“Stroke of genius if you can solve everybody’s problems …”

“Stroke of genius if you can solve everybody’s problems …”

2020 has recorded a fair number of petitions for the K-12 industry since lockdown and un-lockdown times and I will admit, for unaided, private schools, the all-familiar areas of fee related writs make their rounds again. The Indian education sector broadly polarised between public and private is perhaps the most challenged Corona virus sector (well, every sector will raise its hand, so I will rephrase that to “as affected”) and given that it plays a significant part in the role of building nations that are considered progressive, the current differentiated state wise developments will have deep consequences. Some of these short-sighted populist decisions taken by some states may come back to haunt us in more ways than we can imagine.

 

History will verify that nations that have rebuilt post wars/calamities, consciously allocated a sizeable amount to developing their education sector, especially primary education. In India, on the other hand, as a developing nation, despite the obvious population and demographic challenges we face, budget allocation year on year, leaves a lot to be desired for government aided schools. One can therefore only imagine the disruption that the pandemic has caused. The inequalities between the public and private sectors have been statistically documented time and time again, and I would safely say, if pre pandemic we were twenty years behind in terms of policies and systems, post pandemic, we will find ourselves staring down the barrel, if we do not allow experts to partake in decision making and unite this eco system. The gap threatens to widen, and I worry only hindsight will get us into a common discussion point if we do not arrest the current trends in the country. Will that be devasting? Ofcourse, it will.

 

The private sector, for most parts operating with its own funding has increasingly found more enrolments over the last decade, be it budget schools or mid-size or the more elite ones given their pace for change, systems and processes, infrastructure upgrades, IT capabilities, teaching-learning outcomes and best practices . For this one part of the industry, coping with lockdown times, therefore was perhaps ‘relatively’ easier as they could make the switch to remote learning or on-line in a short period of time. That meant that learning could continue for those enrolled into these schools since April 2020 without interruption given schools were under lockdown.

 

So how it is that an industry that could normalise for most parts became a Government intervention directive, and those not happy (parents) landed up in High Courts? For me personally, what was most surprising was that petitioners who were not pleased with judgements in certain states (not their own), decided to make it a pan India appeal and registered their prayer to the honourable Supreme Court, without first approaching their respective High Courts! Well, I am told by many in these unprecedented times, this is to be expected. The SC in the second week of July, refused to entertain the plea seeking, inter alia, a waiver of private school fees for a period of three months starting April 1 to July 1, 2020 and regulatory mechanisms of fees PAN India during lockdown. Live Law, July 11 2020 reported,  “the bench was not inclined to entertain the plea and would not want to go into the merits of the issue and directed the petitioner to approach High Courts of respective states” . The bench was categoric, “It would be a stroke of genius if you can solve everybody’s problems. Problems of each state are different. It’s a situation where facts of all states must be considered. We don’t know how to solve the issue for the whole country, and that’s what you have prayed for. Whether it is release of prisoners, migrant workers, petitioners are moving this Court and feeling depraved that we are not giving the kind of relief sought. Why as a jurisdictional court, can you not approach the High Court first?”

 

So, what’s the crux of the matter you ask?

 

One of the first High Courts to direct petitioners who requested a waiver of fees for school closures was Delhi, and the Court was clear that parents must honour their commitments as long as learning was on “on-line”.

That is my opinion spurned many into action to convincing state governments to issue guide-lines to ban online classes. The reasons cited were excessive screen time, inability of the teachers, lack of IT infra at home, pressure on parents etc. The fundamental reason for all this was simply that if there was no on-line learning, schools would not be entitled to collect fees. Problem solved, in their mind. No consideration that lockdown would be many months, and perhaps a year, and this would be developmentally a set back for their children. Short-sighted, in my opinion.

As an educator, I marvel at the rationale for this directive by some states, driven largely by a non-paying fee motive for if the argument was only “screen-time”, this can be easily managed as experts – from mental health to health professionals will validate not to mention researchers world-wide. Passive recreational screen-time is detrimental when uncontrolled, but balanced, interactive engagements on the other hand, are in fact developmentally required in these lockdown times that scream for socio emotional learning! Maharashtra, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh were states that went ahead and directed schools to discontinue on-line teaching, but courts directed them to re-think in the interest of continuous learning and for the sake of the children. It was clear with the verdict that the High Court expected States to have done more home-work prior to issuing directives, not after and then find ways to validate it.

Quite frankly, remote learning has been around for 2 centuries but unfortunately it was only in the early 2000 did some progressive nations embrace its power and potential, and understand that technology is an enabler and invested in both IT infrastructure, skilling and exposure of teachers and students to this new reality of learning. We are in 2020, and in India, we are still discussing and debating its merit instead of optimising on how to do it better. Despite these petitions and government interventions, the fact of the matter is that private unaided schools have the ability and the capability to deliver classroom experiences on -line, and should be allowed to continue to upskill their teachers, and create opportunities for better student engagement so that we kickstart our “normalising”. There’s evidence of months of engagement already, there’s validation from many parents and even teachers who have toiled hard. Only part is getting all parents to accept this remote learning as “school” and honouring their fee payments to the schools.

Well if it was this simple, we would not have petitions and TweetStorms initiated by educators, a section of parents and teachers urging some state government to take back their earlier directives.

Five High Courts have directed their States to permit on-line learning under some regulations and guidelines, which means that parents must honour their fee commitments while some states have cancelled on-line learning. This in effect means, for a sector already polarised with its inequalities between public and private and “altered” education in many ways for government schools via TV channels and other mediums (a welcome solution for millions of students in government schools for sure), we now have further polarisation  by creating disparity because of different state directives, and those with perhaps the capacity to do it seamlessly, find themselves in no man’s land! And these are schools who are self-funded, rely on fee collections for a large part of their expenditure, and regulated in every way. These schools are now termed “money-making” institutions who are not sympathetic to the plight of the parents faced with financial challenges, yet these were the “sought-after” schools pre-pandemic and the one that would cement the foundation for their children?

The ground reality is that non-payment of fees (because they cannot be collected in some states) will lead to large scale unemployment as managements unable to sustain themselves, will be forced to shut down, forcing teachers and administrative staff to be laid off. Yet again, I bring up the point about those that can manage, are held back, and while disallowing them to operate with dialog with their own parents because of some “blanket” decisions, and instead of directing parents to honour their contractual commitments (as some states have done), the states are over loading themselves with problems that already has in its aided schools.

Makes one wonder how as a nation, this divided policy will serve anyone;  if holding back those who can offer seamless online school experience will serve anyone’s purpose in the long run; if these decisions made today, are in the hope that schools will open soon and this problem resolves itself? At this stage, with our rising numbers and new discoveries around the spread of the virus not to mention lack of vaccine anytime before 2021, does anyone really believe we will get any time in the physical world with the kids this academic year?

Point is shall learning be allowed to continue for some, while we build capabilities for those with no access or skills, or shall we all stay at ground zero?

Point is does the private unaided sector be the one to always defend its act and justify itself simply because it is “private”. Does this marginalisation of this sector work for our economic growth, and lack of support or stimulus to this sector serve any purpose?

