Q&A library

I failed to qualify for the national engineering entrance exam this year due to lack of guidance. I had prepared only from free resources. I really want to study in a premier institution and excel in my studies. Will it be feasible if I take a year off, considering the fact that Covid-19 has already delayed the exam and the next exam is around the corner?
Questioned by Muhamed, KERALA
This decision depends on whether you have qualified for any other institution and have got admission into a course that you like. On one hand, while the exams for this year and the next, are scheduled more closely together than usual, if you begin your course this year, you will likely join the workforce and begin earning a year earlier if that is your long term goal. On the other hand, you have to decide on whether the institution in which you are aspiring to study offers significant advantages to the institutions in which you have already secured admission this year. While we don't have context to the details of your situation, our general advice would be to weigh your options keeping in mind not only the dates of the entrance exams but also the date of your graduation. If you feel strongly motivated to pursue your institution of choice, then that is a valid option as well especially if the chosen institution offers significant advantages over your current choices. Something that may help in deciding this is to contact people who have studied in these institutions through your network(A good place to start would be through the senior batches from your school or students groups on social media platforms). As to the second part of the question, it is definitely feasible to prepare using freely available resources and qualify in the entrance exam. Make sure you do the adequate amount of research and preparation online and using reference books. If you feel that the right guidance will help you accelerate your progress to your goal, you can reach out to the teachers at your school or explore signing up for specialized classes as well.

My children (std 2 and 3) were pursuing education through conventional schooling until this year. The Covid19 situation has made me increasingly convinced to start home-schooling. What are the pros and cons of this, and are there any formalities/regulations I need to follow?
While there are multiple options for home-schooling in India, as of now there is no government body that regulates this. A few states have released an 'open curriculum' to support home-schoolers while some private schools allow parents to home-school children while following the curriculum and exam schedule that the school prescribes. Home-schooled students also often take exams from NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling). Before getting started on the journey, it would be best to speak to other parents who are home-schooling currently, as it involves a large commitment of time and effort on the part of the parent in up-skilling themselves to be ready to facilitate continuous learning for the child at home. A good place to start would be: Swashikshan- Indian Association of Home schoolers (http://homeschoolers.in/) or to look out for local parents groups in your area.

My children are in the 1st standard and 3rd standard respectively. Now that children are at home, they are spending a lot of time on technology. What is the appropriate amount of time I can let them use the tablet? I am more worried about them because they are so young.
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has recommended the time that children of different age groups should ideally be spending on online classes with technology. Their recommendations are: Pre-primary: 30 minutes a day at a maximum Classes 1 to 8: Not more than 2 sessions of 30-45 minutes each a day Classes 9 to 12: Not more than 4 sessions of 30-45 minutes each a day They have also recommended cyber safety best-practices and related guidelines. Do go through them here. Link: https://www.mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/pragyata-guidelines_0.pdf

Is it worth it to pay full fee to my college this year, given it is going to be a fully online course, or take a year off and join from next year where I will get in-person training, access to labs etc.?
While some colleges are offering a lowered fee because classes are online, many are not. If you are mid-course, i.e. you are in 2nd or 3rd year of college, do find out from your campus if you will be able to continue where you left off if you return after a year, before making a decision. In many cases, currently, this may not be an option. Online learning can be very effective, as teachers innovate to provide you with high-quality content. Students are also able to go back to revisit classes and collaborate online better than ever before. The pandemic situation is evolving constantly, but what we can safely assume is that you will likely be able to go back to campus eventually and utilize all the lab facilities and in-person support that you may have missed out on, especially if you are pursuing a 3 or 4 year course. Also remember, that if your goal is to get a job post-college, a gap year now would mean you have already lost one year in earnings/savings by the time you graduate. Any course will only be as effective as the amount of work you put into learning and picking up the skill, and it is definitely possible for you to excel in your field, even if part of your course was online. In summary, keep an eye on your long-term goals and speak to mentors and teachers before making a decision.

I am planning on taking a year off, because of the Covid19 situation, and will join college next year. In the gap year, is it better to go for online courses such as Coursera etc. or distance education such as IGNOU/ those offered by local institutes? What are the pros and cons of both
This choice will depend on your goals, specifically why you are seeking to learn during your gap year. If your goal is to explore interest areas or pick up a variety of skills, Coursera/YouTube and other free or low-cost online portals will offer you a wide variety of content in multiple different fields, which you can pursue at your own pace. These courses could take anywhere between a month to a year to complete. Some of these provide certificates either for free or for a small cost on completion of the course while many do not. These certificates add value to your resume in that they will act as proof of your ability in a certain field/topic, but the certificate itself is not equivalent to a degree certificate. If your goal is a to end the year with a correspondence degree that is recognized in India, then IGNOU or a Local Universities correspondence course will provide this. The courses are well structured and thorough and will require in-depth study into the chosen topic, with a flexible schedule and pace. The classes are held at a study centre that you choose from the list of options on signing up. These typically happen on weekends and holidays, and theory classes are optional to attend. There will be periodic assignments that have to be submitted at the study centre, along with exams twice a year. As you can see another difference is that IGNOU courses will require you to go to a study centre a few times a year either for assignments or exams. You can find more information here: http://ignou.ac.in/ignou/studentzone

