Opinion

An educator shares the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community

Lt. Col. A Sekhar
An educator shares the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community
  • My mother, father, Dada, Dadi, Nana Nani are all down with COVID…Madam… I do not know what to do…please…please…help…
  • I have spent 4 lakhs on my wife’s COVID treatment... Your School is threatening to cut off online classes for my child!!!!
  • Sir, I have lost my father-in-law and nephew over the last few days …. I do not want to even talk… How do you expect me to be positive? 
  • My student in Grade 7 has lost his father … He is not speaking at all... How do I connect?
  • I have had COVID, my wife has had COVID… I am feeling listless…

The above quotes, made under stress by a head girl, parent, teachers, and a Principal respectively give you a fair idea of the trials and tribulations of the extended scholastic community across India, after the devastating second wave of COVID, (and dare I say, the world).

After the initial, understandably excited responses for the LFH/WFH, the euphoria has been tempered by the stark realization that we are yet to find a workable substitute for physical schooling.

The following reality bites stare at you hard and square: -

  • Physical schooling is not a priority for Governments in India.
  • Online schooling exacerbates digital divides.
  • Learning outcome depreciations are regrettably, a growing reality.
  • Socio-emotional/cultural/learning/understanding has reduced significantly leading to ongoing mental health issues, across the board.
  • Schools are gasping for breath, (every which way), especially private schools.
  • Physical and mental harassment of students has hit unprecedented highs.
  • An exhausted stressed academic community is searching for credible answers.

Yet, these are some encouraging silver linings in that: -

  • Teachers of all hues have been exceptional; they are the new ‘Military”!
  • Parental respect for teachers & Schools have, by and large improved (with some unfortunate exceptions)
  • Evaluations and assessments are being revisited holistically. (long overdue)
  • “21st-century skills” are now front & center.
  • After initial lethargy, state and Central School boards have been, relatively speaking, on the ball.

So, what next?

Assuming that schools & colleges reopen in 2022 physically, full time, how are we going to address the complex and urgent challenges facing India’s Education systems in a post (present continuous) pandemic world? How do we bridge the inevitable learning gaps and the myriad issues of socio-emotional learning?

Do I have the answers?

By God No!

Do we have the answers?

I suspect not!

What is the way forward?

During the 1980s & early 90s, there was this great fear that the US was losing its leadership in education & technology due to the Japanese and South East Asian economic miracle. Subsequently, a national nonpartisan Presidential commission, including the best brains America could offer intellectually (both from the public & private sectors) came up with a pragmatic actionable document, unconditionally accepted by all the stakeholders. The FAANG boom is a consequence of that initiative.

Clearly, that initiative has stood the test of time.

Today's decisions will impact the largest cohort of under 30 population the world has ever had (the Indian demographic dividend). The students entering School in 2022 are to be made ready with competencies and skillsets for jobs yet to be created, (even dreamt of) in 2047, when India celebrates 100 years of independence.

Can the Central, State Governments, public and private sectors, (all of us, each one of us) put aside our egos and vested interests, join hands, create a new consensus, and make the demographic dividend the turbocharged engine for India to become a global superpower?

Your answer is as good as mine.

About the author:
The author is a soldier educationist. He is presently the Chief Development Officer, Jagran Education Foundation.

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