(January 24, 2022)
There is need to work collaboratively to help students get dynamic growth through education, writes Santanu Mishra
The pandemic has brought many unavoidable and abrupt changes in the sphere of education. The education system across primary, secondary, and higher learning has been disrupted, leaving students with major learning gaps and many without access to learning tools. Efforts have been made to mitigate these hardships, wherein educationists, social entrepreneurs, organisations, and government establishments have led the way in transforming the education landscape of India.
Traditional to digital
India has the world’s second largest education system, consisting of government-run, public, and non-government schools across urban and rural India. Up until now, with low adoption of digital education, India’s education system followed traditional methods of learning. However, this changed with the pandemic, as both private and public institutions adopted technological aids to offer what was best for students with new educational tools and innovations.
Students were quick to transition from four-walled classrooms to learning from screens. To address the issues of lack of digital access in rural and semi-urban India, the private and social sectors came forward to complement government efforts through interventions that allowed children from all sections of the society to access digital devices and internet connectivity, helping pupils transition from traditional methods of learning to the digital mode.
Shift in strategy
As we battle the pandemic, some tectonic shifts have taken place. India has fully vaccinated more than 61% of its eligible population. This success has made it possible for all educational institutions to think about and plan reopening. It is now important that as educationists, we ensure a smooth transition back to the classrooms by adopting a hybrid method of teaching and learning, while preserving gains from digitisation of education.
Need of blended learning
Students were among the worst sufferers of the pandemic, as their education came to a sudden halt with schools shutting down. While most shifted to digital learning, for the lesser privileged students, this transition came with numerous challenges. A sample survey of over 40,000 children at education centers across the country suggests that nearly 60% did not have access to smartphones. Home learning was not easy for them either, as many of them are first generation learners and cannot expect support and guidance from their parents.
We used a blended learning approach, where we used a variety of ways that were customised as per the individual needs of children, including digital learning, normal phone-based learning, community cluster classes, door-to-door visits, as well as radio and television-based learning programmes. Through these, we made efforts to help children continue their education. Special emphasis was paid on the mental and emotional well-being of children through engaging activities, music, art, yoga, and even one-on-one counseling when needed.
The pandemic also disrupted skilling of youth, along with forcing the market to generate new requirements. This has also been highlighted in the focus given to skill development and vocational training in NEP 2020.
There is need to work collaboratively to help our children and youth get dynamic growth and education. On the brighter side, the pandemic has preponed many innovations in teaching and learning. For example, the hybrid model of education seems to be the new normal as we prepare our children for the immediate future.
(The author is co-founder and executive trustee, Smile Foundation)