While you consider this, also remember right to learn is a constitutional right for every child, so is right to choose where one learns, how one learns, and ofcourse the right to earn.

While you reflect on the real motive or purpose of some of these populist directives, I leave you with what the honourable SC opinioned, “Stroke of genius if you can solve everybody’s problems …”

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Focus on Quality of Teaching Training Courses

Focus on Quality of Teacher Training Courses

Nation wide K-12 educator participation has been requested as the state wise SOPs are being framed for the implementation of the National Education Policy 2020 in the next academic year – from webinars to round table conferences, to surveys – you name it, and there is feedback about each aspect of the document before policies are framed which is a welcome sign as it prevents this becoming another debate. Better to deliberate now and work out logistics including exception to the cases, and avoid this becoming another roadblock in time.

One of the key areas of discussions is centred around qualifications of teachers, their certification, the duration of the degrees etc. For me, the importance of recognising that qualifications are necessary from certified & recognised organisations is a good starting point (who is certifying and on what grounds is also something that needs complete transparency and clarity including governance). I worry however about the quality of content, the upgrade status of the syllabus keeping in mind the vision of the NEP and importantly, the quality of trainers.

I was in discussion with a senior trainer a few weeks back and she passionately spoke about the quantum of information available with the diploma and degree programs in the country. Everyone is aware, we love our ‘quantity’ in this country (if you are slogging days and nights over reams of paper, for some this is defined as hard work and assumed success), and to be honest, that does not bother me too much. More can be good for some, and it is a matter of how it is organised and managed, how often is it upgraded and honestly, who is facilitating this?

Well, that’s where this gets interesting and a bit complicated. Unfortunately, the teaching profession in this country is lower down the pecking order for most when all other bucket choices don’t work out. For some it is most definitely a matter of passion and for many, it is a safe, reliable alternative that provides flexibility (well these pandemic times will question this on all accounts!). While the past two decades have seen progress with private players stepping up and rewarding teachers, the truth is as a country, we know we have our challenges on this front which we have done very little to address over the years. ‘Teach for America’ if you recall was initiated to address a similar situation in the US – bring ‘talent’ into the education space as a starting point, to ensure those that learn from strong facilitators will emerge therefore more evolved!

As a nation, we need to start thinking about this. How can we make this profession enticing enough to attract the best in class. Not for a moment I am suggesting that the talent is not good, all I am simply saying is that teaching should be featured more in the top choices rather than the bottom ones. Make it a level playing field like it is for engineering, medicine, finance etc.

With this change in mindset, I believe we will start evaluating the quality of the diplomas and degrees from the perspective of syllabus and content, and if the vision is the future, these courses need a re-think immediately. The move away from rote to application as part of the NEP must also be applicable for the way we impart education to aspiring teachers. It has to be relevant, futuristic and implementable.

With my dissertation on the Capital Structure Theory – Optimum Debt-Equity ratio as part of my final submission on the MBA, as someone who values research, I know I have scanned every theorist from Miller and Modigliani and tried to validate my hypothesis with a dogged determination. After over a lac of words and using the hotel industry in India as a case study, all I can say is that, theory holds its place to explain rationale, a lot depends on the field experience.

Simply put – we need to pack in more internships with these qualifications, more time learning on the job, kind of like what the undergraduate programs in the US have – students working for a whole year before they are awarded their degree after a 4 year program completion.

This for me is crucial, as lecture hall knowledge about theorists and class room teaching are too much of a gap to bridge when one starts work especially if the candidate has never worked a day in his/her life and is thrust in front of a classroom of children with different learning abilities and the teacher is meant to get into the act and optimise. Some can. Some simply cannot, and for me, the biggest worry is the unsuspecting children who are assigned to the class.

Hopefully, decision makers will take a long hard look at the content being curated on these programs and internships and field experience to apply these ideas before teachers become teachers and give them the confidence as well to deliver what they are set out to! Regular revisions, upgrades, inclusion of technology skilling are some obvious decisions to be factored in. Currently, this is not as progressive as we would like it to be. With the pandemic if hindsight is permitted, I would say we have fallen short.

With that, I will focus on who is facilitating these courses? Back to my discussion with this senior lecturer and she was taken aback when I said how can someone who has never taught in a school at any age be able to facilitate with confidence because the ground realities are very different from creating a perfect lesson plan and walking into a classroom to find half the class absent, some disinterested, some unwell and some incident that occurs that needs more counselling than content delivery? What sounds perfect in a lecture does not fit into every classroom, every year and this will be stated openly by anyone who has ever taught. For me therefore the quality of the faculty teaching must also come from a place of experience to be able to give practical advice to students. This is an area that needs screening, review and also governance year on year.

And last but not the least, as a Trustee, I have hired a few teachers as interns for teacher-support to provide opportunities to them to learn on the job and hopefully inspire them to take on qualifications and teaching full time. These were stay-at-home mums who had given up rewarding banking or law careers to look after their children and I found in many cases, the out-of-box thinking, the creativity, the simplicity, and the patience these ladies had with children was as much or in some cases, far more impactful than perhaps the qualified and experienced teachers.

This brings me to the question I leave everyone with – will mandates warrant hiring so that we can tick the boxes, or will we start recognising talent for what it is? I do believe like the NEP has pointed out, the BED in its 4, 3, 2, 1 year versions allows those experienced in other fields that are qualified to also skill them up with a more flexible programs and shorter versions of it. Hope this is aligned to what the academic boards and States are factoring in when creating these SOPs. It is these minute details that need careful consideration for I know I have been forced to take on some teachers simply because the ‘rule’ stated it on paper.

Let’s broaden our mindset and ring some changes with an eye on the future.

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Time to Introspect School Leaders?

Time to Introspect School Leaders?

This is one of those Monday morning motivational quotes by Leadership First that happened to coincide with the new training initiative by us at the Agarkar Centre of Excellence (ACE) – Empowering School Leaders that got me thinking about the National Education Policy 2020 and how everyone is talking about implementation, and simply not enough in my opinion about the responsibilities that school leaders will shoulder in the months to come. Are they ready?

There has been plenty of discussion already about the appreciation of the NEP2020 by the Centre after 34 years, but we all know when different States start adopting their own machinery, it can get a bit tricky. A simple case of inter-district or inter-state travel does not have the necessary clarity that one desires as we move towards un-lock down phase number – ?! (sorry, I have lost track of these phases now). Approved in Cabinet, educators are awaiting what each State puts out as a set of protocols to be followed by schools. News is out that Karnataka is all set to be the first state that will lead by example and eagerly awaited are the set of procedures presented by an appointed Committee. So far, there’s speed in thinking about implementation by some States, when many worried that the process would take forever! That part we must be grateful for. Agree?

