The Indian education sector faces two alternatives in light of the new wave of rising coronavirus cases: to keep the schools closed until the crisis abates, or to brace up and put in strong safety measures so that children can return to schooling and peer-bonding, both of which are pivotal in making childhood and adolescence happy and wholesome.
The second option is the wiser one to take, and here’s why:
The pandemic and the resulting closure of schools have severely impacted the social and emotional well-being of children. This is not a conjecture. According to a report published by the child development organization, ChildFund, as many as 74 percent of 1725 Indian children surveyed feel the negative emotional impact of missing school and about 7 percent were even nervous about the learning gaps that may result in their education despite online schooling.
About 60 percent of children and 50 percent of parents admitted having noticed negative behavioral patterns as a result of school closure. The only way out of this debilitating impasse is to reopen schools, albeit with a lot of logistical preparations, safety measures, and new strategies in place.
Blended learning provides the right middle path in this stalemate between online and offline teaching. While making judicious use of all online educational materials, the schools must move towards classroom teaching with the necessary social distancing, sanitization, and hygiene measures.
Additionally, the students who displayed a tendency to self-study because of the yearlong hiatus in schools must be encouraged. Self-study habits will help to make them autonomous learners.
Instead of crowding the classrooms, the schools have to come up with smart scheduling where students can attend school on alternate days or twice/thrice a week. It will also give students the much-needed practice in writing skills which they lost out on in the past year. The school time-tables must be as close to what they were in the pre-Covid days to bring about a semblance of normalcy.
The ChildFund report alleges that 64 percent of children think that they won’t be able to cope up with the old curriculum unless some educational support is provided to them by schools. In the face of these apprehensions, it may be best for schools to realign the curriculum to the altered reality created by the Covid-19 pandemic. It may demand a rationalization of the curriculum without compromising on academic rigor.
Emphasis on physical fitness and health
Education in the Covid times must lay a greater emphasis on health and hygiene. An hour of some form of physical fitness and exercise will help to make students fitter and also strengthen their immune system. Similarly, apart from studies, all co-curricular activities must be planned on the days that students are in school.
This may sound a bit obvious, but strict adherence to Covid-safety protocols can’t be stressed enough. Teachers and parents must take collective responsibility for making children of all ages, particularly the younger children, aware of the importance of hand hygiene, sanitation, mask-wearing, and social distancing. Vaccination mustn’t make us complacent about following these protocols.
Vaccination of teachers
Teachers must get vaccinated on priority to be able to continue the education process uninterrupted and also win the confidence of students and parents. The vaccination of parents who are eligible for it will reduce the risk of Covid-19 at homes.
While all these measures will help the education sector tide over the Covid-19 crisis, it is important to keep in mind the detrimental effects of keeping the schools closed. The ChildFund report reveals that the dropout rate of girl students may go up 47 percent, child labour may increase by 52 per cent and the learning gap may widen by 57 per cent if schools continue to remain shut.
So, the best way for the education sector to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic is for the schools to re-open. This crisis can be better handled by facing it head-on rather than ducking under.
COURTESY- INDIA TODAY