts of the world. Great colleges have courses which are now accessible from within our homes. Both my sons are doing a course from online US universities.


Moulika Kasi Reddy

Moulika Kasi Reddy

Moulika Kasi Reddy is an Executive Director of Narayana Reddy oil extractions and a mother of an adorable two-year-old Manvi, who is ready to explore the world around her. Here’s what this parent has to say about the virtual education, the challenges down the road for her little one and coping with it.
  
As a mother of a two-year-old, how appropriate do you think are virtual classes for kids of that age group? 
In my opinion, learning for this age group comes mostly from observation, listening, and exploring. For them, it is all about introducing the concept of learning along with other important values like punctuality and discipline, which is predominantly accomplished by going to school. Virtual learning for these kids, I feel, is a tedious task for both parents and teachers, as small kids want to move around and explore. Confining them to sit in one place for long hours is not right. Another concern is the increased exposure to the screen, which is terrible for young children. I personally feel that virtual classes should be avoided for younger kids, and instead, parents can teach simple activities at home, which will help children cope with lost school hours.

Moulika Kasi Reddy

Managing work and home with kids around takes a lot of work. How are you handling it? 
That is the toughest challenge most moms are facing right now. For me, it has been great, in fact, as it has given me a lot more time to spend with my daughter. She has her routine of waking up, bathing etc. I try to finish my work according to her schedule. When both of us are free, we like doing simple things together like baking, walking in our garden, listening to music and rhymes. She loves it when I read to her.

Along with academics, it’s essential to focus on extracurricular activities for a child’s growth. How do you think parents can help to balance it at home? 
In my opinion, extracurricular activities are, in fact, more important for the child’s growth than academics. They help mould a child’s personality, which is more important while growing up. Given that we are all stuck in our houses with limited resources I think it’s the best time to make kids do activities like gardening, simple exercises, and helping with minor chores in the house in a playful way.

Any tips you would like to give to other parents who have little ones at home?
Putting aside the negative of being stuck in the house, I think this is the best time to engage them in activities that we would usually not be able to do because of our busy schedules. I would say since the opportunity has been given to us, spend as much quality time with them as possible.


Ankita Reddy

Ankita Reddy

Along with managing her career in a gaming company, Ankita Reddy, along with her husband, is adapting to the new way of learning for her five-year-old son Ayansh. Here’s what she has to say about online classes and virtual schools.
 
As a mother of a five-year-old, how appropriate do you think are virtual classes for kids of that age group? 
Virtual learning is the best and the only safe option amid lockdown to not hinder the education of kids. My son is in PP2, and kids of that age group can’t be made to sit in front of the screen for a long time. They are distracted easily and need new things to be engaged with each day. Everything depends on his mood, and we have to go by that, sometimes he wants his dad beside him and sometimes me, so we work it out accordingly.
 
While some parents love online classes, others are complaining. What could be a better approach for the kids who are still learning how to sit through the classes?
To make them sit, we have to be creative, come up with new interesting ideas almost every day and sometimes even end up bribing them. Teachers have found innovative ways to get students active and improve focus by making them involved in activities like yoga, drawing, playing with playdough, mixing the colours in the middle of classes, so the kids are engaged and don’t have to perfectly sit and feel confined.

Ankita Reddy

The current scenario is not suitable for kids to go out and play, and this is also leading to increased screen time, which can be harmful. How are you balancing it?
Kids love the screen time; however, it is also crucial that we monitor them and encourage them with screen-free activities. My complete focus is on practical and enjoyable lessons. I make sure we are done with the homework immediately after his virtual classes so that he is not distracted and then engage him in activities like painting, gardening, dancing, and the list goes on. These are also a great way to bond and spend valuable time together.

What ways are you practising at home to keep your kid focused and help him learn?
Ayansh’s online class goes for about 1.5 hours. For him to stay focused, we just have a good desk and a chair which is comfortable with adequate lighting. We make sure that the materials and supplies that he needs are ready and block out the distracting sounds.


Anupama Maganti

Anupama Maganti

Anupama, a fashion designer and her husband Pradeep Kumar Maganti, an entrepreneur have three beautiful kids, nine-year-old Aadya, six-year-old Abhinaya and 4-year-old Karthikeya. From initial struggles of virtual classes to finding ways to make their kids sit through, Anupama shares her thoughts on the current scenario.
 
