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Break the Chain

Over the past few days, I have been in conversation with senior industry leaders (not only from the education space), and parents (not by design actually) and whether it was pre-planned or happened by chance, different perspectives shared were interesting. While I share them with this blog, I hope it gives us in the education space a lot to reflect on what we can achieve in the next decade or so.

The Early Childhood Association, popularly called ECA and Association for Primary Education & Research (APER) broadcasted a touching creative highlighting the plight of children who urged adults to be more careful when deciding to host parties and gather in large groups and governments to be more sensitive when allowing rallies to continue and quite frankly, in this, lies an important message for all of us. The youngest in our country, locked in their homes are waiting for their turn to return to normal, while the rest of the population happily decide to disregard the developments in the country especially the healthcare crisis for their shot at ‘normalisation’. Phew? How did we get to this point of view?

To think these children in schools and colleges are the future that will dictate the rules of the game as they take their place in industry in a few years and governments tomorrow – what exactly is the message we are conveying?

That it is ok for some to do what they do, for the sake of their own gains? That it is ok to think about the self only? That it is ok to not worry about others because they are protected? That this virus and perhaps some other strain that may be experienced in their time in the future will overpower and destroy yet again because of the selfishness of mankind? And it is ok if that happens?

We have to reflect on our actions, and what narrative we put out there as these children are aware, more reflective, more conscious and more evolved than what we give them credit for.

In conversation with a bunch of high schoolers on Sunday, and it was overwhelming to know what they know, what they think, how they reached these deductions and how scientifically they arrive with their own perspectives which – mind you, are not selfish or divisive but based on the need to protect their community. Some were passionate about uniting as a country and not dividing basis of political views, some were worried that religion was leading to more chaos and some were worried that well meaning adults were completely misguided and not thinking about the larger picture? And yes often we call this generation lazy, with no desire, materialistic and selfish! Really???

If you consider the examples set by New Zealand or Australia or Israel, the quest is to break the chain, vaccinate, isolate to bring students back into their natural setting to learn was a priority and they achieved it. Lessons to be the learn’t?

Dont get me wrong, not for once I am suggesting that on-line has not worked. Clearly it provided opportunities for seamless engagements and while critics are quick to point that ‘it is not the same’, then I ask why not change this indifferent attitude of not creating the ‘same’ by thinking of how and when to open schools instead of the malls, cinemas and political rallies?

 It is heartening to see that students in Grades 10 and 12 have been yo-yoing with authorities indecisive about exam dates, mode of conducting them and have them now understand that assessments will be done at a school level. Could this heartache have not be avoided when senior educators have been saying this since December 2020 and appealing to decision makers to take a call and bring clarity? We missed a big trick in making this process ‘stress-free’ by not providing a clear path, and in that we have left a poor track record. These students deserved better.

And while we at it, I would also like to point out that parents, you may have missed a trick or two to contribute to the welfare of the students. Some parent groups accusing private schools of ‘charging’ while their businesses were at a loss did not miss an opportunity to travel and ‘normalise’ or ‘socialise’ and forced a ‘stop-start’ approach to education. Court cases, social media discussions which were not always flattering left another questionable message for the students. Imagine them going back to the same school, knowing that the parents think of it as a ‘money-making’ enterprise!!! I do not know how unpleasant words exchanged on both sides can now be replaced by respect. It will have to be earned by both parties.

So what exactly have we learn’t since our first lockdown? That we were able to produce vaccines, and with that reservations about taking them when available, after demanding for it? That we were able to operationalise on-learning through the year so that it did not amount to loss of learning, only wanting to ensure that it gets discounted? That we demanded no physical exams and now want to resist the grades because we are worried some schools will ‘over-grade’?

I think as a community, we find it easier to oppose than support, we find it difficult to follow rules and protocols unless we are ‘locked-up’ and we find that we must only think about ‘our good’ and not what will benefit all!

I think it is time we create a better private-public partnership, we unite forces as parents and managements to create a more balanced approach to blended learning, we become a bit more conscious as educators what we define as content, and we start recognising that the world will never be the same again, and we must develop foresight to plan well for the sake of the youngest in our country.

I think it is time we start putting education and schools as a national priority and thinking 40 years in advance as this the future and we hope the future is in good,  ‘safe’ and ‘sensible’ hands. Damage done, can be course corrected? Of course it can, and this lies with us the adults.

It’s about time we learn what is truly important. And put a price on it.

Schools matter. Our children matter. Our strategies as a collective force matter. And quite frankly, educating them with the right skills matter more than anything else as these are the decision makers of our future and who does not want the best doctor, lawyer, banker to lead the way? It would be taking a huge risk to ignore this. We have managed to do it successfully for a year now, nice to course-correct. And prioritise.

Author

Fatema Agarkar

Founder, Agarkar Centre of Excellence Veteran of 3 educational start-ups – is now a Founder of Agarkar Centre of Excellence, Fatema’s passion for teaching-learning and children defines the different roles she has crafted – as an edupreneur, educator and mentor.

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