The dilemma on school reopening: The challenge is to balance online and classroom education
October 10, 2020 7:00 AM
The new guidelines on the phased reopening of schools are in line with a cautious, calibrated move to nudge pandemic preparation by the schools and parental preparedness to take the risk.
In all probability, we have to settle down with a mix of online and in-person schooling.
By Ashok Pandey
The most severe problem posed by this pandemic is the risk of learning losses and learning discontinuity of millions of children. The varying levels of digital capabilities have further exposed the vulnerabilities. The decision to return to a teaching environment depends on individual choices. It also depends on the reassurances and the measures put in place in schools to prevent further spread of the virus.
Kenya earlier announced that they would keep their schools shut until Jan’ 21 and now there is a debate around phased reopening. The Philippines, on the other hand, has pledged to keep schools shuttered until a vaccine arrives. In the UK, reopening has brought severe criticism for the regime. There is a tension brewing in the US as perceptions of school districts, teachers and parents are at odds with each other.
No one wants to see the schools become superspreaders. The new guidelines on the phased reopening of schools are in line with a cautious, calibrated move to nudge pandemic preparation by the schools and parental preparedness to take the risk. Here are some policy options that the government can consider. It is safe to go slow but with full preparation—the standard operating procedure in screening, sanitisation, social distancing, reporting, Isolating, closed-door protocols, and outdoor constraints must be in place.
As the reopening rolls out, in a phased, calculated manner, demand on teachers, staff and leadership will be manifold. In all probability, we have to settle down with a mix of online and in-person schooling. A blending of mixed pedagogies increased parental engagement, safety and well-being of students and staff will be the crucial concerns. The challenge is to develop skills that will drive learning and future-readiness.
A revised syllabus, innovative ways to support learning, conducting assessments for learning and content delivery mapped to the individual needs are the urgent mini reforms required at the school level. By now, we know how the student population is distributed between the haves and the have-nots, digitally. The schools have to service those with no technology access through intermittent in-person interaction, delivery of hand out and learning kits. Those with low to medium access may have to continue with TV, radio, cellphones. Online classes for students with high digital capability may continue with a judicious mix of synchro and asynchronous solutions. Attempts to augment digital reach with philanthropic interventions must continue.
Structuring parental engagement and collaboration can build lasting relationships to benefit the learning experiences of the students. Schools need planning and resources to use whenever full reopening happens.
The author is Director, Ahlcon Group of Schools, Delhi