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“Succeed. Succumb. Surrender”

Through the numerous online discussions, it is evident that flexibility and acceptance of changing variables is non negotiable and perhaps a more ‘healthy’ way to approach processes in the next few months. Resistance and ‘wanting’ it back like it was is delaying what will eventually happen, so you might as well focus on what can be done, and not what ‘had to happen’?

Interesting article in the Economist today about divided economists world over suggesting approaches to get out of this financial devastation and yet, time and again with every crisis since World Wars and in fact the 2009 crisis, the sector that is taken most likely to support the creation, solutions, demand and supply and propels growth is the least discussed from a futuristic point of view.

In India for example, we have states divided about how to address the parental requests for fee waivers, and management concerns for continuing without the fee collections. Supreme Court has directed High Courts to assess and make their recommendations – well at least some courts were strategic enough to speak about banning online learning as unconstitutional! The others went with some in between path, some are still deliberating which may have deep consequences in long run.

The news on the ground now is that Gujarat is thinking of rejecting online learning and will force many educators out of jobs as managements unable to collect from parents, will be forced to close down.

What happens to the children?

“Well, parents can engage them with activities at home, and after all a few months here and there will not really impact”, is what I have been offered as an explanation by many given that families are out of jobs, and the financial devastation is tremendous.

Same for the school managements? Or is this not really impacting them? Assumption is that they have deeper pockets? That is the private sector debate that has been around forever and never ending – (parents picked these schools as options and this contractual commitment needs to honoured?)! What about government schools? Is this a sector not important for government to build IT skills in teachers and make access to students studying in their schools possible given school closures may be longer than anticipated?

Educators are clear that with schools not opening anytime soon there needs to be support for children who can be ‘e-engaged’ and continue with learning for there are significant developmental impacts with prolonged periods of non learning. There is also deep concern for those with lack of devices and connectivity issues, and there’s tremendous effort being put in building capacities – allowing these children access via TV channels and many organisations are leading the way with no child left behind. Are these perfect solutions? And is learning happening without challenges all across?

No. Remember we spoke about flexibility and working with variables? Ideal is not something we can strive for. And thinking of it will force us to surrender, as options are limited and changes take time. Need time. Much of the news on the ground with schools leading this successfully is very encouraging!

It is work in progress, patience everyone?

Then there are tweets from certain sections that speak about online as “a poor substitution for physical schools”, for which the question that comes up is, ‘what’s the alternative?‘ Engagements on line are balancing screen time, and in fact more innovative with teachers coming up with extended ideas to help families who are also faced with partnering part of this work load (Especially upto grade 3/4) given children are now at home all the time and will need assistance initially. Parents cannot manage this?? Why?

And yes those spending hours training themselves, Upskilling, researching and teaching on line will have to be rewarded for their efforts. They too have households to run. Fees must come in for this to happen.

So what the solution?

Middle path? Especially in the private sector, the conversations must be between two stake-holders and happen in a seamless manner as there is access and affordability. Flexibility is the key, and addressing challenges as they arise to resolve problems.

For the government aided schools, which are significantly higher in terms of number of student enrolments, governments will have to step in and solve problems. This is well within their control and requires a bit of planning. Many have reached out to guide and support – the question is there a real desire to address this?

This customisation will allow for there to be progress and for more success stories including sustained employment and economic revival. Learning continues seamlessly for one. Children do not miss out. Some households have children with needs, and some are dealing with mental health issues. Solutions are available. Yet courts are deciding basis of a small fraction of petitioners?

But the more important question is this only about economics?


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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