On that note, while protocols are shared, the schools as units will orient themselves with structures; this new reality with the pandemic means that the leadership at the helm will play a critical part in execution – more than ever, as some senior educators have pointed out given the uncertainty of times. The ambiguity is a certain, the facts will evolve constantly is another certainty and therefore, the driver of this machinery – the school leader must be up to the task to embrace this decade with all its developments and create the next in line ready for the transition. I have often shared this during our mentoring and training programmes with Principals that as an industry, we must learn from counterparts in other industries. As a service industry, we must know that there are market forces, intense competition, and some old traditional systems must make way for a new age of learning, and for that, Principals of schools need to start thinking like Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). The yesteryear expectation of delivering on “academics” has already made way for a “broader” role with the competition intensifying in the past decade or so in India. From a supervisory role, the need to move into a more “driving” role that is futuristic with a pulse on changing variables, the ability to innovate and make quick decisions, and the sheer confidence to take some risks will define the leaders that take their schools to the legacies they envisioned. It simply cannot be about infrastructure but its optimisation to create opportunities to learn, it simply cannot be about academic achievements, but about creating those extra ordinary experiences for each and every student while achieving the “performance” targets that make thinkers out of the children who can step into the real world with the confidence of a master, and yet continue to learn and be open minded.

The leaders of tomorrow must invest deeply in research & development and understand competitive trends, find academic & administrative solutions efficiently and with speed and build communities. These leaders will encounter challenging decisions and changes in organisational structure to manage complexity, and the need to make it a seamless process. Many lessons to be learnt from the corporate world and the companies that have re-engineered?

I think so. Often, we tend to be restricted to the thought process that we have built w ithin our own industries, and if school leaders truly believe in creating impact, they will have to un-learn, relearn and keep at it for some time and then start the process all over again – kind of what many CEOs will share as part of their journey. Design thinking is simply not restricted to the way we teach our children but the way we engineer strategies in the way we manage our teams to deliver.

The leader must be a complete people person with ready, customised solutions for the faculty for if the implementation must succeed, their ability to motivate and direct, empower and support will play a crucial part in the way teachers respond and each one may need a different kind of handling. For me, the school leader must be the compassionate educator who understands both sides of the coin and will balance policies with realities by communicating with deeper understanding with both the Management and the parent body. Communication is non-negotiable and leaders will have to think like start-up entrepreneurs if they must ride the storm in the next few years and any entrepreneur will validate that communication is King.

Recognising the power of technology and communication internally and externally and creating experiences for the children that are deeply personal requires tremendous effort, and that’s when some personal introspection is important. Are we ready as leaders, do we know enough about systems and processes that are changing, are we reading enough, are we delegating wisely, so that we have enough time to think ahead, do we have the energy and the ability to put in hard hours, and most importantly is our vision aligning with that of the organisation? Have we “checked” this? Can this be nurtured?

Before we begin implementation of the NEP2020 we must as leaders take stock of our existing reality, and this gap analysis will help define roles and responsibilities in a manner that the processes that follow for the children we nurture are seamless and bring in more dynamism and relevance to what and how they are learning.

As we move into the school resumption phase, and the new look NEP2020, we know only some facts. The rest is the VUCA world disrupted largely by technology one would have said a few conferences ago, and one that has been honestly disrupted by this pandemic. To build further, and plug the damages, and continue to think ahead of the curve will require a different kind of approach and mindset.

There’s a need to start thinking about that now.

ACE Education customises mentoring programs for school leaders. For more details write to us on [email protected]

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Humanising the Digital Space

Humanising the Digital Space

There are strong indications that India as a nation is ‘not-too-keen’ on commencing the physical world operations in its public or private sector schools, at least till the end of the year. Speculation was strong during the unlockdown phase 1 and media continues to throw up different reports on what States are thinking, third party auditors who are guiding schools for their SOPs when they do eventually open, and if the ‘mood’ is to be determined by what the Centre believes is ‘safe’ and ‘ideal’ and in the national interests of its citizens especially the youngest who may be the most vulnerable, we may be looking at a longer time in the virtual world.

States continue with their onward march with this consideration of opening schools and when; some are currently simply discussing fee payment challenges that parents have, and the possibility of some schools closing down on account of lack of funds, and trying to work out NEP guidelines for implementation given its time line is next year as well for SOPs.

As the world opens up gradually – France first off to start schools followed by UK, and South East countries as well, the general sense after Israel reported an increase in spikes by asymptomatic children to the senior staff, or the United States of America for that matter, the ground reality is that there are associated risks with schools opening up. For example, one logistic problem for Italy appears to be ordering 3 million single tables and chairs for their schools to maintain social distancing when they do open up. School resumption, assuming parents are willing to send their children (which if we have to go by the survey conducted by different State authorities and Academic Boards, not to mention, independent media houses, parents are clearly in favour of not!) is a complex set of protocols that needs careful consideration and a step-by-step execution with every stake-holder oriented and on board, and that means there needs to be a passage of time after an announcement by the Centre and their respective States, for the schools to get into ‘operation-getback’. Sanitation, re-arrangement of furniture, quarantine of staff if returning from different states, not to mention infirmary upgrades and tracking devices, staff and children training and flexible schedules of learning which may need plenty of adjustment and re-thinks. Also the SOPs when a child tests positive or a staff member,  what happens then?

This is all assuming that parents ‘trust’ their educational partner (and when I look at what is happening with some parent petitions against some schools over fee payments, I dare, the appears to be a general lack of support for establishments) and want to send their children to school in the absence of a vaccine which as many countries are in their trial phase it expected early next year only.

The alternative, as educators have been advocating since the first lockdown in March has been a year of virtual engagements, and when ‘safe’ a possibility of opening in Jan 2021. That does not mean that the academic year can be treated as a year written off simply because every age group has different needs, need specific attention and well meaning parents with WFH schedules are struggling to cope with learning outcomes that trained teachers can deliver on seamlessly. This is now an established fact, with parents in support of virtual engagements.

Assuming India slips into its second wave, which as scientists and the medical fraternity warn us might be more dangerous than the first for we let the guard down easily ( history is witness to this), we may well use all our time and effort and concentrate ‘humanising’ the digital learning with socio emotional learning so children can ‘normalise’, research creative ways to engage children with break-away sessions, synchronous and asynchronous work so that it is not a burn out for teachers or students, ‘re-organise’ curriculum targets so that essentials are covered that are non negotiable, and work on more deeper learning than an introduction of many new concepts. We might as well look at the next 4 months as a period of accelerating the systems and processes and collaborating with other schools to create a ‘fresh, energised’ format of learning.

It is critical to embrace the reality, sooner than later and find ways to build capabilities and capacity instead of worrying whether online or physical world. Let’s face it, we do not as a community have many answers only facts of what is reported  as schools world-over have started opening up and their experiences matter when we take our first step. Mind you, except the US most other countries are not reporting the one day highs or spikes like India is at the moment and we have not even fully opened up as a nation!

Let’s for a moment accept that online is no substitute for the physical world, but it sure is an able partner when we speak of continuous learning, one that will not put a child ‘back’ given there has been a loss of ‘learning’ for a prolonged period of time and research does suggest that this has far reaching impacts.

Learning for most schools is about projects, activities, it is about thinking laterally, working on core skills including life skills but it offers that ‘consistency’ to a ‘normal’ routine at home for children who are otherwise left ‘unattended’. There will either be a case of a household doing too much or too little, both ends extreme in my opinion and not in the interest of the child.

Therefore, experts need to dig deep, find innovative ideas of how to manage the virtual space for those with IT capabilities, and focus on bringing these capabilities to those that do not.