What according to you and your personal experience are the pros and cons of virtual education? 
Pros: Kids are in the safe confines of their home during these testing times. Also, this is a classic example of leveraging technology to enhance opportunities in our daily lives.
 
Cons: The whole essence of school education is lost in a way as there is no peer group interaction and influence. I believe kids learn a lot when they observe and interact with each other.
 
It’s difficult to make kids sit through the classes since your kids are in primary school, how do you deal with the problem and keep them stay focused? 
As classes have been designed to be very interactive, my kids seem to like the engagement. Not really sure if they will have the same enthusiasm after a few months.

Anupama Maganti

With a lot of work for parents in today’s time, how do you not let your frustration and anger affect your kids?
Kids are getting frustrated too! They feel that they are being confined to their home or play area without having a chance to meet and play with friends at school. As outings with family also aren’t possible, kids seem to be getting bored very quickly. I try and do my best to understand and relate to these challenges that my kids are facing whenever I’m frustrated or angry. It helps a lot when you look at it from their perspective.
 
The increased screen time for both parents and kids are harmful, and everyone needs to take a break from it. What do you do to keep them mentally and physically fit?
Ensuring physical activity daily - games, dance sessions (online though!) and depending on their age, getting them to help me a little with daily chores.
 
Any tips you would like to give other parents that can help in their child’s studies?
Kids are already under pressure due to the current situation. We, as parents, have to ensure that we this ongoing crisis and its challenges don’t hamper their growth in terms of their imagination, creativity or focus. While we provide their routine and, we also have to make sure that they get their room for self-improvement.


Ganga Bhavani

Ganga Bhavani

Talking about her daughters’ studies, Ganga Bhavani shares how she and her husband are adjusting to the new normal and the scenario of virtual education in today’s time. Ganga’s elder daughter Khushi is studying in 4th grade, and the younger one Pari is in 2nd grade. Here’s what the loving and hardworking mother has to say about the situation.
 
What according to you, are the pros and cons of the current scenario and virtual classes? 
I believe virtual education is not the best way of learning for young kids as they need to step out to explore the world for mental development. However, considering the current circumstances, there is no better option. Like they say, “Something is better than nothing”. Initially, it was quite challenging for us and kids to cope with this new way of learning. However, the new generation of kids are fast learners and pick up quickly!

What tips would you like to give to other parents to balance work and home while spending quality time with their child without affecting their studies?  
It all depends on how we look at things. I personally think these days have allowed us to bond with our kids. The time parents spend with their kids play a major role as today, kids are not exposed to the outside world and are missing out on social interaction. Also, for me, discipline is the key to attain good work-life balance. I plan my day in advance and have fixed schedules for all the tasks. We need to ensure, kids have a good daily routine with enough playtime while they attend online classes.
 
The constant screen time affects our peace of mind, be it a child’s or a parent’s. How are you coping with it and ensuring your kids to stay focused? 
During the break time in online classes, I ensure kids move around and do not stick to the screen. I have an agreement with my kids that they only get one hour of screen time over weekends and holidays. During working days, they are already exposed to screens, so I do not allow any further screen time. As parents, it is important to divert their energy to other tasks. We need to explain the reason for our restrictions rather than imposing things onto them. This approach will truly help parents succeed.

How do you think virtual classes can be made more productive? 
To make the virtual platform more exciting and productive, I think it’s important to involve kids in other activities besides regular textbooks that kids will enjoy, like art and craft, music, storytelling sessions.


Pooja Bagga

Pooja Bagga

A mother of two kids, Pooja Bagga, puts out her thoughts on virtual education and urges parents to encourage and support children with this new way of learning. She adds, “I suggest, take it easy for now as it’s a new concept for our kids and for the school as well. Kids surely are missing out on sports, which is essential in whole educational experience but we can start playing indoor games to fill the gap for now”.
 
Since you have kids of completely different age groups, how is your approach different towards each one and their studies, as education has become online now?
Both my kids are independent learners. Initially, my younger one (studying in 6th Grade) was comfortable with the change. However, I faced problems with my elder one (studying in 11th Grade) as he was not too comfortable with turning on the camera, but now he’s getting accustomed to it. He was not too attentive as he knew he’s in his comfort zone at home and not constantly monitored by teachers. Also, I have made rules for them that they need to shower and dress up before online school just as they would have done otherwise.

