Numerous students and teachers alike, have become accustomed to online teaching because one can sit at home. Returning to classroom teaching can be a strange experience for many.
India has a significant place in global education with more than 230 enrollments in 1.4 million schools, but the Covid-19 epidemic has closed all institutions since March 2020. Since then, students have been participating in classes sitting within the four walls of their home. The current situation has brought dangerous times for the public education system, with the risk of splitting and the risk of reopening we standing to lose both teachers and students who cannot return to school again. The transition was fairly easy for some students as they had quick access to resources like mobiles and laptops with good internet, but students in remote areas of India are still suffering due to lack of connectivity. The young mind eager to learn was helplessly trapped. Some teachers considered the situation while others did not. It was very frustrating that some of these students were experiencing emotional problems. According to a survey by The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), 65.4 percent of teachers share that school children are unable to grasp the mode of learning through online mode, which is a warning to us to urgently address this complex problem, otherwise it will affect students’ learning outcomes on scale. On the other hand, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan also warned that the government should bring children back to school as soon as possible, “otherwise, a generation of our children has been lost”. “We knew that poor kids didn’t have access to online devices. Still, if they were 1.5 years out of school, they would be three years behind when they returned to school.”
There have been incidents when schools have reopened in some states of India. But because of the growing number of lawsuits, they shut down again and schools had to revert to online teaching methods. Students are deprived of their practical learning experience. Following the deadly third wave of the epidemic, some states have issued notices to reopen schools. It’s unusual to imagine the study process happening again in school. Numerous students and teachers alike, have become accustomed to online teaching because one can sit at home. Returning to classroom teaching can be a strange experience for many.
On the positive side, we can imagine students participating in activities such as sports and athletics. It is almost uncommon for children and adolescents who are bursting at the seams to be confined to their homes all the time. Social initiatives like friendship and chat can be a possibility again. Offline learning will be real again. Students, especially those studying science, will be able to hold test tubes and wear lab coats. We certainly can’t cancel the Covid-19. One would imagine that social distance and daily quick exams would be a regular part of school. New Zealand schools have created a ‘bubble system’ where students can go to school on alternate days of the week. We will see something similar in India. In a class where the number of students is high. Half of the class will go to school on the fixed day and the other half. But for this system to become a reality, we will need intensive teacher training. Already implemented in some institutions, a combination of online and offline teaching can be noticed at the same time. This will reduce the burden on teachers and they will also be able to focus on the needs of individual students. We can imagine COVID-19 as part of a teaching curriculum where students will be taught to regularly update and discover new technologies to fight viruses. Hygiene will be the highest priority. Sanitizers and disposable masks are available not only at the entrance, but in front of each classroom. The washroom will be cleaned after each use. The school infirmary will be fully equipped to handle stressful situations and a public health system will always be available. Some rooms in the school area will be designated as quarantine centers in case of any emergency.
All of the above arrangements require the support of the Central and State Governments, school authorities, parents and students In 2019, the allocation of funds to the education sector was only 3.5 percent. Additional funding will be needed for the growing need for digital devices, Internet access and healthcare. The state and central governments have to work together because education co-operatives come under the list. A top-to-the-bottom scheme should be adopted for disbursement of funds. Since the central government will not be able to collect data for every school, the Panchayati Raj and the Gram Sabha will have to be heavily involved. School authorities may arrange for the collection of funds for the necessary requirements. Most importantly, COVID protocols must be adhered to and implemented by students and their parents. Extra care should be taken towards young children. For this, people need to be careful and follow the rules in all public areas, not just in schools. If the people do not think about their own lives, the government will hardly be able to do that.
We must accept the fact that the epidemic is not going away anytime soon. “The coronavirus is a new reality and the world needs to learn to live with the coronavirus,” said Nabarro, a World Health Organization official. The decisions made today in the context of COVID-19 will have long-term consequences for the future of education. To create an holistic view of education, we need a high-quality table talk with policy makers, educators and educators for need-based decision making that should be guided by the desired shared future shared principles and vision. The rise of artificial intelligence, which was predicted to happen sometime in the future, may already be here. It is important to be vigilant and adapt to the current situation and to plan well for the future.