For India’s school education system, laid low by the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, connecting and communicating with parents and students will be crucial going forward, said educators and officials at a national conference on the way ahead for schools.
The conference, “Future of Schools: Overcoming COVID and Beyond”, was organised by Ashoka University. Anita Karwal, Secretary, Department of School Education and Literacy stated in her keynote address that central education authorities have so far tried to address the mental well-being of students.
There are 24 crore children in the school education system across the country who have been affected by the closing of schools. The first thing we thought of was their mental well-being. We have launched the Manodarpan website which has a lot of resources for psychological support. We are also working on a toll-free helpline for all students and creating national directory of counsellors. In the second phase we will also start an interactive chat platform for students,” she said.
Karwal also stated that the Centre is working towards creating guidelines on online learning for schools.
“There has been some outcry about the way in which this has been done. Some schools have just replicated their time-tables and we have students sitting for seven hours in front of the screen. There have been problems in which families have had only one device, and we have seen some unfortunate incidents as well,” she said. Educators at the conference emphasised on the need for a collaborative approach by schools in the road ahead.
Shiladitya Ghosh, director of N.H. Goel World School, Raipur, focused on the requirements of under-resourced schools. “Very few children are connected over WhatsApp. This has seen teachers connecting to students in whatever way possible. However, institutions need to gather themselves to reach out to students,” he said.
“It will of course be done in a staggered way, and there will probably be some 25% students who will have to be in school with the classes televised to the rest. There will be protocols of different entry and exits,” said Shashi Bannerjee, Principal, Shiv Nadar School, Noida.