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In the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak, the nationwide lockdown in India has been extended till May 17. The Ministry of Home Affairs extended the lockdown for two weeks while allowing different sets of relaxations in red, orange and green zones. The new guidelines aim at allowing India to exit from lockdown in a staggered manner while reopening the economy.

The government has announced that all educational institutes in the state, including schools, colleges, universities and coaching centres, will remain closed till May 17, 2020 due to the further extension of the nationwide lockdown. Many entrance exams were postponed or cancelled due to the epidemic.

Elets Technomedia and digitalLEARNING Magazine organized a webinar on “International Boards Quandary in COVID 19 crisis”, with eminent speakers from schools. The speakers presented their views of the lockdown issues and potential solutions for the crisis.

 

Mukesh Sharma, Chairman, Prometheus School, Noida, said “We need to think about cyber security and student and teacher ratio in online classes. In online classes we have figured it out for every 10 students, we need one teacher. Learning resources, which are available in schools, cannot be given in homes. Assessment is another issue which we need to work it out.

He also said to introduce blockchain technology as these are uncertain times. We must focus, are children learning good and are we engaging children in sessions, he added.

Collaboration is the need of the hour and teacher training must be our priority. A lot of children are missing on education and we must ensure that things must come back to normal soon, he added.

Dr Oli Tooher Hancock, Head of School, The International School of Hyderabad, Hyderabad, said “The situation is very unprecedented. The assessment is a bigger challenge for all of us. Teacher training is also a bigger issue. Half of the students will be in schools and half will be learning from home. We need to focus on relevant and meaningful teaching as home has turned classroom for students. We must develop future leaders.”

Over online learning, she said schools have to adopt hybrid learning and use technology for teaching. Children are most affected due to the lockdown and needed support in this crisis, she added.

Ian Davies, Head of School, Garodia International Centre for Learning, Mumbai, said “Communication has become much more important. We must be making more legitimate contact in the community. We need to provide the human touch in these difficult times. We can take the opportunity to make education better in this crisis.”

He also said we must improve our education standards with the help of technology. Technology can be a supplement but not a replacement he added.

Surabhi Goel, CEO, Aditya Birla Education Trust Schools, Mumbai, said “We have three challenges- When do we start, who do we bring in and safety measures. The teaching aspect is not worrying but the transaction can be an issue. Parents are not in a hurry to send their children back to schools. It’s a great opportunity for teachers to use technology.”

She said there is anxiety within the parents over the safety of their children when the schools will be re-opened. Managing parents’ expectations will be another challenge for schools. Children’s safety is our priority and has to sanitize the entire premises before commencing the classes.

Dr Geoffrey Fisher, Head of School, B D Somani International School, Mumbai, said “Authentication of assessments is a huge challenge for International board. The training of teachers to deliver is a huge challenge. Blended learning will be huge in the coming days. We have to provide a guarantee to parents over the safety of children. We need to introduce block chain technology in schools.”

He also said the world has learned lessons from the COVID crisis and teachers need to find new ways to engage children.

Assessments will be a huge challenge as every board has its own way of grading students, which can an issue for students, he added.

Dr. Jayshree Periwal, Chairperson, Jayshree Periwal International School, Jaipur said” Our entire curriculum in digitalized and everybody is not comfortable with it. Challenges will lead to opportunities. We are not only focusing on academics but life skills. We are trying to bridge the gap between virtual and online classes.”

Over online classes, she said not all students are comfortable with virtual classes. All students don’t have a proper digital infrastructure in their homes to take classes. There is a behavioral change witnessed within the students in this lockdown, she said.

Children must make use of the time to learn new things, she added.

Pratima Sinha, CEO, DSR Educational Society, Hyderabad said ”We have started new lesson plan. Grooming parents and students to take online classes is also important. Safety and health, human touch, and communication is the need of the hour. Preparing logistics will also be important as social distancing is the main issue. Teachers are coming up with new ideas to keep students busy. We need to plan out everything before moving forward.”

She also said financial management is a huge challenge and we need to find solutions. Homeschooling may become a reality in the future with huge flexibility. We need to work on the curriculum of students, she said.

Randy Stevenson, Head of the Academy, Corvuss American Academy, Mumbai said “Many students are looking for a transition. The focus is on academics but we need the change our mid-set. We need to talk to children and prepare them for such things. In such a pandemic, health children must be our priority. The screen time for children has increased which needs to be taken care of.”

He also said schools must adopt blended learning and curriculum must be changed to support the children in this crisis.

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