In the year 2020, we experienced an inflection point in our lives that was filled with many unprecedented firsts; school closures for an extended period, islandwide lockdowns, implementation of ‘boarders’, prolonged curfews and record unemployment. What was striking also, were the protocols which were employed in schools to address the impact of COVID- 19 pandemic on the education system. That year would undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the lives of our children, as well as its impact on their academic development. Educational institutions were shuttered, nevertheless, to ensure the continuity of the instructional process, teaching and learning were conducted in a virtual environment.
Undoubtedly, the advent of this global pandemic necessitated urgent parental intervention in the education system. It also highlighted the overwhelming challenges which parents had to contend with as they tried to maneuver through, what for many, was unchartered territory. Of significance, was the method in which students were taught at home, through the use of virtual learning platforms. This was a novel situation for parents, especially those who were unfamiliar with technological platforms such as Google Classroom, Google Meet, Edmodo, Duolingo, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facetime and Zoom. Consequently, they were unable to assist their children in navigating these platforms and this could have been ascribed to the unavailability of resources, inadequate access to internet, limited technological devices and insufficient knowledge of the intricacies of online learning. To mitigate the problem of limited technological devices, the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, embarked on an initiative to equip households with e-learning and MiFi devices, which charted the way for parents to actively participate in the learning process, albeit in a virtual environment.
It is quite evident that new technologies are replacing the traditional way of ‘chalk and talk’ in the classroom and the proliferation of multimedia content, has made it incumbent on parents to keep abreast with advances in technology and become equipped with the knowledge and skills to make the learning process a more meaningful one. Teaching and learning have shifted from a locus where instruction was predominantly administered in the classroom, to one which incorporates a blend of face to face and online learning. To ensure that they provide the academic support which children require to be successful in a virtual learning environment, and to foster greater collaboration between the home and the school, the following are some measures which can be implemented by parents:
1. Monitor children’s progress. In a physical setting, parents would converse with the class teacher and go through their children’s books, to ensure that homework and class work are completed. It is essential that they monitor their children’s progress online also, by ensuring that they can successfully log on to the platform and can complete the tasks outlined by the teacher. Parents can also assist by supervising the research process, to safeguard children who may be potentially exposed to inappropriate content from malicious websites.
2. Assist children with time management. Students are given deadlines in which to complete assignments and they should be instructed on how to utilize their time wisely. Prioritizing and keeping track of the due dates would ensure that each assignment is completed on time. To do this, establish and enforce a routine. Set a daily schedule for children to complete their work or assigned tasks. Furthermore, since many schools have scheduled classes where students meet online, ensure that they are regular and punctual for classes.
3. Remain in contact with the teacher. The relationship between the home and the school is paramount to students’ academic development. To facilitate seamless transition between the learning which occurs in a physical setting (the classroom) and the home, parents should remain in contact with the school, but more importantly, the classroom teacher. It is expedient to enquire from the teacher, the nature of the assignments and exercises which children are required to execute. If they encounter problems with assignments, seek guidance and clarification from the teacher.
4. Offer support and encouragement. A parent’s role is pivotal to the educational advancement of a child. Therefore, it is vital that they support their children’s learning online. Encourage them to develop a positive disposition towards their learning and motivate them to work hard. When parents encourage and support children, they become empowered and intrinsically driven to actively engage or participate in the learning process.
5. Create a conducive environment for learning. Designate an area in the home as a quiet zone. To achieve this environment, ensure that noise and distractions in the work space are reduced. For example, if children are engaged in completing assignments the television and radio should be turned off. A conducive environment therefore, enhances their ability to concentrate and results in improved learning outcomes.