Author, educator and entrepreneur, Lina Ashar tells us about how preschoolers are reacting to online classes and why this will be the great divide breaker when it comes to education in India
If you ever thought that online classes and webinars are only for grown-ups and older children, the year 2020 would have already proved you wrong. However, how will the young ones even manage to sit undistracted in front of the gadgets and listen to their classes? “Piece of cake”. That is what educationist and founder of India’s largest pre-kindergarten Kangaroo Kids, Lina Ashar says. “We are doing virtual classes for pre-schoolers too. We are keeping these classes as active and engaging as possible. It is not a one-way conversation,” says Lina.
She then goes on to explain Kangaroo Kids’ online classes to us. “A teacher on screen can be going action songs and the children can follow. Sure the children may not have play doughs at home, but we ask them to make models using atta They make letters and learn colours, exactly the same way they did it in their class. In fact, kids do not even need toys, they nake their own toys,” she says.
Lina founded Kangaroo Kids in 1993, after moving to India for a sabbatical. At that time, she was undergoing a teachers’ training program in Australia. “That was when I realised that the education system in India was sad from a child’s perspective. Our children do not deserve this stress and burden. Learning should be a joyful experience, but schools suck the joy out of it. That’s how we started Kangaroo Kids,” she says. Kangaroo Kids, today, is a chain of 70 pre-schools across India, UAE, Qatar and Maldives. She also founded the Billabong High International School in 2004.
Lina also tells us how children mirror their parents, especially in today’s situation. “The children of parents who are engaged and are not allowing the fear to overcome them will react this way. It’s not just the parents’ words or language, but their energy will also have an impact on the children. Everything depends on how you nourish yourself,” she says.
Parents all over the country are undoubtedly worried about when their children will go back to school. “Nobody has an answer to this, nobody knows when they will go back to school,” she says. “If someone tells you otherwise, they are lying,” she laughs, adding that the current situation is totally unprecedented.
Talking about her lockdown plans, Lina tells us how she plans to expand education services to more students in the country. “My schools were largely serving the elite. But I always wanted to impact all Indian children. This will only be possible digitally,” she says, adding that she is now investing in an online learning system. “The access is getting better in the country. Even your watchman these days has a smartphone. I at least aim to reach the children in Tier II and Tier III cities,” she says.