Is distance learning the answer to the pandemic?

Haider al Lawati

Weighing on the minds of many people are economic and social concerns even as the coronavirus epidemic shows no signs of abating.

Dominant among these concerns is the issue of educating children in regular schools. Will education be available through the conventional school system and institutions, or will it be transformed into distance learning or electronic channels?  It is difficult for families to take their children back to school for fear of exposure to the virus.  This makes many families worried about the future of their children, especially those who do not have laptops and other technical devices through which education classes can be introduced through new applications such as Zoom, for example. Not all families in the world have the financial resources to buy modern electronic devices for the educational needs of their children, while an Internet connection at home can add to their monthly. These issues need solutions so that every child can obtain knowledge notwithstanding the epidemic raging around us.

Today, questions are being asked about the safety of continuing work amid the pandemic, or during family gatherings or visits to mosques or places of worship, whenever they reopen, or during gatherings in institutions or clubs, or during visits to relatives in hospital.  Indeed, the pandemic has prompted officials around the world to search for ways for people to coexist with the virus, whether during travel in trains, buses, and airplanes or in other facets of day-to-day living.

As for the education of children, some experts see the importance of continuing the process of education and training for children by following two methods, which is to continue through the usual study in the schools that they are accustomed to, with the introduction of the new model which is distance study which means to give importance for both sides, with the necessity reconsidering the educational curricula, their arrangement, and the way they are taught.

It is not appropriate for children to be deprived of going to their schools, colleges, and universities. But due to the closure of educational institutions, we have to deal with what is available by distance learning as a new model for families, students, and the educational staff. It is necessary to know the positive and negative results of this type of virtual education if the pandemic continues for a long time.

In general, this type of education means losing the relationship between student and teacher, the opportunity to interact with other students and to form new and lasting friendships, and so on. Education is based on thriving relationships between teachers and students, and not in the virtual world.