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Online classes take a toll on handwriting

Parents are sending kids to handwriting training centres as schools reopen in the city
Last Updated : 12 October 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 12 October 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 12 October 2021, 15:03 IST
Last Updated : 12 October 2021, 15:03 IST

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Online schooling has affected the handwriting of children in Bengaluru. The gap is becoming evident now as students of class 6 to 12 return to school.

After relying on recorded lectures and PDF notes and typing out homework and exams for months, they are taking notes and submitting handwritten assignments now.

Their speed is slow, writing illegible, font size inconsistent, and spellings incorrect. The use of Internet lingos and emojis have crept in too.

The result — enquiries and sign-ups at handwriting centres have shot up. Ironically, most of these classes are online but the teacher to student ratio has been optimised for training — ranging from 1:1 to 1:5.

‘They’ve lost practice, focus’

R Bhashkar, founder of Sri Yogeashwari Training Institute in Vijayanagar, says he is fielding at least “25 calls every day”.

“Most of these concern high-school students, who are academically bright. Parents fear that poor handwriting can ruin their ward’s board exam scores,” says the handwriting expert.

Handwriting School of India, which has 18 centres in the city, has seen an uptick too. The enquiries have tripled since 2020, and the conversion rate is 90%.

“Last month, we offered a bridge course of 20 hours in handwriting. More than 80 students signed up. They were mostly from class 4 to 9; one was a class 10 student,” informs managing director Dilip Kirani.

At Penkraft in Whitefield, calls for handwriting improvement for classes 2 to 5 have been pouring since the first wave.

“Their parents are working and busy, so they wanted professional help to keep their child’s reading and writing going. Lately, class 9 and 10 students have also signed up. They want to improve their presentation in board exams,” says Shraddha Jain, the master handwriting trainer here.

Lack of practice is not the only problem. “We analyse the handwriting of students looking to train with us. In the recent round of analysis, 80% students showed lack of confidence and concentration to write,” informs Dilip.

Vijayanagar resident Niranjana can relate. He has enrolled his class 4 son at one such academy. “Handwriting reflects a person’s mental state. If you scribble, you could be anxious. If you write clearly, you have patience. We wanted our son to develop patience,” he says.

What’s amiss?

Different age groups are exhibiting different problems.

“High-schoolers (class 9 to 12) are writing legibly in technical subjects like maths and science, but they are doing poorly in language subjects (like English and Kannada). They make silly spelling mistakes. They aren’t completing sentences. ‘I’ve written the answer, now teachers will figure’ — This attitude has set in,” says Bhashkar.

Aarthi V B, who teaches biology to classes 7 to 10 at Ekya School in J P Nagar, can attest to this lack of interest: “Their note-taking speed in the classroom has slowed down. They ask me to send a photo of the blackboard instead.”

The quality of assignments has declined too. “They don’t sharpen the pencil before drawing, they have forgotten freehand drawing, they don’t label things, they don’t write the date and their alphabets are tiny and unclear,” she says.

Her school has, therefore, allocated 10 marks on handwritten assignments.

Even worrisome, students have started adding sad and happy emojis and remarks like ‘Oh s***t’, and ‘you know, like this’ to their exam answers.

Aloysius D’Mello, principal of Greenwood High International School, is concerned about this informal tone. “Students need to be shown the difference between digital chatting and formal works of writing going forward,” he says. At his school, students are asked to write the assignments, scan and submit.

Primary school students (class 1 to 8) are also struggling with speed. In one instance, a class 2 student took 45 minutes to write five short lines — “It should not take more than 10 minutes,” says Bhashkar.

However, “dancing letters” is a bigger challenge. Shraddha explains, “Their letters don’t touch the lines (on ruled notebooks). The space between their letters and words are inconsistent. The font size changes from small to big and back. They don’t complete letters, so g ends up looking like y.”

Handwriting institutes don’t train pre-KG kids because structured courses don’t work for this cohort. So look for specialised courses, if you must. Better, train them at home — set aside 15 minutes for handwriting practice daily.

‘Teachers are struggling’

Since the schools reopened, a few primary teachers have enquired about Bhashkar’s handwriting course. “They want to brush up on cursive writing, writing in straight lines, and writing with speed,” he says.

Dilip has got 11 such calls, and he’s planning to roll out a course for teachers soon.

Try this at home for kids

Handwriting can be improved at any age with daily practice. In the case of LKG to Class 1 students, parents’ intervention is key.

Buy them activity and cursive writing books and encourage them to write prose. “Kids should write for 15 minutes, especially the letters they struggle with, daily. They must learn to write three- and four-letter words in a flow, at once, on the line, till they develop muscle memory,” says Bhashkar. How you sit, how you hold the pencil or pen, and the angle of the notebook also affect the outcome, says Shraddha.

“Practice till you find the sweet spot and maintain the individuality of each letter,” she advises.

Handwriting institutes don’t train pre-KG kids because structured courses don’t work for this cohort. So look for specialised courses if you must. Given the demand now, Dilip is designing a six-month handwriting course for early schoolers.

Look up these centres

Sri Yogeashwari Training Institute (Vijayanagar): 89047 93133

Handwriting School of India (18 centres): 97423 71317

Penkraft, Whitefield: 81978 29900

InGene Skill Academy, JP Nagar: 89048 41158

Dhanshri’s Online Class: 92283 36887

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Published 08 October 2021, 18:51 IST

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