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Is Home An Ideal Place To Learn? The ‘Problem Of Space’ We Forgot To Talk About

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Educational institutions have remained closed since the March of 2020, keeping in mind the health and safety of students. Since then, schools and universities have resorted to online teaching. As a result of that, most students have been studying from home. In this piece, I will share some of the conversations that I had with these students on how the home is not conducive to learning. Firstly, it impacts the children negatively, and secondly, home is a big distraction in the learning process.

Presidency University, Kolkata.

The first person that I spoke to for this purpose is Aradhana*. She has just completed her Master’s from a central university.

Aradhana* says, “Online learning had taken a toll on me during 2020 because I had classes scheduled from 10 am- 2 pm and since my mother is a teacher, she had up to 4 classes per day, scheduled anywhere from 6 am to 2 pm. I had to assist her while she made notes and prepared her lesson plans. Then I had to do my internship work and assignments. Towards the end of August, I had a massive burnout. I was extremely tired and couldn’t sleep at all. I was anxious most of the time because balancing all of it on my own was extremely difficult.

I would have nightmares about not being able to manage things and screwing everything up. I couldn’t let anyone suffer because of me. I didn’t have anyone to talk to either. My productivity was affected, mainly because I was juggling between multiple things. I lacked the motivation to study on most days because I couldn’t figure out any purpose. I sort of had an impostor syndrome, like I am not where I want to be, but I didn’t want to work to be better either. The entire period stagnated my career. Many people had chalked out career paths for themselves, but since we didn’t have the study materials and exams got cancelled, there was no motivation at all to do things.”

Rashmika*, a student of Development Studies in NIT Rourkela, has her own predicaments.

She says, “My house lacks the space where I can study the way I want to. When I am at home, it is difficult to keep people away when I am studying. Something continuously happens in the background when I study. Even if I tell my family members that I am getting disturbed, nobody is bothered. So, I end up getting distracted whenever I sit to study, which has ended up impacting my studies a lot.”

She further adds , “In college, we were surrounded by like-minded people, who were our competitors. That kept us motivated. Now that zeal is no more there because it’s just about us. We are seeing ourselves only. We aren’t aware of the level of competition around us, which has extenuated our motivation.”

Tanisha* has just completed her master’s from a very prestigious university in Kolkata. She also faced her own share of troubles.

She says,” Remote learning is definitely a problem. Something is always going on in the background. Someone is watching television or sometimes someone is working on the mixer grinder, while your classes are going on. My home is located near the main road, which is noisy. Under such circumstances, online studying becomes difficult because these things create a lot of distractions for me, while the classes are going on.”

Presidency University, Kolkata.

Aradhana, Rashmika and Tanisha’s predicaments are indicators of a very significant problem associated with remote learning: the problem of space.

Online/remote learning has completely changed the traditional way of studying. Teachers and students no longer occupy the traditional spaces of studying, namely classrooms. They are physically distant from each other and have been relegated to their homes, which has caused a humongous impact on the students, particularly. This has happened in two ways.

Firstly, remote learning has impacted students mentally because they are no longer studying in classrooms. It has reduced their motivation because they no longer find themselves sharing the same space(namely classrooms) with their cohorts. Meeting people who share similar dreams, desires and worries are very important for the healthy psychological growth of students. It is lacking in remote learning. This has extenuated their zeal to study. In fact, most students complain of a lack of motivation to study due to the online mode of learning.

Secondly, the very space that they have been relegated to during the pandemic (i.e. their homes) are themselves acting as major obstacles to study. One can hardly control what goes on in their home. Many students face umpteen distractions during online classes, which has left them frustrated. Most of the time they find it difficult to block such distractions, as Rashmika’s and Tanisha’s experience tells us.

So, online/remote education is problematic, not just because it’s unfeasible (keeping in mind the social and economic status of the majority of the population in India), but also because it has completely changed the space where a student gets their education. Students have been relegated to their homes for more than a year now and this has impacted them in a huge way. Their productivity has taken a hit.

Many students find themselves unable of realising their potential. Such a state of affairs has much to do with the space from where they are trying to learn, namely their homes. Very little attention has been paid to this point. Very few people have concentrated on the mental and other detrimental effects of this change of space of learning on the students. With one and a half years gone, it is time for all of us to concentrate on this aspect, so that students can again study with the same determination and zeal that they manifested before the commencement of remote learning last year.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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