It is critical that we move fast when we see the writing on the wall, and optimise. The communication between now and when schools open will be crucial and critical, and cannot be ignored. A decision about sending a child back to school involves state directives in terms of permissions but it will entirely depend on each school’s capacity and capability not to mention the willingness of the parents. Joint effort. Wasn’t it supposed to always be that?

Let’s focus on humanising the digital space as never before so at least one section of our community, our children emerge ‘protected’ from the devastating effects of this pandemic.

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Equitable & Inclusive Education

Equitable & Inclusive Education

Section 6 of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) focuses on equitable and inclusive education. For me personally, from all the aspects factored in the new policy (and I have written about this extensively already), what is the most exciting aspect of the policy – is this! Well let me categorically state, the vision is all encompassing and focuses on ‘every’ child because as a country battling with reservations and physical and mental learning challenges, government school challenges of lack of enrolments, we have done painfully little to address the needs of every child. Yes, implementation will no doubt be the key! We have been saying for all aspects ever since the announcement.

The policy states, “Education is the single greatest tool for achieving social justice and equality. Inclusive and equitable education – while indeed an essential goal in its own right – is also critical to achieving an inclusive and equitable society in which every citizen has the opportunity to dream, thrive, and contribute to the nation. The education system must aim to benefit India’s children so that no child loses any opportunity to learn and excel because of circumstances of birth or background. This Policy reaffirms that bridging the social category gaps in access, participation, and learning outcomes in school education will continue to be one of the major goals of all education sector development programmes.”

Pretty impressive in its wordings?

You have to accept there is intent! For those who work extensively in private and public schools will most definitely want to see its translation and implementation as States interpret this overarching framework shared in the months to follow and will reserve their comments till then.

Fair!

The reason for this scepticism, is that this will be a herculean task for this ‘all inclusive & equitable’ vision will have infrastructure challenges, curriculum hurdles and core standards of assessments and progression with different academic boards, not to mention capabilities of the teaching faculty and most importantly, changing variables as we see learning transforming to a blended format for years to follow.

Having being associated for a school for differently abled children for a decade (a project still dear to my heart), I still remember the earlier days when the world was not as ‘accepting’ in this country, we had our work cut out. Working with academic board officials to ‘modify’ curriculum and make it more functional for children on the spectrum but allowing their worried parents the satisfaction of ‘qualifications’ that would be recognised at college admissions and the uphill task to have the children find a placement once they passed Grade X. From government department visits to liaising officers, those days were spent with ‘pleas’ and anxiety for children and even more their parents. Teachers at the centre as always!

As I said, this is extremely difficult simply because in this country and for that matter world over, we label children bases of IQ testing, some evaluation that defines their ability and then compartmentalise them within a box with academic targets that are not matching pace, and do nothing for the functionality of these children, setting them back further. Academic Boards be it state or national/international, need to consider revisions if we have to be that ‘inclusive’ society, so that no child is indeed left behind (and while we are at it, make the process of getting ‘certification’ easier!!) This was almost 15 years ago, and unfortunately, the battle for special schools continues – lack of funding and dedicated efforts to drive this, for me continues to be an area of concern. Capacity in private or public schools to manage volumes has not been thought through, and perhaps we need to revaluate our teaching degrees that qualify teachers – it is up to date? Relevant? Does it pack enough field experience?

There are many specialists, however who have invested a great deal of time and effort and have some time-tested strategies that will be useful reference points when creating the inclusive SOPs by States. I do hope this collaboration takes place before policies are drafted.

Case to point, RTE was beautiful in spirit – allowing children opportunities but I worry without any tangible research and findings we will continue to add to our problems. Strongly bat for experts to invest some dedicated effort to understand the ground realities. For the report card on this is not looking very promising. Focus on the implementation and before deciding blanket policies, a greater effort for this sector will be beneficial to all – children, teachers and parents.

Having said this, I do like the fact that we recognise that every citizen of this country will be awarded respect and dignity irrespective of caste, creed or ability, and for a country churning out 12 million each year into the work force, each child’s future will be hopefully secure. Again we are talking about changes that have to happen at various levels, an integration of departments and a collective effort by many.

Wow, how’s that for pressure?!

This space will be closely watched, and I know many of us passionate about providing direction will be working fiercely to bring in changes that we badly need.

NEP vision document, good starting point? At least for the sake of the children?

Optimist as always, I will say – yes!

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Got the importance it needed - EMOTIONAL SECURITY

Got the Importance It Needed? – EMOTIONAL SECURITY

Details of State wise Implementation Plans & Processes of the new National Education Policy (NEP) is the overwhelming public response to what the Centre has put out there as a vision document for this country as ‘The NEP 2020’. There are educators who are sceptical about its ‘mass’ appeal, and are worried that the vision and execution gap will take years to bridge, and then there are those that want to simply look at the document and capitalise on its potential – the optimists you may call them. Fact is that there are many positives no matter which side you take, and much has been discussed already and next bit is crucial as States work out their respective machinery in terms of fund allocations, capabilities be it IT or infrastructure, teacher education and yes their own interpretation of the language policy and regulatory guidelines to be issued. In all of this, I do believe we need to carefully consider how the changes are brought in time-tables (at least K-12) to make it more about experiential learning with its core subject focus, life skills and sports integration, or assessments that are built in for success for every child, or for that matter how diagnostic evaluations pan out, hopefully inviting detailed discussions with educators that have been instrumental in creating success stories for children, equally represented by the private and public experience and importantly ringing in changes in bite sized portions and not sweeping changes without the strength to course correct. We need to think through this extensively and also align K-12 with higher education, as early childhood education has finally been recognised as a significant contributor to the future of this country. It links finally?

The macro vision that does not isolate but wants to be more ‘connected’ is something that helps us emerge as a consolidated system of schooling education and for me the 5 (Nursery to Grade 2) plus 3 (Primary Years Grades 3 to 5) plus 3 (Middle Years Grades 6 to 8) plus 4 (High School Years Grades 9 to 12) total of 15 years is definitely more ‘structured’ with the inclusion of early years (the first 3 that were ‘distanced’ now part of a consolidated structure with the earlier 10 plus 2 (Grades 1 to 10 plus Grades 11 & 12) will now have Nursery, Jnr Kg and Snr Kg part of its umbrella. The structure has been working globally and there’s merit in it. At this stage, it needs to be understood if entry points in schools will now change, with pre-schools taking on higher grades. Would some schools start at Grades 3 and conclude Year 12) shifting their focus? Let’s wait and watch what happens. The point of this structure is not to disrupt, it is more to do with what we should have always been thinking – age appropriate. So for the time being, it would leave the discussion points about entry and exit depending on a school’s internal capabilities.

The science behind this structure is also crucial – assigning age appropriate developmental milestones and a seamless transition to the ‘next’ level. Research suggests this break -up may be more relevant now than ever as never in the history of our lives have we experienced schools being shut down world over for such prolonged periods of time as part of a health concern and this means their world as children, as resilient as they may be, and quite frankly they are, has changed and the only speculation ahead one can speak with certainty is that how many years it will take to finally normalise and stabilise. This simply means for some children the next 15 years may be spent in ‘recovery’ (their entire schooling journey!!!) and therefore the approach to their learning must focus primarily on their emotional well being and this may just be achieved with this structure?

