Reopening of Schools Amid COVID-19: What Will Be The Implications?
While the government has allowed schools to reopen, it is for the parents to decide what is best for their children.
The COVID-19 pandemic that hit the world out of the blue has reached a ‘fever pitch’. Cases of infections are soaring while economies are deteriorating; businesses are going under the bus; a liquidity crisis ails the entire global marketplace; and people are facing a financial crunch like never before.
Meanwhile the best minds of the world are trying to figure out a solution, but it seems that even by the most generous estimates, we are still quite some time away from having a definitive cure or vaccine on our hands.
Amid all this, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has allowed a phased reopening of schools and colleges from 21st September.
By means of a notice on Tuesday, the ministry has also permitted the reopening of schools for classes 9 to 12 on a “voluntary basis”.
In such a scenario, an important question comes to the light: what must we do as a nation?
Should we hunker down, bite the bullet and wait for the crisis to pass, or should we learn to live with the virus and continue our lives by being cautious and careful?
As is the case with difficult questions like this, opinion stands divided. Let us take a look at the different aspects of this decision.
Why Are We Opening The Schools?
While the online mode of teaching has been helping students continue with their education, it has its limitations.
First of all, it is no replacement for classroom learning as the teacher cannot effectively monitor each and every student on an online platform. Secondly, the quality of education delivered via online mode depends upon a lot of variables that cannot be controlled easily, such as the availability of smart devices and access to a fast internet connection.
Unfortunately, plenty of rural areas in our country do not have an access to internet, let alone a fast connection, and this has created major impedance in their educational journey.
While the students living in urban areas who have means to avail online education are able to continue their education, the underprivileged students have been deprived of proper education for months – which could negatively affect their careers and cause them to fall behind.
Another major drawback of the online mode of teaching is that it puts severe limitations on the ability of educators to indulge children in practical work – such as labs.
Many students who are into sports and are looking forward to establishing a career in the sport of their choice also feel anxious because they haven’t had the opportunity to improve and polish their skills in the past few months.
Even though schools have been allowed to open, the majority of parents are willing to wait for a vaccine before they send their children to schools.
But a good thing about the new decision from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is that it hasn’t made it compulsory for students to attend schools, nor are the school authorities putting any pressure upon the students.
The decision of sending the students to school rests solely with their parents.
Blended Learning To The Rescue
Blended learning is a hybrid mode of learning wherein the students learn from both offline and online formats. This mode of learning is going to catch on pretty quickly and it might become a trend in the new normal.
Teaching students via the blended learning mode will allow the schools to conduct classes in a staggered manner – meaning only a certain number of students would need to physically attend school at a time.
By reducing the number of students inside the premises, the school authorities will be able to maintain social distancing in a much more efficient manner and reduce the chances of an outbreak.
What makes blended learning a viable model for the future of education is that the offline and the online components can be combined in any proportion, with neither being inferior or superior to the other when it comes to grading or evaluating classroom participation.
Also, each student would have the opportunity to find his/her unique blend that would suit his/her style of learning, availability of gadgets and internet, and family’s educational background etc.
The Financial Aspect
The entire country has been in a financial mess ever since COVID-19 infiltrated the nation and sent shockwaves running down the entire economy – and schools are no different. Since many parents of the students have either lost their jobs or are facing severe pay-cuts, they haven’t been able to pay the school fees.
But, the big question is: Is reopening the schools the only way to keep them afloat financially? And will the schools be able to collect the pending fees after they open?
The answer hinges on how the economy is going to perform within the next few months and how the government plans to aid people in this financial crunch.
Also, the decision to reopen the schools has got nothing to do with matters of finance; it has been taken solely to prevent students from falling behind in their studies.
The primary reason for reopening is to give the underprivileged students a chance to pursue their education and to prevent them from falling behind.
It is the duty of the school authorities to ensure that the students get a safe, COVID-free environment. This can be achieved by maintaining physical distancing at all times, conducting classes in staggered shifts, installing touchless hand sanitiser dispensers and touchless water dispensers, and avoiding public transport for commuting to the school.
Most importantly, it is up to the parents to decide what is best for their children in these direst circumstances.
(Ms Alka Kapur is a Principal of Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the authors’ own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.