The question that is staring all Schools Principals in the face today is how do moved towards re-opening schools? What precautions do we take to secure the school premises from COVID pandemic? Is there a model of schooling that has the best of both practices– online & offline.
COVID-19 pandemic has caused schools all over the world to shut down in March 2020 keeping more than 1.2 billion learners out of their classrooms. A large number of these learners transitioned successfully from off-line to online classes. The ICT revolution in education which was waiting to happen in India in the last two decades got accelerated in the Corona bootcamp and Indian education finally graduated to the next level! Recent researches and feedback from teachers have shown a number of benefits such as focused teaching, improved learning outcomes, higher retention rates and reduced teaching time in the on-line mode. However, it may come as a surprise to many, that a total 100% transition to online learning has a significant downside too, making educators reiterate that the online learning is a value addition but not a replacement for normal schooling.
Our elation and pride in the Indian Online -Learning success story is marred by the issues of equity and fairness. A sizeable chunk of learners belonging to EWS category do not possess gadgets such as desktops or laptops and a WIFI connection to be part of an online class, also there are serious issues of poor or negligible Internet connectivity in remote and rural India that is a huge impediment to on-line learning. Therefore, return to schools and colleges is not a choice but a necessity for India.
Secondly, holistic development of learners which is the national aim of education in India includes a robust program of physical and socio-emotional development. Since this is not possible through on-line mode it has caused serious concerns over psychological health and physical fitness of children during this long lockdown period. It is unnatural and unhealthy for human beings of all age groups to be locked indoors 24X7 for long periods and even more so for children who are bursting with energy and in throes of hormonal changes from adolescence to adulthood. Active pursuits such as games, sports, athletics and social pursuits such as friendships, peer group camaraderie, rivalries, competitions, debates, team work and even the dreaded peer-pressures (!) all contribute to a child growing up into a happy, healthy, strong and balanced person, have been suspended.
Schools of the future
Since time immemorial we have used the terms education, learning and schooling inter-changeably. However, in the current pandemic conditions these terms have assumed different connotations. The schools of the future will be Hybrid Schools. The brick and mortar buildings that we have loved as our alma mater are going change and shrink in many ways as the children will be interacting more and more with teachers across the computer screen which doesn’t necessitate coming to school every day. Like working from home, home-schooling will be a new addition to the popular lingo. The day is not far when Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a bigger role than human teachers in teaching. We can only hope that the transition will never be total and human teachers will continue to enrich the lives and lessons of their learners by integrating culture, ethics, morals, human values and life skills in their teachings. For the simple reason that man-making should not be delegated to machines!!
Also published on Medium.