Question is that would we as educators liked to have to seen more of this mentioned as a vision document? – I think so. It is a known fact that unless it is a top down approach, most policies fail to deliver the kind of impact that we would like to see. And remember this is not the private sector discussion alone with this vision document (they have been speaking about socio emotional learning forever especially progressive schools), this document is largely to bring the government schools under some sort of ‘benchmark’ that can be monitored, and yes increase enrolments. No one is complaining about this, and a healthier competitive market, with a level playing field allows drives better result. Fact. Checked!

Well coming back to the focus of well being and mental health that is the focus on my article. For me, this structure will work if we think of it from an emotionally secure child who moves from one phase to another and being mentored and nurtured through each of these phases. Someone asked me on a webinar, what my opinion was about different age groups – which was the most crucial or difficult and that really brings up the most significant part – every age group matters, has to be handled by specialised experts, and also being mindful of their ‘maturity’ and ‘developmental’ growth spurts – emotionally. Our communication as adults – educators and parents will have to be mindful of then our expectations of these children and how each age group brings in its own set of challenges and opportunities. And yes learning outcomes may have to be altered to think about this.

Unless the focus is driven on well being and mental health, I worry that this document will become yet another ‘evaluation/assessment’ document and while it focuses on learning as a marked difference from the past, and onus lies with the teachers, are the teachers going to receive the kind of necessary training to equip themselves to manage the emotional needs of students? Would they have to take on mandatory courses, have field experience to learn what to do it, how to do?

At every stage, every age, children will be vulnerable, will need guidance on handling their emotions, and mentoring about consequences for some of their choices. This cannot just be a subject in a class that is taught, this has to be the vision of the school, to emotionally secure the child so India does not becoming yet another staggering statistic on the world map for the most number of students taking drastic steps because someone did not bother with them.

Would I have like to see more of this in the document? Ofcourse yes, but like a fellow educator beautifully pointed out in yet another webinar on Saturday, ‘what’s stopping leaders to implement what they think is important. A vision document is a guide, but the choice lies with you to implement and create for the sake of the children’.

After-all, as educators, the promise was to groom children and that is a huge power we have. And with that comes great responsibility. And the additional responsibility will be about nurturing parents with this new orientation. As adults, the equity partnership lies with the parents as well as teachers and this is when we do return to a physical world as well. This partnership is not about ‘lock-down’ times alone, it is going to be more about unlock down times. It has to be about nurturing well balanced children. It is about our future, and all this effort must therefore be well directed and involve specialists and experts to create the path ahead.

Wellness, wellbeing cannot be side-lined, needs to be a school vision. Suggestion is not to wait for governments to decide this, but you as educators to make the real difference by investing time and effort and building capabilities.

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NEP’s ACE: Sports Integration in schools

NEP’s ACE: Sports Integration in schools

‘Holistic’ education has been the NEP’s central idea and as educators who have been advocating this, and supporting this execution in schools for many years, it is most reassuring that this vision extends not just to progressive schools but now ‘every’ child will hopefully be at the receiving end of this implementation. Much needed, this focus makes this policy so exciting as a vision document. ‘Holistic’ focuses on different co-curricular activities such as music, dance, theatre arts, create arts & sports as part of a child’s learning journey in school, giving it as much importance as the curricular subjects.

As many have been discussing, the outcome of this vision will really be State directed and eventually organised by schools, which is where it will be put to the real test and it must therefore be every educator’s mission to make it happen for the sake of the future of this nation. Sports, the main focus of this blog has many merits, and creates opportunities for many in different ways that previously have not be capitalised on.

Implementation in schools will need to be carefully structured with age appropriate activities for the 5+3+3+4 structure, exposure to a variety of sports both indoor and outdoors, and led and delivered by experts who are qualified & experienced to lead these programs. There must be a Scope & Sequence for each co-curricular program especially sports, and students assessed and evaluated basis of ability and effort but also motivated to ‘experience’ a variety without an ‘achievement’ focus. The policy speaks of this aligning to the Fit India movement, and emphasis on the process and not just the outcome, making this part of a lifestyle and culture. I do love this part!

Sports in itself is all encompassing, learning not technical skills alone but also important life skills. The policy speaks of pedagogical practices to help in developing skills such as collaboration, self-initiative, self-direction, self-discipline, teamwork, responsibility, citizenship, etc. This is critical, and this extends to other areas of learning and making it a habit – work ethics that are important for successful execution of any task.

Integration of sports has far reaching effects – higher concentration in curricular subjects, confidence and ownership will definitely add an advantage to a student’s learning story if implemented with a lot of thought. It needs more discussion and research, schools will have to identify their strength area and build infrastructure or upgrade to make available to a variety of sports so that children can leverage the skills of some in other sports.

A country obsessed with ‘specialisation’ now needs to make way for a narrative that allows children to simply play. And parents who ask me why their children keep switching activities at Grade 3 instead of focusing on ‘one’ specific sport, please understand this – they cannot for their need to experience different sports at different times more of time, and decide what their strength areas or interest areas lie and cannot happen before the age of 10 to 12. So focus on exposure and not outcomes.

This is where schools will need to be mindful of planning and implementing the vision and whom they hire or outsource this important aspect of sports integration.

Children need opportunities to play, and schools must think of every child – their interests and utilising infra well, create opportunities for children to be inspired to ‘play’. This is an era of customisation and personalisation, and one size will not fit all. Gender bias for sports needs to become a thing of the past, and if schools have to nurture talent for India to compete on the world stage, we will need the children to be exposed to the best in class training and mentoring routines.

As States gear up to bring in changes, and schools are working out their plans for the immediate post pandemic school opening (if and when!) and also planning ahead for next year’s plans, this policy has refreshing ideas for everyone to come together and improvise. I will say this openly that progressive schools have been on the same narrative for some time, but this policy makes it every child’s right to quality education that is holistic. For me, that’s a great starting point.

Let’s start executing with some passion ….

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NEP’s focus on Teacher Education

NEP’s focus on Teacher Education

The National Education Policy (NEP) has dedicated a fair amount of importance to the role of teachers when envisioning how the future of this great nation will be defined, and positioning India as an education super power in the years to come. Detailed paragraphs about Teacher Education, Recruitment & Continuous Development was a highlight for me in the policy. For those of us who have been passionately and transparently speaking about this during conferences, it is indeed heartening to note that the policy admits the quality gaps that exist which eventually leads to the inability to deliver on learning outcomes. I do understand global models were researched extensively to identify salient features that have worked and the proposition to implement these ‘time tested’ ideas will directly impact how the children learn in India – well that’s the vision anyway.

