Saving the written word from the onslaught of the pandemic | Latest Delhi News
When Jyoti Arora, principal of Mount Abu Public School in Delhi, decided to inspect classrooms after schools reopened last week, what she saw worried her. “Students were reluctant to take notes when teachers repeatedly asked them to do so. I checked some of their notebooks and their handwriting was just unreadable,” says Arora. “Students seem to have forgotten how to write during the two years of the pandemic since they mostly took online classes.”
Not only Arora, educators, handwriting experts and occupational therapists across the city say two years of online classes have had a serious impact on children’s handwriting. The All India School Education Survey by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) released last year also stated that handwriting of about 75 % of students nationwide had been affected during the pandemic as students were concentrated. listening to teachers rather than taking notes during online lessons.
“Although we discussed the effects of the pandemic on children’s learning, there was no discussion of its adverse effects on their writing, which has become a serious problem. It has to do with the fact that a majority of students simply stopped taking notes and there was not much teachers could do as most students preferred to keep their cameras turned off during online lessons,” explains Tania Joshi, director of the Indian school in Delhi. “Students have to submit their notebooks to teachers during in-person classes, so they were aware of their writing, but not during online classes,” she adds.
Joshi says his school teaches the cursive writing style and has always focused on students’ handwriting. “We will soon be organizing handwriting workshops for students in classes 10 and 12 who will take the jury exams, which this year will take place in the traditional descriptive format. So they can’t afford to have bad handwriting,” she says.
In fact, many parents who are concerned about their children’s handwriting also hire handwriting coaches. Take, for example, Dheeraj Batra, an IT professional. Last year, he saw a sharp deterioration in his daughter’s handwriting, a class 6 student at a school in Noida. “His writing was pretty good before the pandemic, so I got worried and decided to seek professional help,” Batra says. Currently, her daughter is being privately coached by a writing expert.
Nidhi Gupta, a calligrapher and handwriting expert who runs Likhavat Academy, a handwriting coaching institute in Delhi, says children’s handwriting has gotten worse not just because of lack of practice, but also because of their condition. mind during the pandemic. Most schools in Delhi, she says, follow the handwriting or cursive style, which requires careful definition of the area, slant, pen pressure and baseline of the letters. “But it all went haywire. While 5-7 year olds have trouble with their zones and tilts, older kids have trouble with pen pressure, which reflects their restlessness. Poor handwriting is also a sign of how children’s physical and mental health has suffered during the pandemic. ”
Enrollment at its academy, which offers both offline and online writing courses, has tripled — more than 600 students have been coached — in the past year.
Sudhir Kumar, founder of Writing Guru, a handwriting institute, also says the demand for handwriting lessons has tripled over the past year. Most come from parents of children in grades 1 to 7, but schools also ask us for workshops. “We have developed our own unique methodology, including engraved wooden slates and personalized notebooks, to improve handwriting,” Kumar explains.
Schools say that while there has been a decline in writing skills for pupils in all grades, the case of pupils in nursery grades is of particular concern as they have not been able to attend school for the past two years . “You learn to hold a pencil, form and join letters and make words at ages 5 and 6. The physical presence of teachers is very important at this stage of schooling,” explains Jyoti Arora.
Occupational therapists agree. They say they are approached by parents of kindergarten students worried about their children’s writing difficulties. “Writing is a global process, involving, among other things, visuomotor and cognitive-perceptual skills. These need to be refined at an early stage,” says Dr. Arpan Kumar, occupational therapist and certified HWT (Handwriting Without Tears) coach, who runs OT4Kids, a multi-therapy center for children in Delhi. HWT is a multi-sensory approach to handwriting teaching and remediation.
The number of children in his centres, he says, has doubled in the past year. “Some of them complain of hand cramps and stressed muscles when they write. This is due to the tripod’s poor grip (a grip formed using three fingers), which also hampers concentration and cognitive flow. This is the result of the lack of paper-and-pencil tasks at home during the pandemic,” he says.
Mohan Ray, who heads the Institute of Healthy Handwriting, agrees, saying that during the pandemic many children have developed ‘writer’s cramp’ – focal hand dystonia – characterized by excessive muscle contractions. and involuntary strains of the fingers, hand, forearm, and sometimes the shoulders, which can make writing difficult and written work less legible. “It’s the result of overusing touchscreens and not using styluses for long periods of time,” says Ray.
Dr Arpan Kumar says kindergarten teachers have a tough job to do as schools prepare to open for primary grades. “They will need to assess each child individually on their writing abilities and deploy a range of personalized corrective measures. There is a direct relationship between calligraphy, cognitive development and learning. Bad handwriting cannot be ignored,” he says.
“Teachers and parents need to work together to remedy the situation,” says Jyoti Arora.