As COVID-19 continues to unleash its wrath across the globe, it has inadvertently turned the lives of children upside down. With a sudden transition to online learning and prolonged screen time with no outdoor play and limited social interaction, the long term impact on children’s mental and physical health remains dubious. According to “Kids Under COVID”, a research study and survey by SP Robotic Works, India #1 online edutainment company, 78% of Indian parents are unwilling to send their wards to school immediately post lockdown, even if that entails repeating an academic year. The survey insights uncover the dilemma of parents and children and bring to light the key areas of attention.
Safety of their wards the topmost priority for parents
Parents from Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad and mini-metros are skeptical about sending their children to school, even if it is declared safe, with 82-86% unwilling to take any risk with the children. However, Chennai and Kolkata are the only exceptions among the major cities where the ratio of parents that are willing to take chances with sending their children to school is higher than the national average. Among the cohort, the salaried guardians are the most protective, with only 17% willing to send their children to school as soon as the schools reopen as against 30% of self-employed and 56% of freelance workers.
Parents and students reject the current way of online schooling
While most schools have successfully transitioned to online, the model is found to be less effective with over two-third of children preferring to learn in the classroom. Interestingly, children, as well as the parents in smaller cities and non-metros, seem to prefer online learning compared to those in metros, except Bangalore.
The era of women entrepreneurship beckons?
Amongst the choices for dream jobs, 15% of girls aspire to become entrepreneurs when they grow up, a higher percentage than boys. Entrepreneurship is second only to the fancy of becoming a doctor. According to a 2015 study by McKinsey Global Institute, India’s GDP could rise by between 16-60% by 2025 if women participated equally with men in the economy. Projections show that this could mean a whopping $2.9 trillion added to the economy. If we can nurture this dream of school-going girls well India surely has a chance of becoming a $5 trillion economy by 2025.
10% of children aged between 7-10 seem to have been bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and the number goes up to 17% in the 16-17 age group. From the data available, mini-metros and non-metros are more likely to produce entrepreneurs than metros.
Amongst other dream jobs, STEM continues to dominate the aspirations of young India with 52.5% kids wanting to either be a scientist, technologist, data scientist, or doctors. However, the desire to become a scientist declines as the child ages, owing to the strict and theoretical approach to STEM in the current education system.
Toys pave way for coding and robotics
Realizing the burgeoning potential of STEM subjects for a lucrative future, 23% of parents have engaged their children in an online robotics class during the lockdown period, while 32% have engaged them in an online coding class. Surprisingly, Mumbai tops the charts with 42% of children being engaged in Robotics/Coding classes while children in tech-hub Bangalore and Kolkata prefer spending time on traditional favourites such as reading or practising a musical instrument.
Understandably, YouTube remains a preferred platform for learning new things for children in smaller metros but 26% children also spend time on video, and app games.
Are we being oblivious to the mental health of our children?
The dramatic shift in the routine of the children has unknowingly impacted the mental well-being of the children. The survey findings underscore the noticeable change in behaviour and habits following the forced lockdown among the school goers. The sleeping pattern of nearly 50% of the kids has been disturbed with 13% of kids having no regular pattern of sleeping. While children with siblings have managed to stay less impacted, however, the older child still is exposed to ruptures in the pattern, teenagers acquiring the lion’s share. Understandably, 67% of parents think that their child’s screen time has gone up by at least 50% during the lockdown, thereby further impacting their concentration levels and leading to sleep disorders. The fear of pandemic has affected 40% of the children surveyed, causing unaddressed anxiety issues.
Commenting on the impact of COVID-19 lockdown and crisis, Sneha Priya S, Co-Founder & CEO of SP Robotic Works said, “COVID19 has proven to be the turnstile for education in India. The current situation has unearthed the immense potential of platforms with experiential and interactive learning which engage children in practical tasks and logical reasoning. With the proposed NEP in place, we believe that hope is anew for the young minds of the country. The policy rightly stresses the importance of including experiential learning, replacing the existing pedagogy of teaching Maths & Science in schools. A policy that SP Robotic Works steadfastly holds on for all our engagements with the children.”