Some people have turned their kids’ rooms into classrooms to be more productive and be less distracted. Have you done anything similar for your kids?
Children must have their respected space where they are not distracted by the house chores, and we as parents have to create that for them as this is going to be how they are will operate for a long time. I have added a lot of things that can help them study in a better and organized way.

There is so much negativity all over the internet because of COVID-19, and it can affect a child’s peace of mind that may eventually affect their studies. How are you taking care of it?
Well, my kids are not glued to the news all the time, but we educate them about what’s going on in and around the world and how to live safely in the situation.
 
What do you feel can be done to make the virtual classes as productive as the one in schools?
I think kids nowadays are very resilient. They are adapting to this whole online culture. However, we have to give them some leverage. It’s not going to be easy, but it has its advantages too. Parents have to see if the child is facing any issues and help them adapt to the whole online learning. We do have challenges like too much screen time, but schools are cooperating and giving them small breaks to freshen up.


Bina Jeyabalan

Bina Jeyabalan

Along with running her bakery for custom made goodies, Bina Jeyabalan takes care of her kids and looks after their studies along with her husband Balaji Rathakrishnan, who is a software consultant. The couple has three kids Nithila, who just completed Grade 12, Akila, studying in 9th Grade and Parthan, who is in 2nd Grade. Bina shares her point of view on online education in the current scenario.
 
There is a lot of difference between listening to a lecture in class and listening to online. What do you feel can be done to make the virtual classes as productive as the one in schools?
Virtual classes and the classes in school are majorly influenced by the teachers. The teachers continue to play a vital role. I’ve seen children lost in their own worlds in both the actual classes and in the virtual one. In the current scenario, the job of teachers has just gotten harder, and I feel the interaction between the students and teacher can be improved with smaller class sizes with more structured discussion sessions.

While working from home, some people have turned their kid’s rooms into the workspace to be more productive and be less distracted. Have you done anything like that for your kids?
We have not changed our home in any way. We are continuing in the same way as before, and the children have fit in the spaces that work best for them. Akila does her classes from her desk in her room. Parthan is constantly moving his school things and laptop to whichever room my husband and I are in. It could be the kitchen, the dining room, the computer room, the balcony or the living room; we are trying to get him to stick to one place for his online classes.

Bina Jeyabalan

How do you keep your kids away from the negativity and at the same time keep them aware of the situation, without letting it affect their studies?
Being simple and straight forward with our children has always worked well for us. Sharing important information while accepting the situation and doing the best we can is what we do.

Any tips you would like to give other parents that can help in their children’s studies and health?
Accommodating screen time for children and setting boundaries for it after discussion with the children is essential. Enforcing it is a tough job. We parents don’t need to feel that it is our responsibility to keep our children entertained at all times. Our children will find ways to keep themselves occupied. Also, it is okay if the kids want to occasionally miss a class.


Sunny Anand

Sunny Anand

Sunny Anand, an entrepreneur and a loving father of two kids, 12-year-old Ayaan (studying in 7th Grade) and eight-year-old Ekam Kaur (studying in 3rd Grade), speaks to You & I about the changing scenario of education and the sudden virtual shift. Read to know more.
 
What are the pros and cons of the entire scenario of virtual education? 
Speaking of pros, I feel there is less hustle in daily life, starting from the lunch box to commute. More importantly, kids are in front of our eyes and are safe inside the house.
 
Though the cons cannot be ignored either. If you have two kids in one house, then there are different challenges, including the internet speed issue and laptop availability. Additionally, the screen time for kids has increased a lot, they can’t concentrate and are distracted by household activities and are often putting their camera and mic aside to lie down.
 
It takes a lot for a parent to balance home and work at the same time, especially when kids are around, how are your coping with it? 
I don’t need to monitor Ayaan much, but in the case of Ekam I need to sit with her and watch her, she also needs help in operating laptop some times.

Sunny Anand

Since schools cannot focus much on extracurricular activities through online classes, how are you balancing it at home? 
I take them on our terrace every evening and make sure they have physical activities for an hour every day.

Some people have turned their kids’ rooms into a classroom to be more productive and be less distracted. Have you done anything like that for your kids? 
Yes, I did. I had to convert our guestroom into a classroom to keep them focused and create an environment where they can concentrate and learn.
 
Any tips you would like to give other parents that can help in their children’s studies.
As a parent, we must understand even teachers and school management are struggling to get the hang of the technology and now it becomes more difficult for them as many parents are watching them. We must appreciate their efforts and give them time to become a pro in this field.


