Challenges For The School Education Sector In Pandemic Times

By Ritesh Mishra
By Ritesh Mishra

As opposed to an epidemic, which affects a large number of people across a community or population, or region, a pandemic is across countries.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been described as the biggest global pandemic spreading across the entire world and has affected countries and populations and individuals in several ways. The pandemic also changed the world economy drastically.

Unemployment rates have increased and many people have also seen cuts in salary. This has had a direct impact on the various industrial and social sectors including the education sector which is vital for ensuring a better present and future for the entire world.

While the year 2020 was certainly one of the most terrible years for all in recent decades, and possibly the worst year for the world after World War II, 2021 promises to be a better year, and the most important reason is that various COVID-19 vaccines have come up. Increased vaccination and more testing in months to come are likely to be the key to defeating this dreaded pandemic.

COVID-19 has posed various challenges for different sectors. In this article, I propose to have a look at the challenges faced by the school education sector. I will analyze the challenges from four points of view, the management, the teachers, the students, and the parents.

All are important stakeholders who have been affected severely. This is a huge topic and it is certainly not possible to address all the issues in just one article. However, I will certainly try to touch upon the major issues involved.

Challenges for Management;

In 2020, schools (and colleges as well) came to a grinding halt throughout the world. In the initial days of the Pandemic, there was a need for bigger buildings for temporary COVID centers since the medical infrastructure was not yet equipped to face this gigantic human and medical problem.

Hence schools and colleges had mostly been taken over, for contrasting and different periods of time. Later, the challenges of disinfecting and proper cleaning had to be addressed to make the buildings fit again to become educational institutions.

Recently, some educations have slowly started functioning again. They needed to be intensively cleaned once again and rules for physical and social distancing laid down clearly and unambiguously. Management also has to deal with staff shortages, rotation of staff/faculty, and other similar issues.

A major problem is that unlike other issues/problems of the past, COVID-19 is something totally new and there are no precedents and no guides for management who have to take decisions, some of which have to be tough, on their own without any helping hints from the past.

The final point I would like to state is the issues of fees. This is a ticklish issue for management since while costs have increased, they do not have the liberty of passing on the costs to the students and their parents. There is also the challenge of imparting quality education online rather than offline or in-person.

Parents and students also objected to paying the same amount of fees for online coaching which they had been ready to do so for classroom coaching. It became a challenge for management to assure them that their future was safe and would not be compromised. 

Challenges for Teachers

Teachers have to face the challenge of teaching online. This was not something they were totally used to. In many cases, they had to first teach themselves how to handle various tools such as zoom or Webex, or google meet and then try and teach the students through such tools. Teachers also face challenges such as poor network, either from their side or from the side of the students.

One peculiar problem is that the teachers often have to ask the students to mute themselves and to switch the camera off. Unfortunately, in such a situation, they really will not be able to know, which student is actually listening to them and frankly speaking, which student has initially logged on and then gone back to sleep or i doing something else such as watching Netflix or playing video games while being technically logged on to the class with rest of the students.

What do they have to do? The only solution seems to be to ask random and sudden questions to different students and check whether they are being attentive. Students will also have to be patiently told that if they are deliberately sleeping, playing video games, etc then the loss will primarily be theirs only. Maybe a collaborative approach with parents can also help as well in ensuring proper participation by students.

Challenges for Parents

Every parent wants their children to do well and most parents are happiest when their children outshine them and have a better career than them. COVID-19 issues caused huge stress in parents. Their children could be in other cities or even in other countries and every different place has its own pandemic issues and parents felt so helpless that being in a different place they could not do anything for their children.

Even if they are in the same place and house, parents had to face tremendous stress since they could see that children were sometimes losing interest in online teaching.

Many parents had to face financial difficulty as well as regards payment of fees, extra costs incurred for the purchase of gadgets and installation of wifi, etc for their kids to attend online classes. One more challenge for parents was channelizing the hyper energy of active kids who were stuck at home.

Every challenge is unique in itself and requires its own solution which will vary from parent to parent and child to child.

Challenges for Students

Last but not the least, we come to challenges for students. The year has been extremely distressing for them. Once again, the challenge has been different for children of different classes and even in the same category as well. For instance, the hardest hit obviously were those in crucial class 10 and 12, and then school children in class 9 and 11 as well since these are feeder years for the more important subsequent year.

An important aspect was that middle school, senior school, and university children are better equipped and more cognitively developed to rationalize e-classrooms, the same is not true for younger children.

At a younger age, learning is a lot through playing and through actual peer interactions. This unfortunately was not possible. Further, one also does not know whether more use of gadgets at a younger age will be helpful. Probably not, and rather an actual book reading would be more advisable.

However, since there was no choice, the role of parents, teachers, and older siblings becomes very important to ensure that gadgets are correctly used.

The most important challenge for students of course was paying attention. Frankly, one cannot blame them. It is not easy to have the same focus and concentration for online coaching as it is towards classroom coaching, especially for several hours a day.

However, as is with all challenges, they can be met and met successfully. It is seen that during exams, students go through a lot of pressure, including peer pressure, even if they portray themselves as cool, calm, and collected. This pressure reduced significantly. Students got more time for themselves and to look after their health, including mental health. This made them more productive, even if not related to academics.

Students also got more time for online competitions and MUNS etc ( Mock United Nations competition). It overall helped children to destress and be happier as workload reduced significantly.

Conclusion

What is ahead? It is expected that slowly and steadily, classroom teaching will restart. Initially, norms of physical distancing are likely to be there, which will mean that teachers may need to do multiple shifts and teach the same things two or three times to students of the same class.

Possibly, transport such as school buses may not start for some time, which will mean that parents and children will have to make their own arrangements to reach school and go back home. There could be a new hybrid system of teaching, which will be partly online and partly classroom teaching. This would be a challenge for the management to come up with such a system that will be acceptable to all stakeholders and also ensure that the primary goal of effective teaching is met.

I am sure of one thing. The challenges will be successfully met and students who are our future will make the world a better place.

About the Author:

The blogger, Ritesh Misra, is an IRS Officer. He can be reached at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Pragativadi and Pragativadi.com does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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