The past few weeks have been extremely anxious moments spent by those in the education industry – be it owners of schools, principals, parents and teachers as everything they attempted to channelise landing up as a discussion points in courts – well, in some states!! Waiting for verdicts, contesting them and getting decision makers to value the work of experts when they were recommending in my opinion took time away from what was really critical and the need of the hour – which is to optimise with the variables that confronted us. Yes, we have to ensure that every child learns but the discussions went into proving evils of excessive screen time, lack of IT capabilities, to fee waivers, the private/public debate but what we really needed to focus on was the child’s seamless learning and how to ensure that we added value. This is the innovation required, and given the rising numbers, the reality is extensions of lockdown times for our children.
Those states that remained mindful of engagements, and valued the virtual world, allowed stake holders the ability to optimise and adjust, and in my mind, these children are finding their feet and adapting because there was time spent sharing feedback and adjusting.
There is no denying the fact that these extra ordinary times have challenged many, and for many parents who for most parts believed that schools would start at some point were hopeful that the world would normalise then, and everything would be fixed – virtual world be something they dealt with for some time, and these ‘problems’ would disappear when things became ‘normal’.
This isn’t about blame game, because the one strong fact emerges that this year which about ‘stops’ and ‘starts’ and coping with C virus has no clear predictions. It is a wait and watch directive, and adjust as trends emerge which is why coping mechanisms need to be the focus so that every family moves ahead.
Educators recognised these signs quickly and invested heavily in skilling their teachers, and building capabilities. Plenty of lessons learnt and as this is work in progress, they continue to scale up. Many parents have recognised that virtual engagements presents a valuable alternative to learning, and have starting reaching out and skilling up themselves. Academic boards like CBSE have led the way with their reduction in course content and decided that non negotiable content that builds foundation is the focus area. International boards like Cambridge are extending their services and enabling schools to plan the year with resources and use their internal network to deliver on quality benchmarks which should be hugely motivating for parents.
Those responsible for the student’s learning journey have been reactive and providing solutions. It is now upto the schools and their set of parents and children empowered by teachers who need to focus on the road ahead. What can we do to support each other, what can we do to contribute, what can we do as research to share ideas or what can we do to ensure that ‘our’ school remains the ‘go-to’ place that we valued in March.
This change in narrative, away from arguments about screen time and shared devices or lack of connectivity will generate solutions as they have been – books being couriered to parents, handouts sent home, pre-corded sessions that can be viewed again, smaller group sizes, enforcement and enrichment times, one on one discussions, to mentoring and buddy systems, flexibility in home work submissions, assessments that are blended etc. The collective effort focused on mobilising is surely the way forward as this year appears to be one where even when we open up, and children come to school, a spike in cases may warrant a closure and at that time, the shift to virtual learning will be a welcome alternative.
In these early days, the belief that ‘gap’ years will be solution is simply based on 3 weeks of online work, and unlockdown times news. As the year moves ahead and we are faced with school closure till October or even December, this will lead to the panic again and then hindsight will document that we were hasty in passing verdicts about virtual learning and instead of skilling up, we wasted time resisting it.
Wish law makers would put the onus on schools and their expert teams and allow them to manage their quantum of asynchronous or synchronous classes basis of their demographics and capabilities and allow the progression to take place. Some schools will creatively plan, create value and think laterally.
This will equip us to learn from each other, and embrace best practices and that is the collaboration we hope this industry can focus on, instead of submitting reports on what different research organisations believe is ideal screen time.
None of this research was conducted when the world was in lock down. Dont you think statistics be adjusted from ‘recreational’ time spent on line to ‘learning’ when you bring the variable of pandemic. It is also time, parents partner this process with a lot more open mindedness. For me, it is simple, those resisting may be the ones left out. And in that only your child’s learning is compromised. The world will move on!
Time to reflect, and adjust our energies on what really is important.