Schools In Post COVID-19 Environment

The education system has to ensure that we don’t regress to the pre-COVID schooling situation but use this jolt to become better.

My child is studying on the phone these days’ – every time a parent says this now, no matter what their apprehensions are, they still say it with a breath of relief because physical schools have been shut for most of the academic year 2020-2021. In fact, majority of parents, teachers and schools no longer consider technology as a fringe benefit or novelty in education but the very enabler of the learning process in this new world.

Despite all the apprehensions associated with technology that were voiced initially, it is still the only thing that kept education going at a time when the global pandemic brought schooling to a grounding halt in March 2020 and in the weeks that followed. In India, the outbreak is estimated to have impacted 250 million children, around 8.5million teachers and 1.5 million schools.

Going forward, the education system has to ensure that we don’t regress to the pre-COVID schooling situation but use this jolt to become better. Good quality education requires us to overhaul our curriculum and our pedagogies. We need to move away from just preparing our children for year-end exams to also preparing them for the exam of life.

How should a society address these issues going forward? Well, here are a 5 strategies that can address the issues at the grass root level:

1. Innovation in curriculum - Most schools have been content to follow NCERT, SCERT and other board mandated syllabi. However, we should consider these as the base minimum and aspire to provide an education to our students that goes beyond syllabus. I recommend that we expand the definition of core subjects from Math, Science, Social Science and Languages to include coding & computational skills, design thinking, financial literacy and self-leadership. We need to embed skill development on collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creative thinking in our time-tables and annual calendars. Lastly, all schools should have counseling support for students in middle school. This kind of curriculum overhaul will ensure that students are getting an education that prepares them for life. Some of this overlaps with NEP but no school needs to wait for an NEP to implement curriculum innovations beyond what the board mandates.

2. Innovation in pedagogy - We need to move away from the text-book dependent, lecture-based linear schooling approach of Teach - Test - Report. This approach leads to an unhealthy focus on exams scores and perversely, ends up compounding gaps. Instead, schools should adopt multi-modal pedagogies in the classroom that cater to different learning approaches and help every student learn. School academic calendars should adopt the Spiral learning approach of Teach - Test - Remediate - Progress. Here, exams are used to check learning gaps and followed by well-planned remedial so that students strengthen their previous learning before engaging with new learning.

3. Adoption of Integrated systems - In order to bring about school wide transformation, integrated systems are very powerful enablers. They bring the total curriculum and pedagogy of a school onto a technology enabled platform. They transform the teaching-learning experience to make it multi-modal. They allow for personalisation and remediation with the use of real time data. And they connect all stakeholders so that teachers, principals, parents and school owners can monitor learning outcomes. Just like Core Banking systems transformed Banks in the late 90s and Enterprise Resource

Planning software’s transformed offices in the 80’s, Integrated Systems will transform schools in the 21st century

4. Embrace Hybrid Learning - Schools have to future-proof themselves. There can be future disruptions, there can be a second or third wave, and there can be a mutation. We don’t have to be caught in the swirl of these disruptions. A hybrid mode means that children can learn seamlessly whether at home or in school. It requires a technology layer that an integrated system can provide.

5. Empower Teachers – Teachers have already had to upskill themselves on online teaching tools. They have had to connect and support their students remotely. In the post-covid schools, teachers will face increased expectations from both school and parents. Schools will expect teachers to manage student learning in the face of frequent disruptions and help students overcome learning gaps from last year. Parents, having seen up close their child’s learning through the pandemic, will have stronger opinions on how their child should learn. Teachers will need to upskill themselves to succeed in the post-covid world.

In one fell swoop, COVID-19 presented us with challenges that none of us had anticipated. On the one hand it showed us our weaknesses, mainly just how unprepared we were for a sudden and massive disruption in our education system. And on the other it made us look at our education system anew and adopt digital and distance learning on a scale not seen before.

When we look back at the past several months, it can only be acknowledged and appreciated the way in which teachers, parents and children and schools have overcome the global crisis. But every crisis is also an opportunity. We must take this opportunity to transform our education system so that we are not only preparing our students for Board exams, we are also preparing them for the exam of life.

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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