Opinion

Col Sekhar Suggests The Way Forward For Scholastic Organizations Post-COVID-19

Col A Sekhar
Col Sekhar Suggests The Way Forward For Scholastic Organizations Post-COVID-19

"This is going to be a long fight. We don't have to tire or feel defeated. We have to win in this long battle. We have to emerge victorious. Today, the nation's goal, mission and resolve are one, and this is to be victorious in this battle against the coronavirus pandemic," Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 06 April.

1. The VUCA World is here, well and truly. The Education and health industries, almost always (with a touch of jealousy) highlighted as recession-free sectors are also now, in crisis. Psychologically, the tsunami of the rollercoaster ride of emotions makes us experience, joy, stress, boredom, fear, anger, frustration and anxiety, (literally the navarasas) over a 24 hour period, repeating itself with unwelcome regularity.

2. Let us be clear in that

  • This is the greatest crisis to the human race here on earth, since the Second World War.
  • The Second World War was not as widespread across the globe, as the virus is today.
  • The world is yet to have specific medicines or vaccinations for COVID-19.
  • We are into completely unchartered territory.

3. Yet

  • We have to fight back and win this war for humanity.
  • To win this extraordinary war, we have to come up with creative solutions.
  •  Thus, we can reclaim our ability (right) to a reasonably peaceful life.

“There are many scary scenarios about how badly we Indians may be affected or how many killed by COVID-19. But they presume we will do nothing to influence our fates” Shekhar Gupta, National Interest, 28 March.

“Failure is not an option,” so said Eugene Krantz, as he led the safe return of the Astronauts of Apollo 13 under the most severe of duress.

4. It can be said with some certitude that India, lead by its national and state leaders, have controlled the COVID-19 spread at Stage I with reasonable efficacy. Avoidable mistakes were made, yet, considering the magnitude of unprecedented challenges faced, let us give a big shabhash to our much-maligned politicians and bureaucrats. But the battles have just begun, and greater, more complex, unpredictable challenges await all of us, each one of us.

5. The new normal realities are:

  • COVID-19 is here to stay; beyond the lockdown
  • Vaccination solutions are at best, 18-24 months away
  • Drug based treatments are again, in its nascent stages
  • Physical distancing is here to stay
  • Conventional lifestyles will be turned upside down

6. The scholastic community, especially in India, has been thrown into the deep end with barely a life jacket in place. Still, it is to the enduring credit of the millions of teachers and school leaders that, yet again, with very limited resources, a gallant attempt is being made to make online learning get off the ground. The questions about content, learning outcomes, pedagogy, technology, access and equity are legitimate and require innovative, considered, mature responses. Already, we are,(besides the existing inequalities), adding a digital divide, unconsciously.

7. We have to factor in and be mindful of the pre-COVID-19, ongoing COVID-19, and post-COVID-19 mindsets of all the stakeholders, and the transformation it will doubtless bring into our intentions, attitudes, and implicit and explicit behaviours. What is the way forward?

8. The key elements are highlighted:

  • Be prepared for a stop-start academic year; for post the lockdown, once the expected spike in cases happens, physical Schooling may be put on hold.
  • A truncated academic year, with the reduced syllabus, and liberal assessment processes is in the offing.
  • Work out new physical distancing norms for school buses, classrooms, faculty, and staff, everywhere.
  • Shift systems, blended learning, flexible schedules, learning from home are to be explored and contextually implemented.
  • The physical, social, emotional, psychological well being of the student has to prioritized, always, every time.
  • Sports and games of the physical kind, a non-negotiable element of the learning process, maybe normalized only after the Tokyo Olympics or beyond.
  • Schools have to be proactive in getting health, hygiene, safety security norms, protocols, and infrastructure up to COVID-19 prevention standards.
  • Non-avoidable technological up-gradation is done, after due diligence.
  • School finances will take a huge hit. Thus, we have all got to be prepared for no increments, and a substantial temporary salary cut, this year.
  • Local, State, Central Governments, Industry bodies, CBSE, CISCE, IB etc have to work out a cohesive strategy to bail out Schools with short, medium and long term economic solutions.
  • The Central and State Governments, along with School owners, teachers, and the wider society have to gently, but firmly persuade parents in a holistic manner, to sustain Schools, and avoid a confrontational approach.
  • Training for teachers has to scale up, quantitatively, and qualitatively.
  • The School Leaders have an onerous responsibility; they have to lead, with compassion.

 “Man needs difficulties in life because they are necessary to enjoy success” Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

9. It was said by Rahm Emmanuel, the then Chief of Staff to President Obama, in 2009, that no crisis should be wasted. If the educational fraternity can use this crisis as a catalyst to drive through overdue reforms in consonance with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the needs of the rest of the 21st century then we can claim to have made the future safe for our children and grandchildren.

Author: Col A Sekhar, Educational Consultant

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