How can I prepare my child to go back to school?
We need to remember that kids are adjusting to this, just as we all are. They learn resilience by modelling their parents' approach to problems. Being flexible, adapting to change, and focusing on the positive are all important life skills to have, and COVID-19 is a great teaching moment for developing those skills. If your child is returning to school, help them think about the positives of going back, especially if they’re feeling anxious. For example, they can look forward to seeing their teachers and friends again, or doing activities together as a group. That can be comforting to kids amidst the uncertainty. If you’re home-schooling or doing online learning, you can focus on the positives of that, such as having extra time together, or being able to have lunch or take a walk together mid-day. Focusing on the positive of whatever reality we’re living in is a powerful way to cope with stress

How can my child increase their productivity during this time?
It is very essential to follow a schedule of waking up, eating and sleeping. Let them make a schedule and follow it. The timetable can have daily activities included - this will help set a momentum for their day and when it comes time to go back to school it will not be difficult. Remember: be flexible to change in shifts according to the day. Teaching your child age-appropriate life skills is important for self-care and independence. As schools are shut and children are engaged in online education from home, it is time to teach some virtues to children like being self-reliant, family-oriented and being sensitive to the environment. Involve the kids in daily chores, simple ones like hanging their wet clothes, helping in setting up the dining table etc. Stay in touch with your children’s education facility or school to stay informed about the next steps, ask questions and get more guidance. Children can achieve their best work in a quiet, comfortable, and dedicated space devoted to learning. Keep in mind that children will be in this space for many hours each day, and keep in mind that the space is created in such a way that it doesn’t affect the health of the child.

What additional help can be provided to children learning from home?
Create a ‘trigger’ for your children so they know when they are operating in ‘school time’. Provide a ‘specific learning space’, that is calm and sets up a mindset for your child that this is where they will be doing some structured learning. Create a chart with a timetable and goals for the week Display a clock to keep track of how long different tasks will take Ensure there are set break times Make sure there is a variety of tasks – mix up those requiring intense concentration, with some that are open-ended and allow for creativity Provide healthy snacks and water

How has COVID-19 affected my child’s well-being? How can I reduce my child's anxiety?
The current context of lockdown and restriction of movements, affects the mental wellbeing and development of children due to the constrained access to socialization, play, and physical contact. School closures not only prevent children from access to learning, but also limit their ability to interact with peers which is essential to learn social skills.  Children may feel confused and at loss with the current situation, leading to further frustration and anxiety, which will only increase with the overexposure to mass and social media, especially among adolescents. Also the stress that COVID-19 has brought on parents and caregivers can also hamper their capacity to provide care and remain engaged with their children. Children tend to notice, absorb and react to the stress in their caregivers and community members. However we can consciously mold our behavior to ensure the wellbeing of our children and ourselves: 1. Model how to manage feelings. Talk through how you are managing your own feelings and what you do to make things better and stay positive 2. Answer their questions about the pandemic simply & honestly. Talk with children about any frightening news they hear, going through what may or may not be factually true.  3. Recognize your child's feelings. Things like - “I know it is disappointing not to be able to hang with your friends right now. How do you think you can stay in touch with them?" can push them to feel more positive and solution oriented. 4. Keep in touch with loved ones. Engage in family video calls if possible and keep the conversation light and fun.

My wife would like to learn any course related to skilled education or Vocational Education and Training. Kindly guide us on the process and opportunities available. 
Questioned by Alok, Maharashtra
The first step would be to explore all the different fields, courses and options out there and to decide which ones suit you best. There are numerous places that you can start : Register on Skill India Portal: https://skillindia.nsdcindia.org/ Or for online courses: https://eskillindia.org/ List of approved institutions that provide courses (Find one near you and contact them): https://www.aicte-india.org/education/vocational-education Explore Bharatskills or download the Bharatskills e-learning app: https://bharatskills.gov.in/ YouTube channel of National Instructional Media Institute: https://www.youtube.com/c/NIMIVirtualClassroom/videos Alternative Options: Platforms such as Coursera, Upgrad, Udemy etc. offer free and paid online courses. An internship or apprenticeship under someone experienced in the same field is also a good place to start.

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