The BYJU'S learning app
The BYJU'S learning app | Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
Text Size:

It takes a village to raise a child. Education is much too important to be handed over to online learning; a child’s development requires access to many different people, learning approaches, and pursuits. With 1.2 billion children out of the classroom due to the coronavirus pandemic, online learning is being viewed as the magical solution. Far from it – it is a supplement, not a saviour. In the coronavirus world, we must redouble our efforts to provide human-centric learning to our children.

Also read: Covid pandemic has given the world a great online learning experiment

The best learning is physical, not virtual

The purpose of education is to prepare young people to lead successful lives as productive and engaged citizens. Young people need to be able to find good and satisfying work as well as understand the major issues that impact their lives. Online learning may help in developing basic skills, but it does not help in building the curiosity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence that is necessary for being a high-functioning adult in the 21st century.

Much of learning is motivated play. Children are inherently curious – they want to know and understand their world. Good early childhood education provides the environment to play, explore, and learn. Exploration should be tactile, so that children can start to develop conceptual models of the world in their mind and begin to process it so that they can develop new skills. The best engineers start by playing with blocks and then graduate on to more complex building kits. By definition, the virtual world cannot provide this kind of physical stimulation.

Curiosity builds as we experience the physical world around us. Why is the sky blue? Why are there so many twinkling stars at night? Where do mangos come from? These are the questions that children must be allowed to ask and explore. Teachers and parents have to be there to guide this exploration and further stimulate curiosity. As children begin to understand how the world actually works, they begin a lifelong quest to learn more broadly, engage more deeply.

Also read: Students retain more in online classrooms, shows data

Emotional development is essential

Just like online learning cannot spark lifelong curiosity, it does not sufficiently enable children to become good critical thinkers too. The process of creative problem-solving and careful investigation is a collaborative one. Children have to interact with teachers and other children to develop their ideas and test their arguments. They have to formulate multi-dimensional perspectives through respectful discussions and broaden their outlook. The art of critical thinking and careful examination is a learnt art–forged through human interaction, through directed interrogation, and not via passive computer instruction.

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.


Emotional intelligence is a sine qua non for adulthood. A well-adjusted adult, equipped to deal with the ups and downs of normal life, has learnt the essential attributes of emotional intelligence through her education, which includes: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. These human skills are becoming even more important as machines take over more routine tasks, knowledge becomes a commodity easily fetched from the SuperCloud, and analytical processing is turbocharged by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Simple analytical problem-solving done using routine heuristics is now best left to computers.

With Emotional Quotient (EQ) now more important than IQ, education has to go far beyond teaching basic skills. Children have to be immersed in rich learning environments, which include teammates and skilled instructors. Emotional needs have to emerge and then be suitably addressed. Children develop self-management and social awareness through such challenges. Much emotional learning will also come by working in teams and learning how to resolve conflicts. Building this EQ is vitally important for successful careers in the 21st century.

Also read: ‘Our kids will be left behind’ — parents in UP’s Hardoi say no smartphone means no e-classes

Education can’t be outsourced to machines

Online learning does not provide the physical learning and emotional management that we gain through sports, particularly competitive sports. Children should learn to play multiple sports as part of their standard school curriculum. They should be part of sports teams to learn self-awareness and discipline. Other extra-curricular activities, such as dramatics and quizzing, are equally good in teaching children how to persevere and compete.

Resilient children make for capable adults who can thrive in life, work, and citizenship. Education is the central responsibility of parents, it simply cannot be outsourced to machines. Parents must resist the siren song of educational technologies that promise instant gratification. Engineers have learnt to make shiny screens very addictive. Gamification and random reward mechanisms can enthral and capture children for long hours. However, the time spent on screens takes away the precious time that can be spent learning with other children and adults.

The technologies that make online learning possible – human-like interface, student tracking, customised content, continuous testing – also make online learning obsolete. There is no point getting better at basic skills. These can be done better in the SuperCloud through computers.

Empathy and creativity are required to develop solutions for the 21st century. These are only acquired through endless human interactions. In the coronavirus world, our educational systems will have to be designed to deliver human-centric learning. It takes a village, and not a screen, to raise a child.  

Jayant Sinha is the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament and a Lok Sabha MP from Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Views are personal.

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

2 Comments Share Your Views



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here