Online learning heartache

Online learning heartache

Parents lash system; one claims robots being bred, others cite rudeness of teachers

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Senior staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 18, 2020

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STUDENTS are now on midterm break from digital learning, but parents who have sat in on some of the online classes have taken issue with a number of things, particularly the lack of personal feeling or the impersonal nature of the classes.

“There's no way they can get a fulsome education from online schooling — it's just too impersonal. They're just going through the motions; we're basically breeding robots,” one parent told the Jamaica Observer. “My concern as a parent is mostly from a mental health standpoint.My child is miserable, because she is an all-rounder, and the focus is just on academics. They have online guidance counselling sessions, but I worry that the months with no peer socialisation and no extra-curricular activities will hurt her.”

In addition, another parent, with a child in grade seven, shared similar sentiments and raised concerns that in addition to the impersonal nature of classes, students are being blamed for teachers' incompetence.

“My daughter had a homework due that required a drawing to be uploaded. On the system, you would normally see 'attach file'. Instead, the only option there was to type the answer. So quick thinking, I told her to type in the answer then e-mail the teacher the diagram explaining that there was no option to attach the work and submit. Lo and behold, in the morning I stay from my kitchen and hear the teacher complaining bitterly that they must go and learn how to use and manoeuvre the system and stop e-mailing her work. As a parent you're not going to interrupt the class, so I signaled to my daughter to mute her mic and told her don't pay the comment any mind because she clearly knows we're all stressed to the point we would rather rant than look into the fact that everyone e-mailed the homework, so clearly something was wrong with the method of submission,” another parent told the Sunday Observer.

The parent added: “If I don't delay going in to my office and log in from my office to her classes to see if she is in, she is just going to go on Netflix or watch cartoons. Sometimes announcements are posted, new class links are issued, and if I don't call and say have you seen it or remind her to check her e-mails she just get lef. She is not used to this level of independence or mode of learning, and many of the teachers are not patient.”

On the same note, a father added: “One teacher didn't know how to set the deadline for the project on Google Classroom and cussed out the students for not doing the assignment. When they pointed out her error, she tell them they are too fresh.”

Another parent said, for the most part her child's school has it quite together, as classes are held in full and on time, teachers are prepared and the syllabus is being covered, just like regular school. The parent said this has allowed her to comfortably leave her child at home.

But, it was her grade nine child's account of classes that made her realise there were two completely different perceptions regarding online classes.

The child said: “Teachers disregard the fact that their students still have lives outside of school — an insane workload. Google Classroom training is limited, and teachers tend to blame their incompetence on students. Students downplay the importance of school due to it being online. We're only moving backwards in education and learning skills because of it. Students are much more likely to skip online class or multitask during class time because they have yet to realise how it will impact them.”

On this note, her mother added: “What she said about multitasking — I often forget that she's in 'school' and will tell her to do the dishes, etc, on her breaks.”

The child continued, “Teachers expect students to have cameras on at all times, and often say students are lying when their camera or microphone isn't working. The entire educational approach has changed, forcing kids to either adapt to the change and teach themselves, or get left behind. Power outages aren't uncommon and it's becoming concerning. Teachers who are also parents don't have an escape from their children and are often seen taking care of, or tending to their kids during class time. It is much easier to disrespect teachers because of the lack of consequences. When one student dares to act up in class, it causes a domino effect, and what are the teachers gonna do, give the students detention?”

Further, the high school child added that the diagnostic tests set by the education ministry are nearly undoable.

“They're obviously not a priority for anyone at the ministry. Some of the answers weren't there, others were incomprehensible. Tech errors — like the programme was written by a bad tech intern. It's like they didn't put any effort in it; it wasn't a priority at all. After doing the evaluation and seeing that that is the test that the MOE [Ministry of Education] wants to use to assess our progress, I feel hopeless. If this is who we're leaving our fates up to, our future is not very promising,” the student said.

Meanwhile, a parent with children in preparatory school expressed disappointment at what she viewed as the level of greed being displayed.

“We have no argument with taking responsibility for our children having a quality learning experience, but have much beef with the greed demonstrated by so-called private schools, which insist on the same school fees charged before COVID-19 still being paid for just under three hours of instruction daily on a platform which sees teachers being knocked off ever so often because of inadequate service or because of the type of subscription,” the parent said.

The parent added that the hours are shortened and there is definitely lower-quality instruction and monitoring; however, the schools act as if they are doing parents a huge favour and are most condescending in their approach.

Furthermore, she said the situation is made worse by the fact that the teachers employed to some of these entities are being paid by the hour, so the bulk of the “much-needed tuition” is being pocketed by the greedy owners and not those truly slaving.

She said: “It is criminal and, although they hypocritically claim to dance to the tune of Jamaica Independent Schools Association and not the Ministry of Education when it suits them, I think the ministry should intervene in this free-for-all of greed. One might say serves us right for wanting our children to go to privately run institutions, but we all do know they have their place in the education system.”


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