Let’s pause here. Research is great when it brings in an international or fresh perspective. It’s what we will do to customise and ‘localise’ it is the key. Given our demographics, we need to be mindful of minimum requirements and ‘blanket’ protocols proposed by States, and also the focus should be on ‘conversions’. Conversions are nothing but creating employment opportunities for those who are pursing bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines and inspiring them to move to education. This is the real transformation I would like to see. Kind of like what Teach for America was modelled on! It must be about attracting the best in class talent to teach, to ‘upgrade’ what exists in terms of performance. I am not for a moment suggesting those pursuing teacher education are not passionate or talented. But it would be interesting to research the profile of those enrolling. There will be some hard truths to be accepted, and when we do that we will realise, the root cause problems will not go away unless we address them. I strongly believe that we need to make education an attractive proposition (it has briefly been touched upon in the policy document), as glamorous as architecture, medicine, law, banking, finance and FMCJ. It must also be noted that private sector continues to lead trends with employment because of better systems and career progression path, but there are serious concerns about the ‘content’ taught in these degree programs and therefore ‘who’ schools are required to hire into their schools, given State mandates. There is a definite need for teachers with subject matter expertise and language efficiency, and both these perhaps are not at the point we would hope them to be at.

This is a reality, and many decades later we are still discussing it, having made very little course correction. Perhaps now is the time?

So back to the policy propositions -there are variation models proposed for these professional qualifications from short term to 1, 2, 4 year BED Courses recognising that there is a need to customise and focus on modern teaching-learning, and real life experience as part of the journey. Get that, but what will be interesting is who shapes the content that is ‘modern’. Who defines what should be part of the curriculum at higher education? Onus on national and private colleges? Are they ready to ring in the changes?

With the NEP, I also see the emergence of many committees to decentralise decision making (?!) and therefore if there has to be a committee constituted for learning outcomes which is proposed in the Higher Education governance regulatory body with its 4 verticals, I hope senior educators from K-12 can contribute to shape content at the University level especially for teacher education. They know what functional levels work in their schools, and they must therefore have a say in framing guidelines to teach.

As far as recruitment is concerned, we have got to professionalise this process as it is in the private sector with a focus on overall personality, attitude, subject matter expertise, work experience, exposure and ‘fit’. Private sector practices must be brought in for they work. This is a critical component as the fit to an organisation is an important starting point.

Professional development is a much disputed and debated topic, and I hope regulatory bodies focused on this, emphasise accredited and qualified trainers delivering this mandate for schools. Schools, as advised in the policy must be empowered to do it need based and not some compulsory mandates that has simply no purpose (50 hours must be meaningfully spent and impact an improvement). This piece is critical as continuous professional development separates the good from the ordinary and this cannot be mandated, it must be basis of audit and evaluations that schools decide which internal or external source can cater to their needs.

Teacher evaluations are a welcome sign as well, but once again a committee being commissioned to create these ‘parameters’ needS to be from the current industry, those practicing and working directly with teachers and I often find that Quality Control is never empathetic to the needs of the time, and detached from the teaching learning practices causes challenges for what is audited is usually not reflective of the effort put in. Also complexity of the models proposed previously works for extensive research but from a problem solving space, I urge decision makers to make it frequent but simple and positioned to effect qualitative improvements not basis of salary increments.

As educators have been sharing, the NEP uplifts the spirit and gives everyone the hope and direction that ideas that are futuristic will help shape young minds and ensure that they are employable and can compete with the best in class when they graduate. Yet, it comes down to the regulations and how States will adapt and implement. Who defines and regularises the content at universities, what type of internships models are put in place and the entire duration of implementation. Well, there is clear intent, there now must be substantial work done to ‘operationalise’ being mindful of our demographics.

It will boil down to the micro!

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Is it the balance that we were looking for?

Is it the balance that we were looking for?

The National Education Policy (NEP) announcement yesterday has created a new sense of excitement for educators (a welcome break from discussing the virtues of online learning, how one can optimise, when schools will open, and whether or not parents should honour their fee commitments). Since last evening social media has been abuzz with discussions, questions raised, doubts put forward with what is indeed a much needed direction as far as the country is concerned. A direction that took 34 long years to be researched and tabled by the Cabinet, and awaits its nod in the Parliament in time.

Excitement is noticeable, these days and social media is a good barometer test to gauge reactions, that is of course, if someone is indeed interested in the feedback that this announcement has generated. The Ministry of Human Resources, popularly referred to as MHRD now undergoes a name change and will become the Ministry of Education (MoE) and has the Prime Minister himself as an integral part, was the big news yesterday.

With this article, I will join the many before me who have penned interesting perspectives and views about the policy, and I must admit, ideas shared will be very useful going forward, so those reading this must consider reading the many thoughts emerging. I always believe someone else’s perspective enables you to evaluate your thoughts, and that at times, is  timely correction. So for most parts, this article will not dissect the policy. That has been done and we know what’s exciting about it, given this is a macro framework and a direction with a set of guidelines. More when the implementation begins next year but I suppose us as educators sharing our opinions is to ensure that we are safe than sorry, and some of these get factored in at the draft stage itself so it saves time!

While penning my initial reaction to this comprehensive 60 page document which in most parts is talking about a tech enabled young generation that is groomed for the future, where every child matters, and will be given the opportunity to learn and be skilled with language arts and numeracy as the core, vocational skills in middle school years, a feature to make learning relevant, gifted programs for students as an inclusion, and most importantly a change that is significant – how these children will be taught, steering away from traditional methods of teaching-learning. It speaks about integration of different subjects areas and a seamless scheduling of activities including co-curricular and evaluating children’s learning in a manner that  tests their ability to apply, and optimises their minds, instead of repeating what is in the text-book. These changes when implemented (and that for me is the bigger key) will lead to our scores improving as a nation when assessed by any global bench-mark exam to showcase what is truly our talent in India. We all know, Indians haven’t been the best at these competitive exams globally and that largely had to do with our system of teaching and testing. We packed in too much “content”, without a defined scheme of work unlike some international organisations, and we surely “standardized” too much. So this policy is definitely on the right thought process.

While writing this article, I was distracted with many messages on my what’s app groups (yes guilty of many) that had a forward titled, “A very important decision ……” with details about the policy that would only make sense to educators, yet has been forwarded on mommie groups, school groups, and also building/society groups. I had to stop several times to address some concerns that parents had – does this mean, there will be one academic board now, and does that mean we have to be worried?

The one thing about forwards should be that people actually must read it before forwarding, and for the 100th time and this time via my blog, there is no mention of one academic board, and for the life of me, I cannot understand how this would concern parents, as this document needs to be analysed, discussed and clarified by states, those implementing it. Quite frankly, I am wondering if the PR machinery behind this wanted to create awareness? Really? What kind?

Well that sorted, my two big take-ways from the NEP is the fact that we are aligning K-12 with higher education and inclusion of early childhood education as part of the MOE means that we are finally recognising that we cannot work in stylos and we need to come together under one umbrella with an eye on how higher education is organised, and the choices students have – grateful for the “credits” and “gap” year inclusion and breaking it down to 4 years graduation so that we can vertically align it now from Nursery onwards. This vertical alignment is critical and then irrespective of national or international boards (that will now be regulated by a common body across the sector), will have certain Common Core Standards. Each board may do more, and get creative, but it does not take away from the base line and that as a country we should be proud of. The second is speaking of technology as the enabler with a clear view that India as a nation will only be able to compete with the best in class, if we implement a Digital India vision and that must be exposed to and taught in schools. Well gentle reminder to all those opposing online education at the moment, look at the bigger picture as defined in the NEP.

