Reports suggest that 91% of the global student population has been impacted by the pandemic while 32 crore students in India have been affected due to the nation-wide lockdown (Source).
Are we monitoring the mental health of students in India?
As modern classrooms undergo a major overhaul due to the pandemic, mental health has emerged as a big issue among young pupils. Virtual classrooms have become the default mode of education hijacking real-life interactions between students. This has led to a lack of feeling of fraternity and added to existing financial and social-emotional problems at home; related to a parent’s job loss or death due to the pandemic. Probably for the first time, many children have been exposed to their parents’ frustrations, be it from juggling multiple demands personally or professionally.
Recently UNESCO reported that 25% of children between the age of 13 and 15 suffer from some sort of depression and anxiety in India (Source).
The virtual world doesn’t help improve this statistic. For a teacher, the virtual space is not a conducive environment to engage in illuminating conversations that make a child open-up to sensitive topics.
However, modern technology has created avenues to bridge this gap…
The gap between holistic development and education in current times is worrisome, but the boom of the edu-tech sector in India, along with a number of policy changes in the Indian education system, has addressed this topic to some extent.
Creating trust through transformational change in the education system
India’s ed-tech market, which is supposed to touch $3.5 billion by 2022 (Omidyar Network India report, 2020), has changed the face of education through the rise of innovative online learning platforms in recent years. During 2020, they have succeeded in engaging, educating and empowering students as well as teachers, often at a nominal cost. This set the ball rolling for an enhanced learning process where students, tutors, teachers and experts all come together to dispense knowledge, thus reaching students all over the country.
Rural India today boasts of children who have access to education and learning materials remotely through a smartphone, often provided free of cost by the government or an NGO. The tech also allows children from different parts of the country to come together through online education. This actively bridges the gap left by lack of physical classroom interactions and provides perspectives from different geographies and societies.
Building positive peer relationships through interactive virtual classrooms
Interactive virtual classrooms are an important aspect of the evolving landscape of education. It is where a feedback loop can be created, and productive discussions happen. Especially for students preparing for competitive exams like NEET, UPSC, GATE, etc., it is very important to find a space where you can engage with others without the fear of judgement.
For younger children, this engagement sets the foundation for positive peer relationships and socio-emotional learning (UNESCO MGIEP report, 2020). For example, holding online painting or writing competitions for young children or organising a ‘fun day’ to watch a movie together virtually can help create a sense of community and reduce loneliness for a child.
Gamification of education is here to stay
Incorporating game design elements in educational environments is a trend that’s proved to enhance motivation and engagement in learning significantly. The trend is referred to as gamification. Applying gamification to various classroom activities to make them more engaging and fun can help provide new-age holistic education.
Studies indicate the strong pedagogical properties games have for learning, making it an attractive medium to transmit knowledge.
The AI-driven multiplayer games being adopted in modern classrooms, to enrich different aspects of a personality is a unique method to create immersive (using Augmented Reality) experiences for a child to engage further and build motivation (Goyal, 2020). Virtual classrooms, which can often increase the sense of social isolation, can help reduce the sense of anxiety through the use of innovative technology.
Using innovative education models for holistic development
The National Educational Policy of 2020 outlined various methods of holistic development for a child including regular mental health check-ups (NEP, 2020). Cultivating healthy emotional capabilities in a child and encouraging critical enquiry is essential to a good education model. The ed-tech sector has managed to create virtual classrooms that are inclusive and dynamic, to suit the needs of the pandemic world while schools are closed. It has been especially helpful in upskilling students while also giving access to education to students across the country.
In order to foster connections online to create a healthy space to exchange information educators need to empower students. This can take place through the help of technology, where innovative education models (like game-based e-learning) can create a sense of community.
During this Covid-19 pandemic, children and other vulnerable groups are at a much higher risk to have a negative impact on their mental well-being (UNESCO, 2020).
It is therefore essential to be engaged with peers and other students through the help of technology in order to bridge the gap created by the lack of physical classrooms.