by Pritha Nag
On the 21st of January, the BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) allowed schools in Mumbai to reopen from the 24th of January after the third wave driven by Omicron had started to ebb. This reopening was initially only planned for post 15th of February, as the Maharashtra government had announced all classes would be held online from the 3rd of January till February 15th, due to the third wave. However, this was pushed back as the peak of the third wave hit Mumbai and Maharashtra, and many parents and teachers alike protested for school reopening. Many parents and students were shocked by this switch back to online classes after spending all of October, November and December in person, then online and then back to in-person and this time in less than four weeks. In-person school is great and essential for any student, however, the constant switch between online and offline classes has its issues, and those aren’t always just academic.
Online classes are unpopular among students, mostly for the fact that one feels lazy doing school from home, you don’t get to meet or be with your friends and you have to stare at a screen and absorb information. It’s tiring and has gained a bad reputation and many could say rightfully so. On the other hand, in-person classes are the most popular amongst students, as they are in the company of your friends and are a lot easier to absorb and understand when a teacher is in front of you rather than on a screen. A survey done by EducationWorld says that 65% of students feel sleepy during online school. But after doing a year and a half of online classes you get used to it, and then going back in-person at first is hard and then you’re used to it, going back online once again is hard but you’re again used to it and then back in-person and now you’re just tired. This constant switch three to four times in a short span of three months can be tiring and sometimes even lead to burnout. Students can feel lazy and out of school without a proper routine or sense of rhythm in their school week, and with the constant adapting it poses difficult to have a routine and structure to your week. A lot of times students can even see it as unnecessary to find a routine because they could be going back online within a few weeks, or they could be going back in person within a few weeks. But how do students feel about this?
I asked Dheer Jain from 9th grade if he thought that online and offline was tiring, and this is what he had to say– “It is, especially once you see what offline school is like. I do genuinely feel that I’m much more productive offline.” Dheer continued by saying that although he did see why it had to be done, and fully understood. Going on with that when asked if he felt it affected his mental health, he said– “I do feel like everyone needs that social interaction, with the online school it doesn’t really present that opportunity, however, in offline school you can see people in corridors and things like that. However, in offline school, you have to pursue people, which is easier said than done.” Dheer went on to say that his academics had, “Definitely been affected by the constant switch, especially given the fact that productivity standards have dropped given the last two years. During the switch, it was hard to get to a routine, which made me feel less productive. And I’ve always thought of it like “if school is not a place to sleep then home is not a place to work.” From this, we can see that not only does a student’s academic performance get affected by the switch but also their mental health, however, students through the past two years have understood why this needed to happen, and although may not have loved it, have dealt with it.
In March 2020 when the whole world felt like it went upside down, for all students, their world went online. It’s difficult as a student to experience such a quick and big change just over a weekend. Your teachers expect you to follow through with assignments when you’re still trying to get used to online learning and the shift took a while for students to adapt to. For many of us, it was our first time using apps like Zoom or Google Classroom, now we can navigate them, but back in 2020, it took a bit. After spending twenty months online and then going back to in-person school, you might not like online school, but you’re used to it, and all of a sudden it’s in-person. This proves that it’s hard to get used to. Online and offline are taxing in their own ways, they’re tiring and have their advantages and disadvantages. But constantly switching from one to the other and back is hard. How is a student ever expected to turn in assignments, have a social life, do school work when sometimes all they’re trying to do is get used to online or offline classes. It can disrupt students’ workflow, and that’s why staggered approaches are great, but not always realistic. They can pose an even greater challenge to students for doing in-person learning some days and online other days, and this can cause a sense of complete disorganization throughout the whole week. The second time that we went back to school it wasn’t staggered. It was five days online one week and five days in-person the next. It’s hard to get used to, and when teachers and people around you expect you to adapt and get used to it within 24 hours and that can cause stress.
This can also affect a student’s academics and throw them off their academic game. When Tara Hebbar from the 10th grade was asked if this affected her academics she said– “Yes my academics have been affected because my attention span in online school was a lot better, so when we came back in person I was trying to get used to it however as soon as I try to get used to something it’s changing.” Continuing on that note if mentally and physically her health had been affected she said “It’s extremely tiring not only mentally but I’ve found even physically, because once you get used to sitting during online school for so long, and then all of a sudden moving around constantly it’s a tiring change. Also, it’s mentally tiring to get used to something, and then have to go back to something else and vice versa.” From Tara, we can see that this switch has also physically left some students tired, and when they attempt to try and get used to offline school they’re all of sudden back online.
So, what’s the solution?
In-person school is the way school is supposed to be, it’s the way it was designed and the way a child can learn best. However the constant switch back online and offline, even for a short period of time, can affect a student. It’s tiring, taxing, and affects them mentally and academically isn’t ideal. Although these times are difficult and always uncertain to deal with, we do understand that it can be unsafe to do offline school, as students it’s difficult and the constant back and forth can stunt our education. A solution needs to be made, one which permits students to continue doing in-person learning without costing themselves, their education and their future.