So far so good with the policy news I must admit.

There were a few doubts that got clarified especially about medium of instruction – well medium of instruction (upto Grade 5) can be in regional languages but not compulsory, which would have been unconstitutional anyway. So, relax everyone who flooded Twitter with this question! Also, the structure from 10+2, now defined as 5+3+3+4  is finally organising the academic milestones as they forever should have been! For us in the early childhood education space, kindergarten children going into Grade 1 and 2 always had a transition problem from a half day school to full, and from being little ones to now “formal” teaching-learning was unrealistic and therefore this structure is the best part of the NEP. It works with science and the child’s learning capability and therefore, once again parents, this does not mean that now pre-schools will be upto Grade 2 and children will apply at Grade 3. Pre-schools will continue as they are, the pre-primary sections of high schools will now focus their attention to teaching-learning at Grades 1 & 2 that aligns it to early childhood education. This has been operational in many progressive schools for decades now, so this finally making its way to government schools is a huge step.

I enjoy when best practices are being embraced, and this policy represents thoughts, opinions and perspectives of senior educators whom I know personally, and it is reassuring.

Where this policy lost me was the bit about “not commercialising” education. Is that a dig at the private sector? I could be entirely wrong and while I am grateful for the increase in the spends towards education from 4.5 % to 6% of the GDP for government schools and I hope a large part goes toward IT infrastructure and skilling capabilities of the teachers (this means nothing really unless it is implemented effectively). So the sector that was not government funded and attracting investors to create world class learning institutes somehow might consider itself side-lined. Like I said, too premature for me to comment on it till we see the Standard Operating Processes, but the words were perhaps not evoking the kind of confidence that this sector required.

Granted as a government, the need is to upgrade the public schools, and ensure that more students are enrolling there as the numbers have been dwindling in the past decade or so, with most parents moving towards the private sector. But if the policy is regulating both public and private sector schools, is it not appropriate to give the private sector some freedom to execute and not charge them “commercial” rates? Would it not be wise to look at models operational globally where the presence of an evolved private sector heralds best practices and systems and processes that allow for the overall standard to improve. Is it also not true that organisations have a Right to Earn and also parents a Right to Choice where their children should study. But constantly holding this sector back, may in the long run backfire?

Well, I would like to hold these thoughts back, see more of the “micro” but this bit worries me. The rest is positive and balanced, but the balance to be fair must be balanced for all!

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#MadeInIndia story - an educator’s way!

#MadeInIndia story – an educator’s way!

Sunday afternoon got educators from across the country together – North, South, East and West as one voice, #SaveOurSchools. This mind you took only a matter of minutes to form a common group of like minded educators and parents only days ago, and one virtual meeting on Saturday (these days, in the education space anything virtual is considered to be ‘not the same’ as a physical discussion – we accept but what’s the alternative? Wait till we are virus free? Or optimise on the time and variables that are available and make things happen?). Well, we used the power of technology to come together, to align our thoughts, to show support for our peers in Gujarat because we cared about the children studying in private unaided schools in the state that could face school closure forever as managements cannot sustain without collection of fees which is the directive of the government. The GOG believes that parents should not have to honour their contractual commitment to the private schools they picked willingly (and were desirous of; knowing all the policies and fee related information) in event of the pandemic.

To be trended as the Number One hashtag in Gujarat and also in the top 3/4 most trended topics in the country with over a lac tweets sharing perspectives about directives and policies initiated by the local government meant there was a common goal, and something that got educators, irrespective of theIr academic boards, or where their own schools were located in India to tweet in a rational and definitive manner to those making decisions that policies like this will arrest the progress of the nation.

2 to 6pm Tweet Storm – as many of us have admitted, there was a deep sense of satisfaction as our fraternity stood together to support a re-think of directives even if it did not impact them individually. Using examples, and facts, and stating important aspects that have been not been considered when passing blanket bans were tweeted, and #SaveOurSchools, that voice of educators, teachers and parents wanted to speak about building capacities, about skilling teachers, children and parents to embrace remote learning as a means of continuous learning, share the innovative ideas of how teachers have risen to the occasion and delivered. The voice spoke about reports in leading organisations that admit prolonged absence from school will have detrimental effects on the children and virtual learning is not static apps downloaded but real engagements with their teachers who optimise screen time permitted to making learning interactive, engaging and relevant not to mention emotionally securing children who have been in lock down.

For these tiring efforts, the request was to have parents honour their commitment to paying fees so that teacher salaries can be paid and other expenditure accounted for.

There was a desire to ensure Digital India vision is realised – educators are conscious that steps have to be taken now and today, to secure our children with skills so that they can compete with the best in class worldwide with their foundational learning when they take their place in the world tomorrow. As a nation, we seem ti be lagging two years behind.

Yesterday was about solidarity that laws cannot be passed without discussions and involving relevant stake-holders, regulation for schools need to happen in a systematic way, the processes need to have a common objective and also, those willing to put in time, efforts and investments and bring in best in class academic and administrative policies cannot be deterred by these laws that are making it virtually impossible  to sustain.

It was about collaboration, critical thinking, planning, and communicating in a scientific and objective way, it was about engaging and using technology to deliver, it was about one community across the nation lending a voice to those who must listen.

Courts will get involved and there will be more petitions we know, but for the time being it was an honour to work alongside and learn from fellow educators, teachers and parents and know that the future of this country, in the hands of these experts is in good hands, and these hands are strong enough to create a storm when required for the sake of the children, teachers and their future.

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Calling the elephant in the room

Calling the elephant in the room

As long I have been in this industry, I believe I belong to a section that believes that for the nation to progress, healthy competition in every industry is the key (not to mention an open economy with presence of Indian and foreign companies but that’s a debate for another time) and more specifically within our own industry – education, the role of private schools is interesting – pushing the deck, raising the bar, bringing in new ideas, best in class teaching and learning practices, challenging the status quo, better infra, better systems and processes among other things. For all of this to happen, there will be investments and a lot of effort.

For as long as I can remember, the private sector has been held back and is the first to come under any sort of scrutiny when the going gets tough enough on grounds that managements are interested in returns and education is considered “…..” For the record, no one has ever been able to define this blank for me. Education is what? Every child’s right? Noble? Has to be non for profit because it is……? I remember a liaising officer telling me, “Madam, this is what it is. The law says this and we know it is baseless and forces people to find loop holes, but what to do?”

For a moment, let’s accept it is what it is. Let me bring in another sector like education that recently has been brought into a lot of discussions. Healthcare.

Every citizen’s right to access and reach? Noble? It is about lives and about health. At times, it is about life and death right? How can private players come in the name of a foundation and set up numerous branches across the country and initiate a sales and marketing team not to mention PR to ‘attract’ customers for their better systems, processes, diagnosis and post treatment care. How on earth can they make this experience a seamless one for families, and why associate comfort with it, and fancy beds and reception areas and grand infra. Basic works?

Well everyone knows as a democratic nation, as tax paying citizens of a country, we have a right to choice, live and be educated and avail of healthcare within our means.

