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Teaching & learning post-Corona

Post-pandemic, education worldwide and in India must see a quantum shift in methods and policies in order to keep up with changing times and situations

Teaching & learning post-Corona
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The inevitability of drastic changes in education systems is now clear to everyone. Teaching and learning would never be the same in the Post-Corona world; after lockdowns are lifted nationally and internationally. The ever-increasing intrusion of ICT would transform the infrastructural and professional environment right from schools to institutions of higher learning. The roles of learners, teachers and academic leadership shall also get redefined. I came across an interesting possibility being explored seriously by certain well-endowed private schools: let children come to schools only on two days; study at home for the next four and enjoy one weekly holiday. An overenthusiastic young entrepreneur educates me on how it could lead to a three-fold rise in enrolments! By way of simple arithmetic, it could open the doors for a windfall. Another entrepreneur, enamoured of the emerging possibilities, is keen to launch online personalised coaching for numerous entrance tests. He could reach every aspirant at their own place, without lakhs travelling to Kota, the city of dreams for millions of young persons. Presently, national and state-level institutions are busy solving the problems arising out of the lockdown: how to get the answer scripts examined, how to conduct board exams in remaining subjects, how to plan the university admissions and what ought to be the curriculum for entrance tests. MHRD suggests that even if the internet is not available, children could use the 'Swayam Prabha' platform and in the event of non-availability of a laptop, mobile or TV set, they could depend upon the courtesy of their neighbours!

Several schools are already conducting daily online classes. In the lockdown days, parents have to sit with children and assist them. Many of the parents are gaining new learning experiences. There are also those who would like online learning to be discontinued and summer vacations declared! The fact is, everyone has to get ready to accept the change and face the resultant challenge!

I recall having come across an article in a professional journal some thirty-five years ago on how people in the United States of America, the most advanced and coveted nation at that stage, were unwilling to put their fingers on the computer keyboard. A special syllabus had to be prepared for those terrified by computers. Many of us would recall how the introduction of computers in mid-eighties was being resisted in various quarters. Change shall always be resisted by the reluctant, grudgingly accepted by the lethargic and enthusiastically appreciated by the innovators and entrepreneurs. Change will come anyway, overcoming all impediments. Its utility would be in direct proportion to incisive scrutiny in the context of the needs of the changing times and emerging aspirations of a particular people. In India, we have already gained considerable expertise in developing teaching-learning materials for open and distance learning and one could appreciate the contribution of IGNOU in this sector.

IGNOU, in collaboration with state open universities, could accept the challenge of training teachers and textbook writers in getting acquainted with emerging demands of online teaching and learning. The curricula, content and process of teacher education courses must also be made truly dynamic and responsive. Most of the educational institutions are in bad shape, ill-equipped and suffering acute faculty shortage. Majority of them also suffer on account of lack of motivation due to various known factors. Total modernisation of teacher preparation institutions deserves a time-bound national-level project, which could be completed within two years.

On the ground, there are three categories of schools in India. Well-equipped high-fee charging English medium public schools that have sufficient resources to conduct online learning with teachers and learners having access to necessary gadgets. The second category is of those schools that have sprung up to meet the demands of English medium schools from parents who just cannot afford to go to the well-established reputed public schools. These parents pay a major part of their earnings to such schools, they despise government schools and feel socially elevated putting their child in a 'public School'!

The inadequacies in these schools are indeed disturbing. In one of such school, the teacher takes a Whatsapp snap of a page or two of the textbook, sends it to children and that is all there is to 'online learning'! Lastly, there are government schools in which conditions vary from a very well managed and equipped minority to a vast majority of ignored, deficient and deprived institutions. They have a long way to go to becoming equipped to conduct online teaching and learning. Will the much-awaited 'New Education Policy' take note of the inadequacies that have persisted for decades together? Good quality education is the only of hope for self-reliance, for 'Gram Swaraj', for effectively involving every young person in rebuilding the nation.

We can no longer neglect the core elements of the Gandhian basic education that aimed at bringing the best out of 'Body, Mind and Spirit or 'Head, Hand and Heart'. If the villages of India are to become self-sufficient, they would require total familiarity with the digital world.

The writer works in education and social cohesion. Views expressed are strictly personal

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