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Revathi Srinivasan, Director, Singhania schools, Mumbai: Education sector need to be re-designed

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Revathi Srinivasan

Excerpts from my thoughts expressed in the webinar on Rebooting the Education system organised by Elets. This was an insightful meet of like -minded educationists from across the country and we had Dr Ravi Gupta curate the panel discussion. The talk was more on the change we are seeing in Education since the lockdown. But we have been discussing about the need of a shift of mind-set, becoming adaptive to the’ infusion of technology’ for over a decade. Most schools have adopted technology in some way or the other. Some have gone a step further to innovate with technology. However, all innovations happen in isolation. We hear or read about it when it is shared , but many of them go unnoticed and unrecognised. If we wish to see the rebooting , innovations cannot happen in pockets .Policy makers and educators have to delve into every aspect of Education-leadership , governance , systems , pedagogy , assessments.

The bottom line is- Education system will see a Renaissance.

The lockdown caught us unawares and unprepared. It did not give us time to re-assess, re-engineer and re-design but it definitely has given us time to ponder and reflect the purpose , process and product output. Schools are no longer physical spaces. One can have similar outcomes even if there’s a school on the clouds . The dynamics of the school does not change, provided we see the processes and the systems differently. One cannot expect the same outcomes with a “set pattern of assessments and examinations”. Standardisation cannot be the norm. After all , every child is not cast from the same mould. Each has his own desires , likes, ability , capability and attitude. So, the current education system needs to be re-imagined and re-designed. We could feel the dynamism of the space and that of the educators in the past two weeks. Schools have begun to experiment with technology in a big wayfaring this pandemic. The whole scenario of challenges, uncertainty, un predictability has led to experimentation, collaboration , sharing of resources , improvisation of the teaching-learning processes. The ‘ rebooting’ is a natural outcome of the work from home .Systems have begun to evolve .The rigid systems of control, standardisation of tests, the marking of assessments from summative examinations have all been tweaked keeping with the current health scare. As educators we are happy that there is flexibility and progressiveness.

The bottom line is – Change is inevitable in a VUCA world.

What is the impact of use of technology on students, teachers and parents? Are parents able to move from a school with all facilities and activities to a tech-driven education? Are teachers prepared to see tech only as a tool to promote better and impactful learning? Education in India has always been one to many .A teacher stands in front of her 40 students and delivers lecture. Sometimes , the teacher demonstrates or involves students in a hands-on activity. Today, in a Zoom class the student experiences a one on one learning despite the teacher addressing the whole class. Technology is a great enabler .But, one cannot use it just as one may taught in a class. The purpose of using technology is then lost. Students should be able to have fun in learning with the various approaches that the teacher will adopt – inter- disciplinary, multi-sensory, cross industry coalition, case -study approach , flipped modelling. We have experienced the shrinking of the boundaries with collaboration among educators and course materials from across the globe.

The bottom line is – Education is integral to the virtual world.

This is very easily stated, though true. But in India , where digital learning cannot embraced by all schools in the country. In many schools , children come to school for the mid-day meals that the school gives. There are teachers who walk long distance to pick children from their homes and bring them to school. How can we talk about bringing the world to them? The introduction of teaching using technology may widen the equality gaps among schools and students. The cost of digital devices and the data plans are high. Access and quality of access has to be made available to all schools and students at subsidised rates. To have the best resources , we must have a consortium of educators, publishers, corporates , technical experts, professionals from the media and entertainment industries to help to create videos, assessment tools, learning materials. Corporates can use their CSR funding for the educational resource centre. The PPP model will help to upgrade schools and will level schools across the country. The baseline of learning outcomes will not show great disparities between urban/rural or private/government or elite/under-priveliged schools. Education cannot be competitive, it has to be nurtured through collaboration. Teacher plays the most crucial role in Education. Things will change in the classroom only when there is a live classroom transaction between the teacher and the students and among students.

The bottom line is – Teacher training is a priority Investment.

This pandemic seems a wake up call for educators and parents. It reminds us that only marks and grades don’t necessarily make us . Academia is more about theory, less about action. This pandemic is a wake up call for all educators, parents and students to remind ourselves that we have skill ourselves to live in this world that is moving at a furious pace. Skills that will need to build in our homes and schools is to build confidence, informed decision making , creative problem solving, effective communication skills and adaptability. We must inculcate in our children values of compassion , empathy , sharing , fearlessness and independence of thought. The catch line of all Apps today boasts “about anytime, anywhere learning “ but learning will have no meaning if we don’t unlock our minds to rethink curriculum, revise attitudes and refresh our habits.

The bottom line is -Learning itself anytime , anywhere . All you need is an open mind to open your parachute.

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