There is much more to learning than acquiring knowledge, scoring distinctions and getting degrees
Assume that Student A attends only online classes, submits assignments, takes tests/exams … everything virtually. At the end of the third year, he gets a degree without having gone to college. Imagine Student B gets up at 5:30 a.m., rushes to catch the bus, goes to college five days a week, chats with his friends on the bus and on campus, eats with them in the canteen, discusses various topics with his teachers, works on projects in teams, plays in the evening with his friends, and so on. Do the two acquire different skillsets during their college education? When both attend a job interview, which one will be in a better position if the selection criteria include the 4 Cs: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking? Leave alone their skillsets, who is better prepared for life?
Students who completed their Class 12 last year are pursuing their tertiary education in various colleges and universities, but some haven’t even stepped into their campuses. The pandemic has forced them to stay home and attend classes online. They do not know who their teachers and classmates are; they see the faces only on their computer screens. No interactions. No discussions. No face-to-face meetings. They have spent a whole academic year without stepping out of their homes. With the second wave of the Coronavirus having hit the country, we are not sure if this year will be different. Have the stay-at-home students missed something precious?
Typical college life
Most people are quite positive about their experiences at college. They have been shaped by socialising with friends, quarrelling with them on silly matters, discussing IPL and their favourite cricketers’ performances, talking about the latest movies, and arguing whether a particular actor played their role well, copying friends’ homework, inventing excuses for not submitting assignments in time, going late to classes and giving lame excuses, being laughed at by their classmates for giving such excuses, bunking classes and going to cinema and learning a lesson from the experience, getting caught and being punished for misbehaviour, visiting malls and spending the pocket money calculatedly, eating together, playing cricket on weekends, forming groups to study on the eve of exams, working on team projects, and so on. Each activity must have contributed to their overall development. During the process they acquired the 4 Cs and prepared themselves for life without even knowing that they were learning and mastering these skills.
Social-emotional skills (SES) refer to the knowledge, attitude, and skills that are necessary for everyone to recognise and control their emotions and behaviours. Those who have SES are able to connect well with people, maintain positive relationships, and adapt themselves to various challenging social situations. These skills include various soft skills, the 4 Cs, social and emotional competence, problem-solving ability, interpersonal skills, and team skills. Though educational institutions are expected to promote these among students, students can acquire them on their own. Some educational institutions have created a conducive environment for students to develop their social and emotional competence.
People who have a narrow view of education think that it is enough to provide students with knowledge, prepare them for exams and enable them to get degrees or diplomas. Education is not all about acquiring knowledge, scoring distinctions and getting degrees. It is much more than that. Education is not complete without acquiring basic social-emotional skills and imbibing values.
Now, the pandemic situation has forced students to be stay-at-home scholars. ‘Being’ is forced on them but ‘becoming’ and ‘blossoming’ is possible. Life is a journey from being to becoming. To come out of this situation, students should know the importance of social-emotional skills and try to equip themselves with the same. It is optimism that makes our lives meaningful. When the pandemic ends and students are back on the campus, we should not forget that these skills are key to success in life.
The writer is an academic, columnist and teacher educator. [email protected]