Testimonial: Education in a Pandemic world

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Testimonial: Education in a Pandemic world

By Indu N, Azim Premji University

A reflective essay on the ‘Future of Education’ track by Arthan.

Education has been facing major problems with the schools closing, the lockdown, having to switch to an online medium of instruction, confusions around what & how to teach and how to reach the various student populations across the world and even in our country. Various governments and organizations have been trying different methods that can be adapted by the education system. While change has always been needed in the education sector to enable better learning opportunities for the children, the need is stronger and more urgent now than ever before.

Attending Arthan’s track on ‘Future of Education’, it was commendable to hear various leaders and organizations taking different steps to do what they could to keep the learning process alive – even in the most rural areas. I really liked how each organization tried to think from the child’s perspective and always choose their methodology based on how the children would receive it. Along with that, many of them also spoke of the individual connections they maintained with each family and students through SMS, calls and fieldwork during the lockdown phases.

Even though the learning processes were restricted, it was interesting to see how many organizations made sure each child received their study material in various formats (though SMS and calls) and could learn while still saying interested. I personally think it is really important that the government schools that interact with a large number of students in smaller towns and villages focus on innovation and improving quality. Innovation in the education system would require innovation at the ground level and I was excited to see that all the sessions spoke about this, along with laying emphasis on inclusivity as well.

The sessions stressed on the importance of working with minimum materials and resources as what is available in cities or to richer communities may not be available to all – and it is easy for those creating plans and processes tot sometimes overlook this. The emphasis on equality and simplicity along with context-based learning was something I have found missing in my education and in many schools today but interestingly this was also focused on throughout the sessions.

I have learnt a lot from all the sessions I attended. One of the most interesting claims was something by Ratna Vishwanathan of Reach to Teach India. She explained how most of the education technology today is supply-driven and this is a major problem as the demand isn’t given as much importance. She emphasized the need for two-way communication while thinking of learning from a student’s perspective. For me, it was interesting to think on these lines as I have previously not looked at education from a supply-demand perspective.

With increasing promotion and adoption of ed-tech, its success seems to have been simplified in terms of its reach, and the availability of devices. The content, its quality and impact on a student’s education that are equally important seem to have been missing from the conversations. It was interesting to see that this issue was recognised and stressed upon. The speakers also spoke about how not all methods would work for teaching all groups of students. Our education system has become very exam-focused, leading to the teaching process evolving to maximise results rather than learning. The sessions spoke on the need to recognising this and finding ways to create spaces that enable learning for all – equally for all groups.

An interesting method that is being followed in many places is asking students to provide feedback. This enables creating more comfortable spaces for students by allowing their opinions to be considered. Along with this, the importance of questioning was stressed upon – this is an important ability that helps students develop critical thinking skills. By not teaching students to question anything would create a world where everyone accepts everything as is. Establishing authoritative power over such a the population would be easy.

The patriarchal nature of our society has reflected on the education system too. Girls, women, and the differently-abled have been the worst sufferers. Some of the organizations, especially those teaching girls spoke about the challenges that they have had to deal with frequently. It was not looked at as an individualistic problem; the real systemic challenges were recognized and spoken about.

I really enjoyed all the sessions. It was interesting to learn the different methods organizations from different parts of India followed towards a more inclusive, child-centric better learning experience for all children. A day well spent!

Indu was one of the participants of Arthan’s ‘Future of Education‘ track held on July 3, 2020 (as a part of our long-term initiative, Building Civil Society Organisations of the Future).
Check out our upcoming tracks on our website: www.arthanevents.com

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