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The future of school re-opening: What is the way forward?

21 July, 2020

Across the world, schools are mulling over the possibility of resuming classes; this seems to have created some boils in teachers and parents alike. The debate is in the American air too. More than 140,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and it is extremely risky to send children to schools at this point. USA is the only developed country which decided to reopen the schools; a decision that is dubbed by many as whims of Trump administration to ‘portray normalcy in the country’ and reenergise economy, albeit at great risk. The question at this point is not whether to continue with online education or starting physical teaching – but what may be a creative alternative. The Indian scene is not into discussion here, as it would be rather futile to compare Indian situation with that of the USA. However, a similar picture can be seen as the question remains, a report of the New York Times asks, “But what about the millions of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds whose homes are not conducive to online learning and who rely on schools for meals? And what about parents who cannot work from home and watch over them?”

What can be the alternative here? A probable way out is to divide the number of student population into odd-even formula and only allow a small percentage to come to school at a time. This is something practiced by the Universities too. The Universities are allowing students to come to campuses but holding online lectures at the same time. There are two motifs behind this. One, some students will not take the risk to attend lectures in a physical classroom every day and there on the other hand,  many would get a chance to have access to different institutional facilities. According to Sharda Jogee, “Staff members would simply help students connect to online courses provided by their schools — they would not need to be teachers themselves with subject matter expertise. While some teachers could opt to work in a SCOL, most would be able to work remotely and spend their time developing effective online classes.”

Students need a desk and a laptop to attend classes. It is therefore also possible, experts opine, to turn the large halls into temporary classrooms to maintain physical distance. This will also allow students from disadvantageous groups to have easy access to online platform. Apart from that, there will be room for making cubical for partition. In the developed countries, where their physical structures permit, these places can help even to provide meals for students. It is true that online method has its limitations and cannot replace in-person or face to face teaching. But at this point, a mixture or semi-online method is the best for students. But all these would require huge amount of funding. Till now, not many countries have shown burgeoning interest in releasing funds for school education, especially where primary education is still not a lucrative business. In the USA, as reports suggest, ‘less than 1% of the federal relief package passed in March was dedicated to K-12 education.’

Sources

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/20/opinion/coronavirus-reopen-schools-economy.html

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