The amount of impact on the social psyche Covid-19 has made all over the world needs no elaboration. It has impacted people of all countries, all races, all religions, all age-groups and all professions. Some of the indicators are visible and transparent, and a few others are indirect and invisible, though it is experienced. It has indeed created a challenge to the formal life-styles, relationships, work management systems, creating a sense of fear and insecurity both about the immediate and the future. As most formal institutional structures stand disturbed due to social distancing, possibilities of infection and other fall outs, restoring systems back to normalcy once the tsunami of the pandemic tides overs, is also being debated with all possible permutations of its long-term impact. Further, with a number of challenges that our eco-systems faced and which were found as one that could neve be solved, are getting solved without any human or resource interventions, suggests the fact it was our exclusive irresponsibility that contributed to such destructive processes. Hence, the post-covid strategies might have to be founded in keeping with the sensitivities needed for their safe sustenance.
Given this background, many countries are examining several possibilities of dealing with their school education systems for the future, as schools are assemblies of tender and young human resources for the future. Apart from issues of health safety, educators are also facing questions with regard to the relevance and design of their content and pedagogy which need to address more on their life styles for the future rather than facing immediacy of the examinations. Education has to move from ‘competitive learning to compassionate learning.’
What are the possible challenges schools would face soon after the schools would reopen? Here are a few points to consider:
1. Managing the Trauma of discontinuity from the past
The school structures had remained closed for weeks and months earlier also for various reasons. As such, even vacations given by the school for periodic weather situations do cause a discontinuity. Nevertheless, the discontinuity that occurred in the current situation was unplanned, fear-driven and non-conventional. This is associated with a social distancing, self-isolation thereby restraining any formal peer contact, opportunities for physical collaboration, depriving joyful moments through participative games and other forms of entertainment. No wonder, it causes not merely stress, but also some amount of trauma born out of ‘helplessness’ lowering ‘performance’. It has also affected the quality and quantity of external communication. The formal modes of learning have been put to rest, with newer strategies emerging, which have surely some coping difficulties, thus causing a sense of frustration. Humans have always loved to stay related to the past, as it was always a ‘comfort zone’; the future, currently being a little unpredictable does pose some uncertainty and thus a latent fear. The schools need to understand this trauma born out discontinuity from the past; they need to engage in psychological rehabilitation of their learners through strategies as under:
a. those that will diffuse fear
b. those that will increase comfort level
c. those that will improve their self-esteem
d. those that will increase collaborative engagement.
2. Getting prepared to an unforeseen scenario
What will be the emerging scenario? Any expert prediction will still be inadequate. The schools would be required to experiment not only with changes, but with transformation. There is every possibility that the school thought architectures would be called for to re-engineer themselves to newer ways of planning, administering and executing the processes, both in terms of their physical resources as well as the human resources. They may be called upon:
a. to engage more informally with learners than formally;
b. to use resources beyond their defined paradigms and the existent practices;
c. they would be required to optimise their budgets to more disciplined systems of financial budgeting.
Given the safety requirements, the schools might have to drop out a number of non-curricular supports they were giving to the students to other independent sources of services, thereby staying only with their prescribed agenda approved by the governance. Managements and School heads might face challenges from stakeholders on such issues and have to deal with them with a greater sensitivity.
3. Identifying and complying with new S.O.Ps
The schools are likely to get new guidelines with regard to the Standard Operating Procedures from their respective controlling bodies or the Government. Such SOPs will be consequent to popular demands driven by the ‘learned experiences’ of social activists and a few might be even unrealistic articulated by futuristic fears. School systems can even expect even some legal battles arising out of non-compliance, inadequate compliance and seeking implementation of strategies which call for revenue expenditure but to be delivered free of cost. There could be establishment of committees involving different agencies in many states which could be required to recommend an exhaustive SOP for compliance. Supervision of the above by specified bureaucratic agencies migh create some heartburns among the school organizers. In spite of all these, which would be ‘essentials’ for any safe and secure running of the schools, the schools would certainly evolve to a better level of maturity with courage and conviction.
4. Bridging the gap with the stakeholders
The school systems have always found some missing links in engaging with stakeholders in full harmony. Given the fact, that client needs are different (child driven), the projections of the parents about fulfilment of such needs as suited and comfortable to them will be on the increase. There is every possibility for further distancing among the main stakeholders at personal level, though technology will play a significant role in providing all information. But, the emotional aspirations of the parents can never be met through the portals of technology; hence new resistance and negotiating mechanisms might develop through ‘groups. Parents, though very minimal in number, as netizens could cause concern for management of school routines.
