Indian schools have been closed down for about 6 months now and still there are no clear guidelines about their reopening. In these tough situations the only ray if hope is online learning and learning management system. Speculations are that the schools might open in august but considering the ever-rising COVID cases since “Unlock 1.0”, that seems to be a distant dream now. It does not seem feasible in any aspect to reopen schools this early and that too when the peak of the pandemic is yet to arrive in India. The Indian government is trying to come up with different ideas and ways to tackle the situation and get the school life back to normal as soon as possible with new facilities such as learning management system and school ERP providers. Let us look at this situation with a broader scope. Even if we are ready to open the schools anytime soon, will social distancing be a concern? And if they do not reopen, are we ready to face it some other way around?
When we look at the first condition i.e., if the schools reopen in nearer times, what all has to be kept in mind?
The answer to the above question is diverse and has a lot of points to it. We need to keep social distancing in mind by spaced out sitting and multiple shifts of the classes with a fewer number of students. We need to take care of the sanitization. Above all, we need to ensure a testing mechanism to keep a check for the infection amongst those attending schools. Now, when you think of all the above points and then imagine them being implemented in India, things seem impossible due to the following reasons and by the approach of blended learning / flipped learning and with the help of school management software and learning management software it may become easy for the schools:
- As per the U-DISE(Unified District Information System for Education statistics), 53,533 schools in India are single classroom schools. In 19% of schools, the student classroom ratio (STR) is 35 and above, and in 8.3% of schools, i.e., around 1.3 lakh schools, more than 50 students sit in one classroom. In many schools, different classrooms are combined together to run academic affairs. Considering these stats, following social distancing in Indian schools seems to be a little far fetched…
- If the schools reopen, students will spend on average 5-6 hours in the school itself. In such times the most important factor that will come into play will be sanitization of the students at regular intervals. But in a country like India, where 45% of schools do not have handwashing facilities, sanitization there is just a myth. Without sanitization, the chances of students and other school staff getting infected increases exponentially.
- Now, at a place where the basic sanitization mechanism can’t be guaranteed, testing of school members for infections can’t even be thought of. If as an individual, you want to go for a COVID test, you will have to pay 5,000 rupees. Consider the scenario where the government will have to carry these tests free of cost for crores of people and then consider the feasibility of the same.
Another thought that the Indian government is coming up with is the conduction of classes in shifts with fewer students. This might seem a logical step to a normal person but to a school principal and director who have to work with a limited staff, it has its own flaws. The student-teacher ratio in India should not be more than 35:1. But you can hardly find schools that are running with a ratio less than this. In fact, some schools are running with a 60:1 ratio. Now, considering all the infrastructural, sanitization, and other mentioned problems, how can this be an idea with which the government can be confident about reopening the schools.
This was all about the first scenario where we were eying at reopening the schools sometime soon. Keeping all the factors in mind and setting the health of the individuals as a first priority, it seems as if this decision needs to be re-thought.
The question that might strike all of you at this stage is if not this, then what?
Indian schools have been following the conventional ways of teaching since time immemorial. The problem with this is that the world is growing at a rapid pace, but the Indian education system has been left behind for a long time now. The Indian education system has never been restructured in all these years. Our cars need a service every 2-3 months for smooth functioning and every other thing around us also works on the principle of “CHANGE”. The Indian schools have been changing themselves every year, but just in one aspect and that is increasing the school fees. The Indian schools have always been more focused on a more traditional approach, never embracing any change as this Covid-19 brought a lot of challenges for the functioning of the schools, most of the schools are just waiting for the storm to pass instead of using this opportunity to create something better. In these tough times, we are thinking of reopening the schools instead of being concerned about the well being of the children because we know we are not capable of coping with this pandemic.
The question, “Are Indian Schools ready for the peak of the pandemic?” was actually the wrong question to ask. The real question out there floating is, “Whether the Indian Schools are ready to change with the changing world?”
Are we ready to accept the thousands of services out there in the market to make our lives easy for a better future? Why can’t we rely on online learning is, assignments, and tests to keep our children learning? To date, we have been coming up with excuses such as where to send online lectures, how to take tests online, etc. Just to run away from our responsibilities but as I rightly mentioned above that this world is changing at a rapid pace and so is technology. India has its own indigenous EdTech companies that have made things easy for the schools. Learning management systems and school management system technologies are so beautifully curated in one app/website that nothing is impossible. We, living in India have literally created real-time virtual classrooms, tests, assignments that even if we have to live with this pandemic for years to come, still nothing can stop our students from learning.
Lastly, the only question that remains is, “Are Indian schools willing to accept this change?”