EDUCATION guides and prepares a child to succeed in life.
As we move into the future, education will need to support children in developing both the right skills and mindset to undertake challenges in the real world.
In view of that, a recent webinar session organised in collaboration by the Star Media Group in partnership with Vista Laser Eye Center discussed ways to prepare children to learn and succeed in the new era.
The session shared insights on how reading and digital education complement a child’s development while offering essential tips to help keep children's eyes healthy.
Kicking off the Preparing Your Kids to Learn and Succeed in the New Era webinar session was co-founder and publisher of award-winning A Sunset Story Chuah Jern Ern, who spoke on the importance of reading for children.
“You are never alone with a book. Reading takes you places. You get to know about people, places and happenings of the world around you or even be transported to another realm created by your imagination, ” said Chuah.
Chuah pointed out that reading, even for fun, can help children’s development tremendously.
“Compared to watching movies on electronic devices such as television, smartphones and gadgets, reading is an active partnership. Rather than being a passive observer, reading allows you to apply your own imagination to play out your own movie in your mind which leads to skills development, ” he said.
Chuah explained that reading exercises the brain and sparks a child’s imagination while improving creativity as the brain translates descriptions read into pictures.
“Aside from building a richer vocabulary and better language skills, the good habit helps to improve concentration as a child sits still to focus on the story.
“Reading also helps to nurture life skills such as social and communication skills while developing a sense of empathy when children imagine being in the shoes of the characters in the story.
“When everything is put together, not only does reading benefit students academically but also work and life in general, ” said Chuah, adding that reading is not only important to children but applies to adults of all ages as well.
To encourage reading habits in kids, he advised parents to start their children young by reading to them even before they can read.
Joining the webinar, moderated by teacher and urban farmer Patricia Lim, was HELP International School chief executive officer Dr Gerard Louis who spoke about online education as the new normal in 21st-century learning.
“Although online education has been around since the 1980s, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed huge gaps in the ability to deliver online learning.
“According to a survey done among 900,000 subjects, 37% do not have appropriate devices to participate in online learning while only less than 10% own a personal computer or tablet.
“The new reality is that we can't run away from online education but we need to embrace and cope with it, ” he said.
He pointed out that there are misconceptions about online learning by parents, namely that it is merely just being present in front of the screen and it is too costly for that.
“Online learning is more than the student being a user of technology but rather a creator and producer of content.
“As teachers develop innovative approaches based on the online learning education’s multimodal model to deliver class that is engaging, students learn to be independent and resilient learners.
“Different assignments and activities allow students to develop higher order thinking skills such as creativity, critical and analytical thinking, and problem-solving skills, which will also benefit their future, ” said Louis.
He emphasised that education must always be seen in context, especially of post-Covid-19.
“Technology is at the forefront of all that we do today. The key is educating children on how to create instead of just consume.
“Content becomes outdated very quickly. If we don’t learn how to learn, the knowledge that we gained will be obsolete and we will find ourselves lagging further behind.
“Covid-19 has certainly changed our way of living and working, through the usage of technology and data.
“To prepare the younger generation to adapt to a post-Covid 19 era, education is the key, taking into consideration staying aligned with the thriving digital economy as well as the qualities in new graduates that employers will be looking for, ” he said.
Parents play an important role in online learning and Louis advised parents to focus on how technology helps to enhance learning rather than limit it.
“Look at technology as a tool. In the 21st century classroom, students will be expected not only to consume information but create, produce and communicate information in creative and innovative ways to demonstrate their learning.
“To engage them after a lesson, parents may ask their child to explain what they have learned. This is to constantly develop intellectual curiosity which will then lead the child to continue exploring and learning, ” he said.
As children are required to stay home during these crucial times, they rely on smart devices for online education and leisure.
Vista Eye Specialist consultant ophthalmologist, cataract and refractive surgeon Dr Vienne Tai presented on overcoming the impact of prolonged screen time on children’s eyes.
“Excessive screen time can affect children’s behaviour, physical health and eye health.
“According to a survey conducted on Canadian children by the age of five, those who are exposed to more than two hours of screen time daily are seven times likely to get attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder.
“A separate study also found that an increased likelihood of a child aged between nine and 16 years being overweight or obese was often associated with longer screen time.
Children exposed to prolonged screen time may be associated with headaches, neck or shoulder pain, unhealthy posture, reduced attention span, irritability and disrupted sleep, ” she said.
Zooming into the ocular impact, she stressed that increasing screen time is becoming the main cause of shortsightedness in children.
“Unfortunately, children are more susceptible to digital eye strain because they are often unaware that they are having problems and they are less likely to realise the duration of screen time they had or take breaks in between.
“Other than eye strain and dry eye, prolonged screen time can cause shortsightedness, which is an irreversible condition and may lead to potential vision loss, ” she emphasised, adding that eye examination is important to rule out short sightedness and other ocular disease such as pseudomyopia induced by prolonged screen time.
To protect children’s eyes, she advised practising the 20-20-20 rule – for every 20 minutes spent on a screen, look away at something 20ft (6m) away for 20 seconds, on top of adjusting the screen to half the brightness of the space the child is in and selecting a larger text font size.
“Playing outdoors can help maintain children's eyesight too, ” she said, adding that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any screen time and not more than two hours for kids above two years old.
She stressed that prevention is better than cure and it is best to limit screen time before it leaves a permanent impact on children’s eye, health and personal development.
“Parents are the best role model for children. If you limit your kids to an hour of screen time, try to adhere to the same guidelines yourself and turn off devices at least one hour before bed time.
“Anything in excess is bad. Children cannot be denied online learning and the need to read but moderation is a very important life skill that we need to implant in our children, ” she said, adding that screen time should not be used as a reward to children.
To conclude the session, each speaker conveyed a key message for parents to serve as a reminder at all times.
Chua emphasised on reading as a habit that is never too late to develop and that it exercises one’s imagination and improves creativity while developing life skills.
As for Dr Louis, he stressed that we need to learn how to learn so that we gain relevant knowledge as content becomes outdated very fast.
Meanwhile, Dr Tai reminded that moderation is a very important life skill to implant in children and that outdoor activites can help maintain children’s eye health.
Preparing Your Kids to Learn and Succeed in the New Era was Vista Eye Specialist’s second webinar and it garnered a total of over 600 registrants.