The world has been ravaged today like never before with the Coronavirus outbreak intensifying in different countries. India has succeeded in saving millions of lives by taking proactive measures; still, several sectors have been affected very adversely. The disruptions caused by the pandemic have taken maximum toll in sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, hospitality and retail. Lives and livelihood of billions of people have been endangered leading to emotional trauma and mental stress.
The Indian education domain has been similarly impacted. There are close to 260 million school-going children in India. Even in their worst dreams, they would not have visualized that their learning will be threatened with such serious consequences. However, there has been a silver lining that has come in the form of technology. Technological advancements have proven to be the greatest enabler and the game changer in the domain of school education during these trying times.
Teachers as Corona-warriors
When the news of national lockdown first came out on March 23, 2020, people were amazed and bewildered. The new environment was far from normal. The next question was how to craft the way forward by dealing with this sudden threat and also ensure that growth and progress across domains were not hampered in any way. In such chaotic times, one of the communities that had taken the challenge head-on was Teaching!
Teachers stood among the most committed cohorts, for whom the only mission was to ensure that the learning of children remains unhindered. This new and unlikely breed of Corona-warriors immediately started their planning to shift the delivery from ‘brick and mortar’ to virtual mode. The supreme objective for teachers was to enable students to learn seamlessly despite all odds. They started experimenting and innovating new methods of classroom delivery and assessments by striking a balance between synchronous and asynchronous content. Reaching out to children beyond academics was a challenge which was solved by them through a concept of art of ‘Design-Thinking’.
Teachers, wherever required, honed their skills in technology to stay abreast with the new educational format. They proactively understood and internalized the philosophy of ‘Survival of the quickest ‘and adapted themselves by unlearning, learning and relearning. Teachers have been instrumental in realizing the dream that no child should be left behind. The resolute community of Teachers should be congratulated for their agility and perseverance. These change-agents have proven their mettle in adapting to the new situation successfully. When children failed to come to the Teacher, the Teacher travelled into their homes with all their knowledge and guidance!
Students too, were agile in adapting to the new normal. They started enjoying school at home; thanks to the application of technology which has taken its best shape today.
Aftermath of the pandemic
The school education paradigm is expected to reshape in the post-Covid era. Transforming the processes to suit virtual classes will demand huge investments in upgrading school infrastructure. The new normal will be social distancing, revised academic calendar, rotational attendance, new tools of assessment and so on. Experiential and project-based learning is going to take the centre-stage. Redesigning the academic and operational processes through data-driven approach is the only mantra to emerge as the winner in such a catastrophe.
Though technology has come to the rescue, it cannot replace the effectiveness of a four-walled classroom. Students are still missing the socio-emotional connect with friends and teachers and they will continue doing so until they reach their normal classrooms once again. The life-values and behavioral-skills they can learn with peers in a classroom is difficult to be taught virtually. Preparing students to face the challenges of life through critical-thinking, problem-solving, effective communication, decision-making, social & creative intelligence should be the prime focus of schools now when life has thrown us all out of gear.
Regardless of the situation, there are three domains which need to be focused in school education to drive long-term success among children:
Application of Design-thinking
Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user with empathy, and redefine problems to identify solutions that might not be instantly apparent. Multi-disciplinary approach of Design-Thinking inspires innovation devising solutions in diverse fields. It is, in other words, a solution-based approach driven by empathy where thought, emotions, behavior, movement, innovation play a pivotal role.
Students can excel in any field with a blend of analytical and intuitive thinking. Giving them the requisite exposure of various subjects will add to the intellectual capital, and also empower them to apply Design Thinking ideas in everyday scenarios helping them to sharpen their Problem-Solving skill.
Change is the only constant in the world. However, one aspect which has not changed over the years is emergence of Negative Emotions. The only weapon through which children can combat negative emotions is Social-Emotional Learning (SEL). It has gained tremendous momentum in the last few years as an integral part of the school education. It helps students become more resilient to deal with the adversities in life. Students learn to empathize and develop better relationships with their respective peer groups.
Literacy & Numeracy Skills
Numeracy skills help develop decision-making, analytical abilities and rational thinking. It helps students execute daily tasks with ease and handle problems more efficiently. They can understand the logic for all that is happening around. At a later stage, these skills are going to help students analyze their financial well-being and enhance digital literacy in their respective domain.
In these times of retrospection, we should encourage students to connect not only with themselves but also with nature, wind, birds, sky – all that they would have ignored otherwise. Mindfulness will further enable them to be happy. Let us, as educators, take a pledge to be resilient in our mission of transforming the lives of young learners and firmly believe that this time, too, will pass. This is also a great opportunity for all of us to stay together, pray together, empathize with each other and resolve to make our world a better place to live in for the present and future generations.
Khushboo Pandey, Sr Manager – PR & Corporate Communication, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Educational Institutions