5. Getting familiar to newer models of content and pedagogy
The schools will have to engage in newer learning strategies in terms of their design and delivery of the ‘course content and pedagogy’. As of now, there is a large-scale repositioning of the formal content and pedagogy on a technology platform which is neither sound nor correct. The ‘online classrooms’ do require a differentiated approach to content design, course construction, pedagogical modelling, delivery processes, encapsulation of skills in content and systems of continuous online feedback. Teachers, as of now, are not adequately prepared even at their conceptual level to comprehend the above, leave alone, implementing them. Schools might have in put in place continuous learning sessions either online or offline to bring about this paradigm shift through pedagogical experts rather than technology experts. Nevertheless, the relevance and importance of formal classrooms would continue to exist for a few decades as integral to schooling culture.
6. Coping with the requirements of Technology
There is going to be explosive demands on technology, both simple and comprehensive. With increasing thrust on ‘online learning’, every child from the preliminary class would have to carry a piece of technology hardware with content stored, integrated or accessible. The technology hardware market could be set on fire with demands and it is time educational entrepreneurs do take notice of the same. Further, there is equal possibility of free delivery of such instruments to the ‘have-nots’ by States, agencies and NGOs. The questions pertaining to familiarity with technology, availability of internet access, servicing requirements will all be associate issues the education industry will have to deal with. On the software front, the educational innovators might have to work for extra hours to make relevant and sustainable pedagogy to the learning community, as years go by, the quality of pedagogy online will be subject intense quality audit. The efforts of government agencies in providing pedagogy relevant to school systems which would gravitate the children is very minimal, as of now.
7. Cost-optimization and finance management
One of the major issues most schools, private or public, would face will be on their finance resource mobilization and its management. With a heavy impact on economy globally, there is likely to be reduced investment in the education sector from private entrepreneurs, due to liquidity crunch. The venture management sector always being interested in making quick profits through sustained increase in numbers might go on ‘slow-motion’, though knowing full well that educational investments do give them continuous and dependable returns. The focus will be cost-cutting, re-scheduling, delayed payments to their creditors and non-compliance with regulatory compensations to their workforce. Though such practices do exist even today, it might gain further momentum. School infrastructure expansion activities might be put on hold, investments on teacher empowerment may be withdrawn, curtailment of expensive shows, marketing and school festivals might occur. The situation will take a minimum of two years to revert to its basic standards as they exist today.
8. Taking learning to the learner at homet
While the Government and the governing bodies of education will encourage of delivering learning at home, keeping in view the much needed safety of the children, and the climate that would help stress-free, self-driven, self-paced learning, the efforts of the school will certainly enlarge, though with a large scale deficiency in services due to lack of expertise. The present concept of ‘teaching’ through a classroom, being imported to online portals, will inhibit real learning due to passivity of the learner and lack of appropriacy to online pedagogy. ‘Learning’ might suffer its basic objectives. The governing policy organizations would do well to let the educational institutions work with, collaborate with private agencies to design course content in newer models through articulated ‘mini knowledge capsules’, ‘quizzes for online learning and assessment’ ‘informal learning interventions through natural, geographical, historical and other current learning packages to empower knowledge simultaneously making learning fun. It is time to understand ‘enforcement’ and ‘education’ have totally differing methodologies, though oftentimes the objectives remain the same. While the former focuses on ‘compulsive change’, the later focuses on ‘transformation through choice.’
9. Learning to work with constraints and crisis
All the above, lead to summing up the emerging trend as one of learning to work with constraints and crisis. Such situations would call for patience, thougt re-engineering through design thinking, planned strategies, compassionate considerations, comforting advocacies and compliance with directions. There is every possibility of the bureaucracy overplaying its role in an anxiety to show results, the infrastructure at work moving at a slower pace than normal due to new culture absorptions, the stakeholders playing their games to maximize advantages, the managements trying to force for steps to make good the losses and other reasons. The school heads need to learn skills of ‘crisis management’ as well as ‘chaos management’. They should avoid reactions, but certainly exhibit responses. They should learn the adage ‘Time is the question; and Time is the answer.” They should consider this as one of the gifted opportunities for their ‘experiential learning’ on the job.
10. Providing Leadership in humanism
All of us need to understand that the underlying issue which calls for rethinking on several fronts is the suffering in the humanity. The humans, all over the world, rich and poor, the old and the young, the intelligent and the idiotic, the white-collar and the blue-collar, the ruler and the ruled are all facing the same problem, almost to the same degree, however a few blessed with privileges blessed with short-term security. Hence all kinds of leadership at all levels have to align themselves with the idea of ‘Leading the humanity’ and not necessarily leading an organization, however big or small it may be. The best results will come only through a ‘compassionate leadership’ rather than an exclusive ‘competent leadership’ (which lacks compassion).