Psychologists Say Distance Learning Amid Pandemic Is Not Good for Kids

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers should instead use screen time to speak to children individually

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Girls during distance learning in their home in Tel Aviv, April 2020.
Girls during distance learning in their home in Tel Aviv, April 2020. Credit: Eyal Toueg
Or Kashti
Or Kashti

The Education Ministry’s distance learning program during the coronavirus school closure does not suit preschoolers, and even the elementary schoolers’ program does not meet their needs under the circumstances, the Israel Psychological Association said in two recent position papers.

The Education Ministry’s distance learning program for preschoolers involves several hours a day of intense activities detailed down to the minute. In response to public criticism, the ministry said that the material is suggested, not mandatory.

According to The Psychological Association, there are “significant differences in the cognitive abilities, attention span, and social and emotional abilities of children ages 3-6,” and therefore “flexibility is needed based on a thorough acquaintance of the teachers with students and their families.”

“Distance learning requires advanced cognitive abilities, thinking and drawing conclusions that are beyond the ability of kindergartners without adult intervention,” the association said.

The position paper said that the constant need for adult presence did not suit all families, and warned that it would “expand gaps between children who have a parent present and available from the cognitive, mental and emotional point of view, and those who do not.”

The association also said that kindergartners are not cognitively ready “for social interaction in this medium.”

Instead, the position paper suggests that kindergarten teachers use screen time to speak individually with each child in keeping with their development level and family situation. Another suggestion is for the teacher send various material, such as a video of him or her reading a story or showing a craft, that parents and children can watch together when convenient.

The position paper on the program for elementary schoolchildren also suggests more personal interaction between the teacher and individual students rather than a strict on-line regimen.

“The school model cannot be copied online,” Yoram Schleyer, chairman of the Israel Psychologists Association, told Haaretz. “The program should be suited to the situation, the population and emotional, social and scholastic needs.” Schleyer said many educational psychologists in the school system had not yet returned to work.

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