By Ashok Pandey & Amit Kumar
The unknown nature of Covid-19 has taken the world by storm. Globally, 1.5 bn students are impacted, of which 830 mn do not have requisites for online schooling. India alone has about 400 mn children in the above categories.
Social, emotional, physical, cognitive and spiritual wellbeing of the students needs to be the primary global concern, at this hour. Disruption in learning can be traumatic, especially for the marginalised and the vulnerable groups. The digital divide has further exposed the chinks.
Countries should empower schools to proactively develop an Education Continuity Plan (ECP) and the Proactive Risk Mitigation Model (PRMM) that follows a three-step approach.
Survival: Education and wellbeing as the primary purpose should be a priority in the survival mode. Teachers and educators deserve recognition as frontline caregivers who have exhibited remarkable resilience, sacrifice and commitment in reaching out to the students using phone calls where deploying digital technology were difficult.
However, one needs to lay particular emphasis on building teachers’ capacity and provide them with the necessary support, including technical and wellbeing.
Reconstruction: This phase is the second step that goes along with the survival phase. Applied or Hands-on education, and not a run-of-the-mill education, must drive the schools to become idea-incubators and skill-development centres to meet the demand for future jobs. The second phase depends on the relationship, between the teacher and learner and a sophisticated mix of in-person and distance learning.
Leading-by-Example: Education should reform itself, keeping the future in mind, balancing our most pressing needs with the prospect of jobs, skills and employment. Contextual and creative solutions should take precedence over compliances. Institutional autonomy, characterised by a caring, proactive and adaptive leadership, can be the game-changer.
A robust education continuity plan at the school level, coupled with lifelong learning opportunities, proactive risk prevention plan and a framework of blended learning aimed at the entire student population will shield the education ecosystem from a possible collapse.
Pandey is chairperson, Council for Global Citizenship Education and director, Ahlcon Schools, and Kumar is the founder-director, Shabda