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Children and schooling in the post-COVID-19 era

Context:

  • The UNESCO Report titled ‘No Teacher, No Class’ prepared along with scholars from Tata Institute of Social Science focuses on the need for reforms in education in India. This report with the recently constituted R. Ramanujam Committee focuses on education in the post-COVID-19 era.
  • Children’s education and health are two major domains in which welfare policies of the modern state are expected to support and enhance the family’s role. The pandemic has revealed that society and state institutions prefer to ignore the conditions under which the family copes with the demands of childhood.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice and Governance (Issues related to Education, Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. 2021 State of the Education Report (SOER): “No Teacher, No Class”
  2. About the impact of Covid-19, digital education and NEP
  3. Qualities that are likely to define the schools of the future
  4. Areas of Concern
  5. A recovery plan for education of children and involvement of parents

2021 State of the Education Report (SOER): “No Teacher, No Class”

  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s 2021 State of the Education Report (SOER) for India: “No Teacher, No Class” is the annual flagship report of UNESCO.
  • There are nearly 1.2 lakh single-teacher schools in the country of which an overwhelming 89% are in rural areas. The report projects that India needs more than 11 lakh additional teachers to meet the current shortfall.
  • The overall availability of computing devices (desktops or laptops) in schools is 22% for all India, with rural areas seeing much lower provisioning (18%) than urban areas (43%).
  • Access to the internet in schools is 19% all over India – only 14% in rural areas compared to 42% in urban areas.
  • Tripura has the least number of women teachers, followed by Assam, Jharkhand and Rajasthan while Chandigarh followed by Goa, Delhi, Kerala have the highest number of women teachers.
  • The proportion of teachers employed in the private sector grew from 21% in 2013-14 to 35% in 2018-19.
  • For elementary schools Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) (number of students enrolled in a given level of education, regardless of age, expressed as a percentage of the official school-age population corresponding to the same level of education) has increased from 81.6 in 2001 to 93.03 in 2018-19 and stands at 102.1 in 2019-2020.
  • Overall retention is still 74.6% for elementary education and 59.6% for secondary education in 2019-20.

About the impact of Covid-19, digital education and NEP

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has been the greatest disruptor in the education sector bringing future (use of digital technologies in education) as learners are now exposed to a huge variety of innovative content or digital formats of education in their own languages.
  • With the shift, the essential role of schools and teachers ensuring the mental/physical/cognitive development of a child has been permanently established.
  • The schools of the future and the future of schooling are now both subject to intense debate, in the backdrop of the National Education Policy 2020. But certain broad understandings have emerged that most agree upon.
  • There is already a discernible shift in the focus from physical infrastructure towards digital and virtual requirements.
  • Skill-building for the requirements of the 21st century has assumed great significance.
  • Accelerated and differentiated instructional interventions will be required to overcome and reverse the impact of the pandemic.
  • It is likely that there will be more pressure on the government schooling system to expand its intake.
  • Students of the future will have to struggle with the new set of capabilities needed, hyper-information becoming disinformation, virtual teams not seeing each other physically, and will constantly experience a swing between super speciality and cross-disciplinary skills.

Qualities that are likely to define the schools of the future

  • Schools will encourage extended networks rather than remain as closed classroom communities. Future schools will take teaching-learning to informal settings such as topic circles, eco clubs, visits to the neighbourhood, museums or scientific laboratories, etc.
  • Schools will be proactive innovators and they will adopt innovative pedagogies and differentiated instructions as per the needs of the learners to enable them to become knowledge creators and job creators.
  • Future schools will promote innovation by utilising innovative methods of assessment to bring out the unique potential of every child, harness innovative technologies for teaching, learning and administration, and bring about a culture of innovation.
  • Future schools will be future-oriented and connected to the job market as they must be capable of empowering and building the skills of learners for jobs that are yet to be created and technologies that are yet to be invented.
  • The future schools will forge stronger and more trusting engagement with families and communities.

Areas of Concern

  • There has been a shift to the digital mode of education in the post-COVID-19 era, even at the primary stage of education. However, the severe income inequalities and rural-urban digital divide have led to many students being disadvantaged now.
  • As per a recent report by Vipla Foundation, the students have been facing extreme stress leading to severe mental health issues including domestic violence, over-dependence on digital media, video games, etc. Studies also show that academic losses are compounded by emotional problems.
  • The Ramanujam Committee has identified the problem of addictive behaviour among students towards mobile devices and laptops, during the past two years.
  • The COVID-19 induced lockdown had led to the dissociation of students from the social and physical circles, and this tendency has further led to severe dependency factors among students.
  • There is a foundational issue of lack of digital infrastructure and digital literacy in India. This is against the objective of the National Education Policy, which strives to ensure education for all irrespective of their socio-economic background.

A recovery plan for education of children and involvement of parents

  • Devices such as the smartphone induce small children into a bond that may not be easy to shake off. Restoring children’s innate desire to relate to the world physically and socially surrounding them will constitute a major step towards educational recovery. This will demand de-addiction from digital instruments.
  • The involvement of parents is highly required in the learning and education of the children. Further mental hygiene is to be ensured with the support of child psychologists.
  • Taking help of ‘shift-schools’ in counterbalancing the effects of COVID-19. With mounting concerns of schools turning into COVID hotspots, schools have had to break classes down into smaller batches and have students on school premises in shifts. This could very well become a norm for the foreseeable future, or at least till the pandemic wanes. ‘Shift-schools’ would mean smaller class strengths, personalised attention to students and a broader scope for students to make the most of their classes.
  • To make a sustainable recovery, private schools should be strengthened by the government. There should also be measures to provide better employment opportunities and autonomy to the teachers in their work.

-Source: The Hindu

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