The current pandemic is expected to not just have enormous economic consequences but it is also having a devastating impact on Global Education. According to the latest figures released by UNESCO, as of March 23, 2020, some 1.3 billion learners around the world were not able to attend school or university. World Bank has said that the Covid-19 pandemic is causing more than 1.6 billion children and youth to be out of school in 161 countries.
This is close to 80 per cent of the world’s enrolled students.
In order to continue teaching- learning practices, several schools have embarked on technological platforms to deliver online learning programs to the students and have made significant investments. Teachers are doubling up as content curators and parents are stepping in as proctors, keeping up with lesson plans.
The nationwide 21-lockdown which has now extended for another two weeks has indeed sent out a message that schools need to change tactics rapidly to stay connected with their students.
Reshaping education sector:
Virtual classrooms are not as simple as plug-and-play. As we all know schools thrive on structure, timetables, daily attendance, and lesson plans-a meticulous, planned operation that has been made to transform into an online mode practically overnight. Schools are now going multimodal-a mix of live classes, recorded lessons, physical textbooks, and online tests and questionnaires. A seamless coordination to split a lesson or concept across several modes of learning.
Digital learning not new in India:
Learning through the digital medium is not something new for India. The government has used electronic media since the days of radio and then Doordarshan’s Gyan Darshan. Even programmes like Diksha, e-Pathshala, NROER (National Repository of Open Educational Resources) etc. have been existence for a while now. The current situation has of course put the digital medium into the centre of the equation.
The education fraternity has been at the forefront to ensure that the learning process of its students is in continuum and there are no obstructions even during the testing pandemic times.
Educators across the world are experiencing new possibilities to do things innovatively and with greater flexibility that are resulting in potential advantages in increasing accessibility to education for students across the world. These are new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped particularly in the realm of school education. In this crucial time, even parents have been supportive and equally involved in their children’s education, which has smoothened this transition from real to virtual, and so has the faculty.
Relationship, Relevance and Rigour:
Schools of tomorrow should not just focus on the reading, writing and arithmetic but on the new 3 Rs: Relationship, Relevance and Rigour which are equally pertinent while rolling out a virtual school plan. Lack of social support during the lockdown period will only aggravate the stress in children. Thus, the primary purpose of virtual classrooms is not to transact curriculum but to exhibit care and build an effective relationship with the students. Additionally, rhythm, routines and rituals provide the necessary cognitive comfort to growing brains.
Building relevance in virtual platforms becomes equally imperative, which can be achieved through two ways- one is to focus on the core of what is worth learning and secondly by ensuring that students work on self-directed projects that students genuinely care about.
It is the nature of our collective and systemic responses to the disruptions that will determine how we are affected by them. Our behaviour changes the system, and only mindful behaviour can avoid a breakdown of our education systems in this time of crisis.
Article by Manit Jain, Chairman FICCI ARISE