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Challenges in rehabilitating school education in post-covid scenario

By G. Balasubramanian

The post Covid schools appear to be carrying with them a bagful of anxieties. Though the governments both at the center and the states have been issuing green signal in a phased manner appropriate to the local conditions to start the schools, the spirit of schooling has not yet recovered from its slumber. And one does not find that the dawn is likely to be too soon. While no single component of the system could be entirely blamed or held responsible for the current situation, it also appears some of the issues are quite inevitable and will find their solutions only over a period. All that seems important for the stakeholders to keep their patience and devise strategies to cope with emerging challenges in a meaningful manner. The education industry, however, is already quite stressed in the aftermath of Covid with inability to make decisions that would help them at least to avoid losses. The following are some of the issues that impact the current scenario.

1. Hangover of the Trauma of Covids

Though the number of covid incidents have decreased across the country, the fear and trauma the disease has left behind has not yet been conquered. It will certainly continue to haunt the society for a few more years. While a number of people, have unwisely or sportingly pulled down their masks, the internal anxiety continues to exist in most of them. Tendency to keep away from crowds, social gatherings and personal visits is still on the agenda of the individuals and companies. Schools, as a part of the social system are keeping their eyes and ears open widely to interventions by non-associates into the schools. The implementation of several rules strictly into the campus is an unavoidable burden to their routine, though very much warranted. Thus, the entire school system is haunted by some negative vibes not conducive to quality learning which can happen only in a positive and happy environment.

2. Lack of Clarity about School Organization

Rules pertaining to the reopening of the schools have been quite complex. So long the schools remained closed, and the teachers were delivering the lessons online, a kind of routine got into place, whether it was good or bad. Partial reopening of the schools, reducing the student strength in classes, alternate days of school works, reduction in the number of periods, absence of clarity about the curriculum, conflicts in pedagogical delivery models and unwillingness and resistance from parents for supporting the school operations consequent to their latent fear about the health of their wards have put the school administration in slow gear, forcing day to day decisions, rather than decisions that will last at least a reasonable period of time. School heads tend to be extremely cautious to comply with the directions of both their controlling agencies and the local governance.

3. Psychological learning blocks in students

Learning has indeed been a casualty in the entire process. Though every institution tried to fix the nuts and bolts into the failing structure, without much of assurance about the consequences, the facilitation to learning has been quite weak, more as a ceremonial execution to put the records straight. The real energy and passion that was to go into the delivery systems as well as into cognitive behaviors have been put aside, more due to helplessness than as a purpose. Children have been extremely uncomfortable in their learning challenges with very poor quality in inputs, absence of regularity in learning scaffolds, anxieties arising out of the family and social health, inexplicable fear arising out of social disconnects, lack of peer interactions to provide emotional networks and others. All these have resulted in inadequacies in self-help, identity management, social symmetry, and emotional matrix. With these challenges within, their learning was more to appease the learning managers including parents. Victim to the above was the curiosity, innovation, enterprise, and positive mobility.

4. Conflicts in Curriculum Management and Pedagogy

The sudden closure of schools consequent to the pandemic, put school systems out of gear. Nevertheless, like any other covid warriors, the teaching community responded to the situation to keep the learning curves alive, if not healthy. Moving to the digital mode of pedagogical delivery was not an easy job for many, with inappropriate and inadequate resources to manage. Yet, a large section of them rose to the occasion willingly or unwillingly, or their own reasons. Cropping the curriculum really crippled the structure of knowledge, though it appeared inevitable. Pedagogical exercises were out of track and were more exercises to mark deliveries rather than born out of well-articulated learning philosophies or interpretations. With connectivism, scoring a pass mark, the constructivist modes suffered a setback. All these impacted the joy of learning, quality of learning and the goals of learning, though amends were made by liquidating the modes of assessment to keep the learning population moving in the learning curve.

5. Lack of Synergy in Administrative set ups

Though every department of the Government at the center and the states raised to deal with the situation with their own plan of action, agenda, modus operandi and time schedules, there has indeed been inadequate cooperation in formulating the rules and regulations that would render absolute clarity to the running of the schools. As such, they were also helpless to put in place any such sets of rules, as the disease was spreading its wings like an octopus and its multi-dimensional impact was unprecedented. There have been cases where the judicial systems have also intervened and sought clarity or given instructions. By the time the recovery could be positioned, several other auxiliary issues like pollution, natural disasters, weather extremes started impacting social life, reversing many of the progressive initiatives that were contemplated. Nevertheless, the communication gap between school systems and the administration, especially regarding schools in remote areas and rural areas have been a problem.

6. Parental apathy to learning support

The parents have been totally unprepared for any such eventuality. With a lot of issues, personal, professional, social, financial, and otherwise, the parents struggled to cope with the emerging challenges. On the school front, though they had been offering some support as and when required, with online classrooms in place, they had to redesign their roles and their engagement with their own wards. In many cases, their inability to provide infrastructural and technical support to their wards was visible. In a number of cases, they found the children needed some additional learning support which they were unable to give in the required format. With their own psychological pressure operating, they found the challenges faced by the teachers was not acceptable to them. A number of cases of conflicts between parents and teachers/schools were reported. With their wards being managed at home and with low financial inflows, they were reluctant to pay the school fee, in many cases with legal interventions offering a solution. In many schools the relationship management with parents became a problem, impacting the healthy ecosystem of the schools. The situation is yet to improve adequately.

7. Myopic vision about the future

A number of initiatives taken by educational agencies across the country like -promoting all learners to the higher classes with examinations/assessment, liberalized evaluation systems, change of examination patterns and several other strategies projected the urgency and concern of the systems to deal with the emotional profile of the stakeholders. The question, however, remained whether they were in the right direction or not. The vision about the future appears quite hazy with more of smog rather than clarity. That puts the entire system into a little more of stress and the ever-increasing gap between what is desirable and what is possible is giving everyone some sleepless time. Yet, one must go through the challenges with better clarity.