THE Covid-19 pandemic has had a drastic impact on the education sector with many educators seeing e-learning or online learning as the way forward.
In Penang, the Whytehouse Education Group is among those which have harnessed technology to keep knowledge flowing to young ones who can’t go to school.
Following the nationwide movement control order (MCO) in March, it moved its early years education programme to cyberspace, with a minimum of three hours of virtual lessons and activities per day.
Founder and executive director Jery Yeoh said these Whytehouse Global Classroom e-classes mimic the actual classroom setting as much as possible to give the little ones a connection with teachers and peers.
“Our online classrooms enable parents to join in the lessons themselves so they can observe first hand the quality of teaching delivered.
“The first six years of a child’s development is hugely important. They need to interact and connect with their friends,” he explained, adding that some children may find it hard to cope with isolation.
Globally, an estimated 1.2 billion children are out of classrooms due to the pandemic. Many parents and educators alike have expressed concern about what this would do to a child’s mental health.
Yeoh said parents had told him that their children begged to be allowed to return to school to release their frustration.
“There’s concern about how children who’ve been isolated at home for several months might handle the transition back to classrooms eventually. They’ll have to play catch-up once schools and kindergartens are allowed to reopen.
“You might need to cram six months’ worth of lessons into the three months post-MCO. Children who were able to take advantage of e-learning during this period will be better placed to move forward,” he pointed out.
Besides daily online lessons complemented by activity packs, Whytehouse’s 200-plus students have also been enjoying live Fun with Story-telling sessions by storytellers from New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Italy, Taiwan, Australia, Singapore and also Malaysia.
There have also been many fun activities and science experiments for them to carry out at home.
Some were open to the public via its Facebook page. These reached approximately 65,000 viewers, making for 360-plus viewing hours.
Yeoh said the group also takes pride in publishing its own books with hand-drawn content. So far, its team of seven artists have come up with 36 books, each typically with eight pages of data, experiments, activities and quizzes tailored for young children.
The group is recognised by the Malaysia Book of Records for the ‘Most Number of Science Books for Children Published in a Single Event’ with 20 titles rolled out back on June 5, 2018.
The group’s headquarters is at Arena Curve in Bayan Lepas with centres in Bukit Mertajam, Butterworth, Bukit Jambul and Tech Dome Penang.
The current shift away from traditional classrooms leaves many parents wondering whether online learning will persist post-pandemic and how it will impact education as a whole.
To this, Yeoh opines, “E-learning is here to stay but is unlikely to overtake classroom learning. Technology can be used as a vehicle but won’t be all-encompassing.
“This is especially true of early years education because there are many aspects which can only be addressed through hands-on interactions with the child. Kids at this age develop rapidly and change by the day.”
He also stressed that a child’s home environment and upbringing are also crucial in determining how they fare later in life.
“They need to be taught what’s right or wrong from a young age so they can make better decisions as adults,” Yeoh advised.
For now, parents and children can check out Whytehouse’s next online session titled ‘DIY Science Adventures’ with the Street Science team from Brisbane, Australia, today at 10.40am.
Log on to its Facebook page at www.facebook.com/whytehouse.edu to view. Participants will learn how to make a lava lamp so have a small glass or plastic container, cooking oil, water, food colouring and a fizzy tablet ready.
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