For example, a parent enrolling a child in a school pre pandemic is aware about the fees, the policies, the expectations and readily accepts this when enrolling in a private school? This parent I would assume cares deeply about his/her children and plans ahead for the future as every progressive mind would? Plan for a rainy day – almost like putting money in some sort if ’paper‘ so that on a rainy day despite the circumstances, that is one thing that is taken care of?

Well, I know many parents spend sleepless nights wondering how to get into ‘their’ dream school (child is oblivious), and do possibly everything in their power to send their child to the school that they believe will cement a strong foundation for a bright future?

The same school 4 months later, (and agreed that these are not normal times and everyone is experiencing extra ordinary circumstances) becomes a ‘monster’ exhorting money and making profits while their families are undergoing a crisis?

Really?

How did this transformation happen in 4 months when schools were closed? Did it happen because a few initiated a movement and decided that while they will continue to pay GST and penalties for their own businesses that are shut down, will pay their own staff salaries in full, and demand money from their customers with a penalty clause, will continue to pay electricity bills and order take away from restaurants at the same rates that they would eat in the restaurants, the schools, however must share their financial pain.

Schools with deep pockets (remember they make tons and tons of profit and therefore are able to multiply rapidly – please do not give them credit for being enterprising and building capacity and scaling, do not for a moment give them credit for their efforts, innovation, quality for which parents are signing up, and dont for a moment give them credit of being futuristic and ahead of the ahead to help your children) …. so back to the point, schools with deep pockets must now ignore their loans, emis, expenditure and challenges (remember they are also in the same boat as everyone else, the pandemic did not make them emotionally stronger because they are running schools) and waive off fees because their efforts for seamless learning online is not considered effort.

“After all online learning is not ‘school’. It is a stop gap” – As some media reports have us believe is what is being discussed with ministers.

Well, the truth is that we may be in this ‘stop’ gap for the rest of our lives, because even when schools open, if we do not scale up as a nation and embrace technology, we will be doing a disservice to our children because they will be back to square one and in fact in the negative as they will not have the skills to cope with a world that will constantly change. They wont have what it takes to survive. And that puts us back in the loop – no jobs and a poor economic output.

So, while I accept that there has to be a medium path- some sort of discussion and dialog what disappoints me about this whole movement is governments who have very little time (remember they are dealing with a bigger issue of stability and pandemic) are passing directives, comprising fundamental right to educate, and earn. And doing it with a view to ‘please’ and not consider the impact of decision and its deep consequences for the future.

Courts are becoming battle grounds, and I do hope children are not reading some of these discussions openly because when a parent making his point on FB last night about schools having ‘egos and extorting money’ will need to know, when all this is over, his child or a nephew will be reading this and wondering why the parent is sending their loved ones to ‘extortionists’.

For the sake of our children, for the sake of their future, let’s communicate in this industry in a way that can set example of how one needs to act and behave when there is a crisis.

For the sake of the children, trust your school and their commitment to your children, have faith that teachers toiling hard last 4 months will be jobless and when your children are ready to go back to school, those same teachers may be demotivated to come back and teach. There may not be schools to send your children to!

For the sake of the children and with them, our future, let’s partner and not point fingers. Let the decisions be made within each school and what each management can do, let the flexibility come in, let there be a solution generated, and let the children continue to learn.

For the sake of the children remember one bad experience of a management not communicating cannot be generalised for all!

Not through apps, or videos but taught by their teachers who have skilled up. Let’s commit to paying fees that help the whole eco system move ahead.

This is not an US Vs THEM debate, this is about teachers, children and the future of the country and there has got to be a better way to progress than blanket bans and court cases?

Who has the time or money for that?

Make that adjustment everyone for we are wasting previous time. As a country, we are two decades behind in every sense. Let’s not handicap these children further.

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“Succeed. Succumb. Surrender”

“Succeed. Succumb. Surrender”


Through the numerous online discussions, it is evident that flexibility and acceptance of changing variables is non negotiable and perhaps a more ‘healthy’ way to approach processes in the next few months. Resistance and ‘wanting’ it back like it was is delaying what will eventually happen, so you might as well focus on what can be done, and not what ‘had to happen’?

Interesting article in the Economist today about divided economists world over suggesting approaches to get out of this financial devastation and yet, time and again with every crisis since World Wars and in fact the 2009 crisis, the sector that is taken most likely to support the creation, solutions, demand and supply and propels growth is the least discussed from a futuristic point of view.

In India for example, we have states divided about how to address the parental requests for fee waivers, and management concerns for continuing without the fee collections. Supreme Court has directed High Courts to assess and make their recommendations – well at least some courts were strategic enough to speak about banning online learning as unconstitutional! The others went with some in between path, some are still deliberating which may have deep consequences in long run.

The news on the ground now is that Gujarat is thinking of rejecting online learning and will force many educators out of jobs as managements unable to collect from parents, will be forced to close down.

What happens to the children?

“Well, parents can engage them with activities at home, and after all a few months here and there will not really impact”, is what I have been offered as an explanation by many given that families are out of jobs, and the financial devastation is tremendous.

Same for the school managements? Or is this not really impacting them? Assumption is that they have deeper pockets? That is the private sector debate that has been around forever and never ending – (parents picked these schools as options and this contractual commitment needs to honoured?)! What about government schools? Is this a sector not important for government to build IT skills in teachers and make access to students studying in their schools possible given school closures may be longer than anticipated?

Educators are clear that with schools not opening anytime soon there needs to be support for children who can be ‘e-engaged’ and continue with learning for there are significant developmental impacts with prolonged periods of non learning. There is also deep concern for those with lack of devices and connectivity issues, and there’s tremendous effort being put in building capacities – allowing these children access via TV channels and many organisations are leading the way with no child left behind. Are these perfect solutions? And is learning happening without challenges all across?

No. Remember we spoke about flexibility and working with variables? Ideal is not something we can strive for. And thinking of it will force us to surrender, as options are limited and changes take time. Need time. Much of the news on the ground with schools leading this successfully is very encouraging!

It is work in progress, patience everyone?

Then there are tweets from certain sections that speak about online as “a poor substitution for physical schools”, for which the question that comes up is, ‘what’s the alternative?‘ Engagements on line are balancing screen time, and in fact more innovative with teachers coming up with extended ideas to help families who are also faced with partnering part of this work load (Especially upto grade 3/4) given children are now at home all the time and will need assistance initially. Parents cannot manage this?? Why?

And yes those spending hours training themselves, Upskilling, researching and teaching on line will have to be rewarded for their efforts. They too have households to run. Fees must come in for this to happen.

So what the solution?

Middle path? Especially in the private sector, the conversations must be between two stake-holders and happen in a seamless manner as there is access and affordability. Flexibility is the key, and addressing challenges as they arise to resolve problems.

For the government aided schools, which are significantly higher in terms of number of student enrolments, governments will have to step in and solve problems. This is well within their control and requires a bit of planning. Many have reached out to guide and support – the question is there a real desire to address this?

This customisation will allow for there to be progress and for more success stories including sustained employment and economic revival. Learning continues seamlessly for one. Children do not miss out. Some households have children with needs, and some are dealing with mental health issues. Solutions are available. Yet courts are deciding basis of a small fraction of petitioners?

But the more important question is this only about economics?

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