A COVID Teachers’ Day: Lessons Learnt In Lockdown

"Schools received a rude shock when they had to move to the online space without any notice, with the pandemic shaking the foundations of time-tested teaching methods."

“When we think we know, we cease to learn,” said Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, philosopher, academic, professor, and former President and Vice President of India. Every year, India celebrates Dr Radhakrishnan’s birthday, 5th September, as Teacher’s Day. In such a pivotal year for education, these words could not ring truer. We have all been forced to unlearn and relearn our methods of working, but teachers have arguably felt it the most. Teaching online, without the requisite equipment and training and to students who lack internet access or personal devices, was a daunting challenge. We need a robust mechanism for high-quality teacher training and digital pedagogy that benefits not only students and teachers in metro cities but also those falling in the middle and bottom of the human economic pyramid.

Schools received a rude shock when they had to move to the online space without any notice, with the pandemic shaking the foundations of time-tested teaching methods. The last 600-odd days forced millions of teachers across the globe to learn new ways of teaching, assisted by technology. Data from UDISE, the government’s portal on school education, shows that on average, 25 per cent of teachers are trained to use a computer for teaching, with state-wise variation ranging from 57 per cent in Gujarat to 9 per cent in Madhya Pradesh. With or without a crisis like the pandemic, the globalised world of the 21st century necessitates teachers to be trained in the efficient use of digital tools. Today, the internet is ubiquitous and permeating. Advents in technology like Machine Learning and Artificial Learning are changing the way the world is being built. Today, we have the power to personalise learning while creating impact at scale, connecting people and ideas from across the globe, and opening a new world for students who traditionally stick to their prescribed syllabus. Digitally enabled education, therefore, can elevate the entire learning experience. Personalised assessments can track a learner’s unique learning journey, enabling the teacher to customise the feedback and enhance efficiency. Even before the pandemic, Schoolnet developed Geneo, a personalised learning platform that allows teachers to take advantage of analytics to make targeted interventions for individual students leading to efficient learning outcomes. This will especially be of great help to the affordable segment of schools to reclaim their lost ground. 

Online teaching does not mean simply streaming a traditional classroom lesson. By stepping into a new world of digital learning, teachers must reinvent their methods to ensure student engagement and achievement of learning outcomes. Teachers’ professional development in digital pedagogy is the key to this process.

Teachers are often viewed as the agents of inspiration for students. They are the interface between the student and the larger world, most visibly responsible for nurturing young minds to be curious, explorative, and open to learning. Educators need to be scaffolded with a multitude of resources that can help mould students into exemplars of intellectual development. With the aid of technology, creating a repository of multimedia and multisensory content can pique interest in studies. According to government reports, beyond financial and domestic constraints, it is estimated that almost 20 per cent of students drop out due to a lack of interest in studies; this sentiment is felt more strongly in rural than urban areas. While EdTech tools are being used to make learning exciting for more privileged students, technology must be judiciously used to democratise education. Learning sciences have shown that multisensory content generates higher engagement and boosts retention. This material is not only beneficial to students but also improves teaching efficiency, making a strong case to expand its reach to middle India. 

This Teacher’s Day is not an ordinary one. Despite the tremendous challenges placed before them, teachers took it upon themselves to be there for their students. As true frontline workers, they stepped up when it was especially challenging and most required. Within our own network of schools, students, and teachers, I hear heart-warming stories of teachers walking miles to students’ villages to teach, carrying materials back and forth, going beyond the call of duty to help students over WhatsApp or set up YouTube classes, and repurposing material to distribute in low bandwidth areas. With such innovation and determination, teachers appreciate the value of upskilling and lifelong learning. It is time, then, for us to provide the necessary tools for teachers to excel in their professions. Tech-enabled learning is going to play a major rule in the future. With schools starting to open, blended learning will become an integral pedagogical mode. Teachers need to seize this opportunity to make the educational process more efficacious. We need to ensure that the 10 million teachers in India are adequately equipped with the tools and training to provide quality education to our future human capital and talent. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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