Once schools reopen, help kids reconnect | Opinion – analysis
This phase will also pass. In a few weeks or months, schools will reopen. What will it be like when schools open? What should be the first set of priorities to focus on? How should schools proceed?
As I look through the fog of uncertainty and disruption caused by the coronavirus disease crisis (Covid-19), I see an opportunity. An opportunity to do things in a new way. When schools open this year, it will be the most anticipated school opening of all time. Children, parents and teachers are waiting for that moment. Schools were among the first institutions to close in India. They closed even before closing. The reopening of schools, therefore, will be a clear announcement that normal routines can be restarted and daily life schedules can be resumed.
Schools can be restarted in several different ways. It can be “business-as-usual”. Worse still, the system can go into an “accelerated” mode, trying to include everything that hasn’t happened since March. But what is needed is a welcome time and a period to settle down. This is not a “back to school” time. This school opening should be treated as the beginning of a new new chapter.
Children need to reconnect with friends. Schools and students need to re-familiarize themselves. Teachers need time to understand the impact of unplanned school closings on where children currently are: socially, emotionally, and academically. Helping them establish themselves and “catch up” will go a long way in rebuilding the foundation and strengthening basic skills. While urban educated families have been able to support their children’s learning activities during the closure period, this has been difficult for many households in slum communities and vast parts of rural India. For elementary school children, especially in public schools or low-cost private schools, closing schools may have weakened their ability to read or do basic arithmetic. For older children, it may be necessary to increase reading and comprehension skills, sharpen communication, and the ability to apply language and math skills to real texts and problems. In both cases, setting aside the usual curriculum by age grade and focusing on the relevant core skills, for a few hours on each school day for the first few months, will be a great way to start the school year by 2020.
The heavy financial blow to many families is already visible and likely to worsen. In these difficult times, the already vulnerable and weak become even more disadvantaged. We must closely monitor and reach children who are “at risk”. Ensuring continuous and constant attendance at school is essential for a true return to normality. Girls in the upper primary grades may be especially prone to withdrawal. As adult women seek work in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act or seek other local livelihood options, the pressure on adolescent girls to help with household chores is likely to intensify. Years of work to guarantee universal primary education cannot be undone with the Covid-19 crisis. Specifically, I am concerned about girls who have made it to classes 7 and 8 but whose academic standing is not strong. Instead of demanding stronger and longer remedies in education, poor parents may be tempted to withdraw these girls from school. Certainly n
eed “beti padhao“But more than that we need”beti padhey“AND”Padhtey Rahe”
Parents have played a very central role in the closing period. Schools must recognize your contribution and support. While the national media has been concerned with discussing the pros and cons of online education, in the past six weeks, we at Pratham have embarked on an interesting adventure. In approximately 11,000 rural and urban communities across India, we have been sending phone messages to parents with some activities that children can do that day. We started with WhatsApp messages, but it quickly became apparent that many children do not have access to smartphones. Therefore, a new wave of SMS messages developed rapidly and is delivered on a daily basis. Thanks to ongoing relationships in these communities, we can also call and speak with parents and children at least once a week. Families send videos and photos of their children’s work; Boys and girls call us frequently to share their experiences. This two-way communication provides great feedback to understand what kids and parents can do together, even with simple and sparse instructions. We have learned that parents participate in activities they can participate in, and that continued discussion and follow-up results in energetic and enthusiastic participation, even by parents who do not have a higher education. Parents play a fundamental role in the lives of their children; We have seen how the blockade has led to their active support in children’s learning. Now it will be important to keep parent involvement high even after schools open.
2020 is not a year for ambitious learning goals; Nor is it a year to fast-forward through what is already recognized as an overly ambitious curriculum. The new 2020 school year should be spent reconnecting, getting established, “catching up,” rebuilding the foundation, and enjoying school. We must do this to ensure that our children emerge strong and ready to face the 2021-22 school year.
Rukmini Banerji is with the Pratham Education Foundation
The opinions expressed are personal.