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Updated At: Oct 07, 2020 09:48 PM (IST)
The Covid-19 pandemic will go down in history as one of the worst natural calamities that the humans have had to face. The global economy has been completely shattered, the businesses are suffering and there’s widespread paranoia and fear among people regarding contracting the infection. Naturally, to shield the children from the deadly outbreak, the schools were among the first institutions to be shut down. But the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has recently allowed a phased reopening of schools for classes IX to XII on a “voluntary basis”. Given how bleak the situation is and that we still don’t have a vaccine on our hands, the decision to reopen the schools is receiving a mixed response.
While some people agree with the decision, others are questioning it. Let us take a look at the situation in an objective manner and try to evaluate whether or not we should be reopening the schools at this moment.
Why are the schools being reopened?
Had this pandemic struck a decade earlier, the situation would’ve been far worse. But thanks to technological advancement, we can now rely on online learning as a substitute for classroom learning. Although, it must be said that while the online mode of teaching has been helping students continue with their education, it has its limitations.
Firstly, it is difficult for a teacher to pay attention to every student while teaching online, which, needless to say, is much easier in a classroom.
Secondly, the extent to which the education can be delivered via the online learning model depends a lot upon a number of factors, including the availability of necessary gadgets that support online learning, the availability of the internet, and that too with the higher bandwidth to support uninterrupted video conferencing. These factors, of course, are beyond the control of school authorities, which creates a major problem. Also, students that come from families belonging to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) do not have the resources to afford such facilities – especially now when the entire country is facing a financial crisis.
As a consequence, many underprivileged children have been deprived of proper education for months, which is affecting their career growth pretty negatively and causing them to fall behind. This is one major reason why the ministry has taken the decision to reopen schools.
It must, however, be noted that it is not compulsory for students to attend the school. Only those students who wish to attend classes will have to take the appointment and then only would they be permitted on the school premises.
Another major issue with online learning is that it puts severe limitations on the ability of educators to indulge children in practical work – such as labs and practicals. The students who are planning to build a career in sports are also facing major difficulties as they need proper resources such as a playground and sports equipment, which are only available at the school.
If, however, the schools are to be opened, an important question is, “how would they ensure they do not get crowded?”
Blended learning would help maintain physical distancing
Blended learning is a hybrid model of learning wherein the students learn from both offline and online formats. We’re already teaching students via the online mode. The reopening of schools would allow those students to get access to education, who could not do so online. Thus, the students would learn by a combination of online and offline modes and this would help keep the number of students inside the class to a minimum – thereby, enforcing physical distancing and reducing the chances of an outbreak.
To judge whether or not the decision to reopen the schools is in our best interests, we need to evaluate our priorities. For those of us who are privileged enough to afford online education, this decision might seem hasty, but we also need to consider those who are missing out on a lot because of the schools remaining closed. The best thing in all this, though, is that the choice to send children to the school totally rests within the parents’ hands. They know what is best for their child and they should decide accordingly.
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