Schooling in the post Covid era: Challenges ahead

Published: July 1, 2020 5:45 AM

A piece of well-grounded scientific advice or the availability of a vaccine can assuage the legitimate fears of parents, educators, and school leaders.

As things stand amidst the uncertainties, blended-schooling-a combination of in-person schooling and online education is emerging as a plausible scenario for school continuity.As things stand amidst the uncertainties, blended-schooling-a combination of in-person schooling and online education is emerging as a plausible scenario for school continuity. (Representative image)

By Ashok Pandey & Amit Kumar

The Covid-19 crisis is not over yet. ‘Safety first’ attitude is captured in parents’ opinion surveys across the globe, suggesting that the majority of them do not think schools should open anytime soon. A piece of well-grounded scientific advice or the availability of a vaccine can assuage the legitimate fears of parents, educators, and school leaders.

Problems regarding the continuation of educations should not be seen as a roadblock to navigate through this crisis.

Despite the lack of answers and clarity, the first four weeks of the school lockdown witnessed teachers reaching out to the students with creative responses to deliver learning online. But, we still missed a vast pool of vulnerable students, exposing the stark digital-divide. The challenge now is to move forward and bring in innovations to address the existing and emerging challenges. Learning from both our successes and limitations in managing this crisis, we can make education thrive and not just survive. Education is undoubtedly at the core of sustainable growth and development. Reconstruction in school education is, therefore, vital to support continuity in learning, human capital formation, and well-being that can significantly add to long-term economic and social prosperity. A clear blueprint is required as we navigate from everyday survival to reconstruct and lead by example.

The roadmap requires us to be careful in not getting trapped in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, thereby encouraging and advancing unique drives, talents, and passion that aligns with the future of work. Now that we are in the middle of school lockdowns, surviving this crisis, a three-prong strategy, mentioned below, can help us in effectively reconstructing our education system and mitigate the risks that schools face today.

Provide a cushion and develop resilience: The Preventive Risk Mitigation Model (PRMM) provides a cushion to mitigate the risks of unforeseen and emerging scenarios. And, the Education Continuity Plan (ECP) develops resilience in all phases of the roadmap.

Specialised micro-credentials for addressing skill-gaps: Schools need to reinvent themselves to be the new skill-building hubs developing specialised skills anticipating the present and future demands of the society and economy.

Applied knowledge should take precedence over theoretical expertise in schools. Bernard Marr, a futurist, in an article in Forbes, asserts that the most relevant skills to survive post-COVID-19 are- adaptability and flexibility; tech-savviness; creativity & innovation; data literacy; critical thinking; digital and coding skills; leadership; emotional intelligence.

Quick acquisition of competency-based, employment accelerating short courses have been gaining preference over lengthier semester-based degrees. Micro-credentials are gaining an advantageous ground owing to their compact modular design, convenience, and lower-cost investment. If schools can foster micro-credentials, this can revolutionise curriculum and move education towards an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approach benefiting the learners and making schooling more relevant and significant.

Managing dilemmas: Another layer of the reconstruction phase is preparedness to reopen the schools, to a new reality. Since businesses have hacked remote-working and now are opening offices in a phased manner, the working-parents-turned-teachers will not be able to give the same care and support that learners received at the start of the lockdown.

There is anxiety and worry that children may fall behind. A delicate balancing act is required to ensure the learning and well-being of children. As things stand amidst the uncertainties, blended-schooling-a combination of in-person schooling and online education is emerging as a plausible scenario for school continuity.

The Covid-19 has paved the way for us to enter a radically new age offering immense opportunities to innovate and transform. If we are to ensure the relevance of schooling-we have to address the growing inequalities, digital divide and overcome the weak links in our preparedness in the wake of the pandemic.

Pandey is chairperson, Council for Global Citizenship Education, and director, Ahlcon Schools. Kumar is the founder-director at Shabda-Risk Assessment & Consultancy Services

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