E-Kindie with Alethea Azlee
By Sheril A. Bustaman
It is Day 47 of the Movement Control Order (MCO) which marks approximately a month of online kindergarten for Alethea and I. We’re lucky to be afforded the privilege of online learning and also lucky to be equipped with all the tools needed, but even so, it is not a walk in the park for all parties involved. Alethea’s kindergarten has always been very systematic and organised, and in this pandemic, they are no different.
Their system of online learning is disciplined and follows a daily schedule which is easy for the children to adapt to after a week or so. A typical online learning day is divided as such – a morning Zoom meeting with her teacher and classmates, followed by watching a series of videos uploaded onto a Google Classroom (which a specific coded email was set up for each child) then ending with a closing Zoom meeting, also with the teachers and classmates.
In the first few days, I sat with Alethea and watched every video with her, marvelling internally at the amount of effort the teachers have put in to help these small children get an education in a time of social distancing. Personally, I barely have the patience for my own children, let alone other people’s, and the amount of energy required to keep these videos upbeat and engaging is truly a feat that I could never achieve.
I consider myself lucky also because my soon-to-be 5-year old is very independent and has the intelligence to match. After the initial first few days of online kindergarten, she knew what needed to be done and when, so I didn’t need to sit with her and guide her through every single part. Her only current problem is that she can’t tell time, so when she finishes her work beforehand, she needs to be reminded to come back to the iPad for the closing Zoom meeting with all her friends. But considering the circumstances, this is a minor setback.
To some degree however, the kindergarten is incredibly ambitious. There are science experiments and arts and crafts that definitely require adult supervision, and also require many ingredients or apparatus that the children (aka their parents) need to remember to prepare. This has taken up many a morning and has been a real test to my patience, especially when Alethea is over-excited and isn’t listening to the instructions. The excitement of doing the experiment in the comforts of home and not in a learning setting also takes away from the actual lesson. She doesn’t remember anything about density for example, but can tell you that she put some eggs in water.
I also question the effectiveness of passive learning via video for young children who require interaction in order to focus. Because the video is pre-recorded, Alethea’s focus tends to roam and so does her physical being. She’ll be rolling on the floor, walking around the iPad and sometimes just plain lying down! She also finds it frustrating when the teacher in the video asks her a question repeatedly and she has answered the screen multiple times, making her even less interested in the lesson.
In the first few days, it took a lot of coercion to get her to pay attention and I even had to devise a method whereby after she watches the video, she has to regurgitate what she learnt to me before moving onto the next one. Even so, her enthusiasm for the weekend and exclamations of “I’M FREE!” after each school day tells me that despite her teachers’ best efforts, this is not her ideal learning environment and she isn’t really striving.
But really, this isn’t the ideal environment for anybody. COVID-19 has shut down many industries and countries, and whether it feels like it or not, Malaysia is lucky to just have a MCO rather than a full-scale lockdown or state of emergency. It is very commendable that her teachers are making an effort to try to educate them using whatever methods and tools that they have within their reach. As a parent, I understand also that I need to accommodate this in order for the children to get the best education they can out of the current situation. If only it didn’t involve so much cutting and pasting.
Sheril A. Bustaman is a freelance producer & writer whose full-time job is mothering three children of ages varying from 7 months to 9. While there are no financial benefits to the job, it comes with an ample amount of cuddles, teaching moments and some gratification.
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