Guru/Shishya/Internet/Online learning

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Guru/Shishya/Internet/Online learning


With the onset of COVID during Feb 2020, many paradigms and norms are being challenged and changed; convictions and understandings are being challenged. Since most of the schools have moved to online teaching their students, two things have happened. First is that parents have got a much better view into how education happens and how their children are learning in school. Secondly, with children having more time on hand, most of the parents ended up trying extra online classes, offered aplenty by many online platforms. This has also ushered a big upswing in the number of parents homeschooling their children using these online classes either as a mainstay or as a support to what the child learns at school.

Only education must uphold the ideal, most others have the tendency to dilute the ideal in the name of practicality. When one makes an adjustment of the ideal, then the adjusted level becomes the ideal, which in the first place is a diluted level. Next time comparison is made with the already diluted ideal. And it’s a matter of time the ideal is watered down to such an extent that milk is no more milk but it becomes plain water. That is the situation today with many parents opting for online courses as an alternative to regular schooling. Online solutions might seem just a small adjustment in comparison to the existing modern education which is mostly result oriented, information heavy, devoid of application and disconnected from self, nature, culture, family and spirituality. But it is a far cry in comparison to learning with and from an inspiring and purpose driven acharya in-person, who can work with the child on understanding the concepts and also address all the above mentioned needs of the child. When the student learns from such adults in person along with a steady peer group, in a natural environment, the student grows holistically.

Such guru-shishya relationships are the bed-rock of Vidyakshetra philosophy. Apart from the life lessons and values that the students learn from the acharyas who are ‘inspired to learn’ in their own lives; child also develops such a learning attitude, which in itself is a good virtue to have. Thus education needs to be a learning journey and must aim at students becoming “learners for life”. Modern education being result backward, creates an undue pressure of performance and fear of failure for the student. Also children are pushed to shallow learn in order to pass exams. Passing exams becomes the goal and not learning. Online learning aggravates these issues as the ownership of learning comes squarely on the student. A video or a tuition teacher online cannot customize the learning for each child. In effect it’s like one size fits all and again aimed at merely completing the curriculum for passing the exams. Therefore a holistic education system needs to be “in person” and “effort forward” and not “result backward”. This doesn’t mean that the result is not important. On the contrary a healthy, holistic, sincere effort ensures the best possible result. For intense and holistic learning and growth of the child we need a whole ecosystem of acharyas in arts (music, dance, painting, drawing), in physical work (construction, agriculture, weaving, carpentry, pottery, kreeda etc) and in academics (maths, science, languages, history, geography and theory and philosophy and theory behind the arts and will work mentioned above). Such vast and in-depth learning cannot be had online.

Another key aspect which an acharya can bring to the student is to see connections between subjects, along with connection of the subjects with life, environment, society, family and God. In today’s online learning age and our desire to see our child learn multiple vidyas, some parents treat their child’s education as a mix and match of subjects. Thanks to our shopping mall culture, this tendency drives parents to ferry their young children from one class to another, thus draining them of vital prana shakti. Also since the subjects are learnt from different teachers having different contexts (not connected by common vision), the child rarely gets to see the important connections listed above. Hence we share with our parents that education at Vidyakshetra is not the sum total of subjects, which can be taught independently to students outside. On the contrary all the subjects are like flowers in a garland connected together through the complex network of gross and subtle connections brought forward by the acharya in different situations.

Given the nuclear nature of our families, single child and work schedules parents usually don’t have sufficient time on hand to play with their children, tell them stories or just be with them when they need them. On the other hand there are some parents who are always breathing down their child’s neck and are over anxious for the well being and learning of their child. Thus leading to under-parenting or over-parenting situations. Coupled with past life impressions of the child, other environmental factors like media, video games, lack of daily, weekly and annual rhythm etc many children come with severe needs in behavioural, attitudinal, social and intellectual dimensions. In online education the child might be learning different topics from different adults, socially the child is exposed to only his/her parents at home. Because of this limited exposure, social and behavioural learning is limited & sometimes the gaps in parents behaviour are amplified in the child’s behaviour. Children learn both from what is said and also from who we are. Hence as shared above an environment where the student gets to learn from many inspired and purpose driven adults the above risk is minimized. Also a predictable and stable environment where children are exposed to many children on a daily basis gives them a chance to become aware of and gradually work on their anarthas – envy, anger, greed, pride, lust, telling lies, laziness, lack of will, groupism, unhealthy competition etc.

At Vidyakshetra since the beginning of COVID-19 last year, we have adopted a mix method of online and in person learning. This online learning approach is different from learning through the internet. We used an online medium for our interactions between students and acharyas, where the relationship between student and acharyas is long term, stable and already established. Using a mobile or a laptop for classes is a temporary adjustment in order to continue the much needed learning journey of the child. We are well aware of the damage screen time can cause to a child’s eyesight besides mobile and media addiction. We have started increasing in-person classes and at the first possible instance would like to move all the classes completely in-person at Vidyakshetra campus. I am hoping and praying that this pandemic comes to an end and our children are spared of this attack on their senses and mind at both gross and subtle levels. Wishing you all good health.

In your service
Muneet Dhiman

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