Spotlight: Blended learning a mixed bag

MUSCAT: The academic year 2020-21 will be different from the past as students and teachers got a taste of online education amid coronavirus restrictions.  With schools in the Sultanate set to reopen in November, is the time ripe for blended learning or just classroom education as COVID-19 cases show no signs of decline.

Many were not prepared for online learning and teaching despite the talk of digital revolution, apps and smart screens. While others lapped it up for its convenience and efficiency.

“There cannot be a permanent alternative to conventional teaching and face to face interaction between teachers and students, but the important point is that we have a solution for any crisis. Technology companies like Zoom and Google should be appreciated for helping us out with alternatives within a short period,” said a senior teacher of an Indian School in Muscat. “Some teachers, including me, had issues adapting to 100 per cent technology-based teaching. We cannot deprive education for children from education until vaccines are ready.”

Apart from the teaching process, the matter of concern for both teachers and parents is evaluation.

The Ministry of Education in Oman said last week that that evaluation will be a continuous process instead of semester examinations.

“Now on, we have to be always prepared for such a crisis. Final exams of the academic year 2019-2020 were disrupted across the world and students were evaluated based on previous exams. Students can’t take things for granted by burning the midnight lamp.” said Ameena, an Omani English teacher. She feared that hybrid teaching will lead students to computer-based projects. “Maintaining books for a year is also an important aspect of school life.”

The education systems worldwide continue to be in a limbo as o COVID-19 cases surged with the reopening of activities.

Nearly 50 schools in Spain registered fresh coronavirus cases during the first week of classes. There have been few transmissions within schools that reopened in Germany, but the new cases have been rising in the country recently.

According to studies, while children are less susceptible to severe COVID-19 as compared to adults, they can become asymptomatic carriers of the disease.

While the first wave of the pandemic has not ended in many countries, the second one has reportedly badly hurt countries like Australia and New Zealand, among others.

Earlier speaking to the Observer, Priya Avasthi, a parent, said, “I’m in no rush for schools to open as I would not want to compromise on my child’s health. I respect all government decisions and I know they are doing the best they can to curb the infection. We are all equipped with the necessary tools nowadays to ensure our kids have access to online education.”

Another parent Nisha Kumar said, “It is a dilemma. Children miss their interaction with teachers and classmates. They are catching up with online classes and the new way of schooling. Schools and students have coped well. But the question is how safe is it to go back to the typical school environment? As parents, we cannot help but worry. But they cannot stay secluded either. Children will have to be taught about the new norms.”