Schooling has now changed forever! Early Childhood Association released a guideline manual for schools called Remote Blended Learning, and that is the future of schools - Blended learning. A combination of using online, offline models that will help learning be less stressful, more interesting and more available for all children. Physical school classrooms may not be used this year or even for some part of the next year, as we don’t know the future of this pandemic, but learning of children will not and cannot stop, it is time that parents, schools and the government realised the reality of this new normal and frame laws, policies around Blended Learning.
Schools also need to learn a lesson from this pandemic, to listen to research and take guidance from associations that they are a part of. Many schools failed to do that and were insensitive to parents and disregarded research and burdened children with long hours of online learning. Other schools are paying a price for the mistakes of a handful of them. It’s time for schools to realise that the old ‘chalk-talk’ and ‘sage on the stage’ method of teaching is ‘dead’! It’s time to embrace the new Blended learning format and ensure that the new format is safe, healthy and impactful for children’s cognitive, social and emotional development.
Parents need to wake up and realise that this is not a decision for a month or two; it will take this whole year for things to be safe for our children to physically attend school. Why do you want a learning lag for your child? Who should you be trusting, your chosen school or some vague private online platform? Yes, many schools and teachers are struggling to adjust to this new normal, but overall, most of them have adjusted quite well, now it is for the parents to take a step back and not interfere when the online class is going on, as it distracts both the teacher and your child.
We should all be worried about our pre-schoolers; this is the stage of foundational learning that is why our new education policy defines it as the starting point of education. Our vision was, ‘Every child in the age range of 3-6 years has access to free, safe, high quality, developmentally appropriate care and education by 2025’, how do we plan to achieve this with preschoolers not getting any education this year? The NEP further states- ‘Studies tracking student learning outcomes clearly demonstrate that children who start out behind tend to stay behind throughout their school years. At the current time, there is a severe learning crisis in India, where children are enrolled in primary school but are failing to attain even basic skills such as foundational literacy and numeracy. A major part of this crisis appears to be occurring well before children even enter Grade 1. Far too many 6+ year olds are entering Grade 1 with very limited ECCE.’ And we are still going to ignore this crucial stage during this pandemic? Isn’t it important for policy makers to note this important point from our National Education Policy before deciding and sealing the future of our preschoolers and children in grade one and two?
Our national education policy asked us to view preschool to grade 2 as a single pedagogical unit called the ‘foundational stage’, and advised to establish an integrated curricular and pedagogical framework and corresponding teacher preparation for this critical foundational stage of a child’s development. Why are we then ignoring this critically important stage in the decisions we make during this pandemic?
Ignoring the education of our children is extremely unwise and we would strongly urge the government to please rethink this ban and instead come out with guidelines so that children do not miss out on their foundational learning. It will be good for the state and the nation.
“The collapse of Education is the Collapse of a nation…”- Nelson Mandela
(The author is President Early Childhood Association and Association of Primary Education and Research. With over 34 years in education, she has compiled a comparative study of the ECE curriculum and policies of 39 countries, and recently compiled ECA Post-Covid School Reopening Guidelines and ECA Blended Learning Manual.)