How the coronavirus pandemic is re-shaping education
The word ‘Pandemic’ has now been added to every child’s vocabulary, and it is here to stay, and so are the words ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘COVID 19’.
This pandemic has brought about a change in everyone’s lives in an unprecedented manner, in a way that none of us were ever prepared for. When we, as adults, were not prepared for this or even imagined the magnitude of the tiny virus disrupting our lives, how could we have prepared our students?
We, as teachers, while planning the annual calendar, always take pride in ensuring that every aspect of the student’s development is addressed and every student is provided with the experience that would further prepare them for the inevitable.
We plan our field trips for that crucial hands on experience, the cultural days for the exposure to showcase the talents of children, the debates and MUN’s for giving them the needed confidence to speak on a platform, the national and international educational tours to enrich their experiences of the world cultures, the sports days so that the children exhibit their discipline on the tracks and inculcate the true meaning of sportsmanship, the visits to rural areas and working with the underprivileged society to be able to appreciate and be grateful towards the abundance that they have and learn from them!
Teacher warriors on the fore front
With all this planning and more, the teachers lost out on the planning of this inevitable catastrophe, this invisible enemy. However, the schools and their army of ‘Teacher Warriors’ rose to this occasion and did not leave any stone unturned to assist their dear students in whatever manner they could so that the learning process does not stop.
Despite their own limitations of space at home, abundance of workload, the presence of all family members at home, no outside help, the net connectivity issues, no exposure to online teaching, etc., teachers have showed great level of perseverance and succeeded in their battle to fight and keep the connect with their students on.
Kudos to our teacher warriors and salute to their efforts.
The coronavirus pandemic has taught us some invaluable lessons. We always spoke of 21st century skills and how to prepare the students for the same in every educational conference that I have attended lately. There always have been atleast one panel discussion or presentation on this topic, and today, when I look back, have we really been successful in inculcating the real 21st century skills among our students?
The students have been ill prepared for this. The boredom of sitting at home, the fact of not being able to meet their friends, the constant updates on the spread of the pandemic, the uncertainty of the future, ill-equipped to handle the daily house chores, and more has made the young minds to rebel, and very soon the after effects of this pandemic will surface in an extremely dreadful manner.
Depression! However, this is not the end. Reviewing, reinventing, and reshaping our thought process and our education ecosystem will show us the right path.
Re-shaping through life skills
The reshaping of education will need to be done on every front. This reshaping must consider all the stake holders – the students, the teachers, and the parents, and only then the new structure can be completed and imbibed into the system.
Even today, with all the hullaho about ‘online’ classes for students - right from the two-year-olds and beyond, the entire propaganda is about the ‘academic’ aspect, and how many of us are really talking about skilling our children.
Getting our young learners to be skilled to face this kind of situations bravely and to be able to learn from the situation rather than blaming the situation for all that goes ‘wrong’ in our lives. The so very important life skills of gratitude, patience, resilience, co-operation, time management, collaboration, hard work, etc., are the ones that must be tested and implemented.
The real education will be when we are able to show our dear students on the ‘How’ to cope with these aspects and not only on ‘What’ to cope with (what, they already know as they are already facing them!). For today, none of us are aware of what all we will need to cope with. But surely, training the students minds on ‘how’ to cope becomes most important now.
Today’s generation is well updated on many aspects and have the means to get information. However, what we need to do is train them on the ‘How’! This will equip the students to face the uncertainties that the world will throw at them better in the coming times.
The focus of our school education now needs to shift towards real time education, and that means all the stake holders – the students, teachers, and the parents will now need a major mind shift. This shift will take us all to new heights and make us capable to deal with new challenges.
Making the student independent in actions and thoughts, becoming reflective, to become more of a self-learner and understand self-strength is going to accelerate the educational journey for each student going forward.
We as teachers must collaborate and be prepared to challenge the students at every step and integrate the subjects in the truest sense. Integration of subjects like Science, Psychology, and Technology or the ICT will make the understanding of the world’s ecosystem in a holistic manner and prepare the student to find solutions that are innovative and real.
The education system will require sea change at the policy level as this must benefit all. India being such a diverse country, technological benefits are mainly reaped by the elite society or the more fortunate ones. However, we must keep in mind the ratio of urban vs rural is still skewed in India, and majority still come from the rural areas where we are still struggling for basic amenities.
For technology to reach these areas and for teachers and students to benefit from them is a far cry! That, however, does not and will not stop our teacher warriors from doing what they do the best, reaching out to the young learners and guiding and mentoring them. We will find out ways of reaching out to the students and ensure that the ‘gen next’ is future ready.
While we wait for the policymakers to bring about the changes (which can be a while and one full generation will pass out), we shall continue with our bit and re-shape the education ecosystem ourselves. Bringing in the basics of safety, health, and hygiene into the forefront and make the schools a safe and secure heaven for the young learners.
Along with the academic aspects, we must also bring the focus on non-academic aspects in a bigger way. Inculcating the life skills in students from a very young age is the need of the hour so that it does not seem as a task to be learnt, but rather becomes a way of life!
Along with the physical well-being, we cannot forget the emotional well-being and the mental health of the student. For this, we have to build the education ecosystem by making our teachers stronger with knowledge on these aspects. This also means we need to take a re-look at the teacher training aspect and make it more holistic.
To re-shape the education system, we all have to become ‘reflective learners’ and get started.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)