Neetu Kaur Arora

Neetu Kaur Arora

At present Neetu Kaur Arora and her husband, Puneet Singh Arora are living the new normal same as the entire world, figuring out new ways to go with the flow and accepting the virtual shift of their 4-year-old daughter Sehar Kaur’s education (studying in PP2). Neetu, who also handles business along with her husband, shares her thoughts with us.
 
While some parents love online classes, others are complaining, but there isn’t much one can do in the times of COVID-19. What could be a way out or a better approach for kids who are about to enter schools?
Online learning increases the possibility of receiving complaints from parents—because they’re now able to see everything their child sees. They can judge and dissect every lesson and assignment as it’s given. They can note every frustration, every moment of confusion, and every small struggle their child experiences. They can even sit right next to them during classes or meetings.
 
I personally feel that involving games in learning, making academic subjects is relevant to the child and talking them through the problems rather than punishing would help in the virtual educational process. Additionally, parents should ensure safe access of the internet for their child and equip them with switching off and relaxation techniques of gadgets.
 
How are you managing work and home with kids around?
It’s not easy at all to balance work and home, but how well you manage this can make a significant difference to your relationship with your family. Time management is vital. My husband and I take equal turns when it comes to looking after our daughter Sehar, taking care of her studies and handling our business. And my in-laws have also been the biggest support during COVID-19 time; can’t thank them enough.
 
Along with academics, it’s important to focus on extracurricular activities for the child’s growth. What are the activities that you are arranging for your kids at home?
When it comes to extracurricular activities, Sehar is busy doing art, reading books, painting, exercising and cycling with her father and playing basketball with few friends. All of this keeps her busy all the time and fit too.
 
Any tips you would like to give to other parents who have a kid the same as your kids’ age group.
Raising kids and their ways depend entirely on person to person. However, I feel every parent needs to be calm in this situation and instead of cribbing about the challenges of online classes; they should go with the flow and find ways to adjust to the new normal.


Ankita Sanghi

Ankita-Sanghi

A well-known entrepreneur from the city Ankita Sanghi opens up on challenges of virtual education and the ways she and her three and a half-year-old son, Krishnav Sanghi are adjusting to the new normal. Here’s more on this.
 
As a parent, how appropriate do you think are virtual classes for kids of your child’s age group? 
My child has been taking virtual classes since two months and being a mother I don’t find any challenges in this system of education as this is the best the schools can do in the current situation; even their hands are tied. We should be glad that there is some form of learning for our kids, and the teachers are helping kids to focus and concentrate on fun activities. Moreover, I feel virtual classes will be the future for the next 8-9 months; so if parents adjust to the scenario, it’ll help the kids do the same.
 
What are a few ways that you’re practising to not force your child to sit through classes and still help them learn?
This form of education too comes with its own negatives; there are times when my kid won’t sit for the classes. But, what I’ve learnt is we should not force our kids and let them do what they want to do instead of us telling them what they should do. If my son is not willing to concentrate, he won’t learn. So nabbing and forcing him is not going to help. And eventually, it’ll create a lot of stress for parents and kids. Even if you consider the regular situation of schools, you will let your kid miss school once in a while. It’s the same thing. You can speak to the teacher and redo the classes.
 
What is the best thing about virtual classes and what is it that you don’t like about it? 
The best thing for a parent is that now you know how your kids are handled and taken care of at schools; this helps us practise the same at home, and we can evaluate how to run a class. We are always there.
 
One of the biggest issues I had initially was that online classes have reduced the amount of social interaction for kids. For someone of my kid’s age, it’s imperative
for them to interact and meet other students as it enhances their nature and helps them develop.
 
There is a lot of difference between listening to a lecture in class and listening to it online. The environment is completely different in both scenarios. What is your opinion? 
I am one of those parents who really are non-finicky when It comes to thinking about what could be added or subtracted. The schools have introduced music, art and other activities into their online curriculum to make it interesting for the students. Plus, they have asked parents to adjust and create an environment for kids so that they feel like they’re in a classroom. Obviously, we cannot duplicate the classroom environment completely, but everyone is doing the best they can. So let’s go with the flow. 
 
Any tips you would like to give to other parents that can help in their children’s studies. 
Do not create an environment of a hot air balloon where your child is scared of you and the classes. Do not pressurize them. They should be given the space and time to express themselves. Understand that it is difficult for them too. Give them the freedom of expression.