From personalized courses to teacher training for emotional support, schools reopen with personalized learning program
In its recently released report, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education recommended several measures to close the learning gap in a post-pandemic world. Recommendations include: additional lessons, reduced vacations, assignment of expert teachers for personalized coaching, parenting engagement, group and collaborative learning.
While the learning gap is one of the pressing concerns, there are various other factors that have hindered a student’s growth. While some have lost a parent, many others have lost interest in the medium of online learning. Many parents also complain about the increase in screen time affecting the mental well-being of their children. With the reopening of schools, these institutions now have various areas to work on for the overall development of a child.
Learning is affected during the pandemic year
According to a recent field study carried out by the Azim Premji Foundation, “the teaching and learning approach will have to respond not only to the change of curriculum, but also to the socio-emotional problems of the students”.
Speaking to indianexpress.com, Dr Shalini Advani, Principal of Pathways School Noida, said that students’ mental health and well-being are some of the important factors. “To meet the socio-emotional needs of students, we have a team of counselors who visit classrooms to monitor student activities. There are also classes on mindfulness and emotional well-being for students, ”said Advani.
Meanwhile, the Khaitan Public School in Ghaziabad is focusing more on training teachers to become counselors. The school reopened its campus for grades 9-11 starting in September and will resume offline classes for grades 6-8 from October 1.
“We enrolled teachers in the Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEE) course offered by Emury University and the Dalai Lama. The course provides educators with the tools they need to foster the development of emotional, social and ethical intelligence for students and for themselves, ”said Anirudh Khaitan, vice president of Khaitan Public School, Ghaziabad .
Deepak Garg, a resident of Gurugram, lost his wife in the second wave of Covid-19. Deepak said it is extremely difficult to understand what is going on in the mind of his 7-year-old daughter.
“Once a talkative child, she only utters a few words. Its performance in online courses has also declined. While the teachers and schools have been overwhelmingly supportive throughout the phase, I am concerned about how she will fare in the classroom, ”Garg said.
There are many other families, where a child has lost one of its parents and is now reluctant to enter a space on its own.
“No need to define a schedule”
The Lycée Français International de Delhi is focusing on prioritizing student mental health from the early days of the reopening of schools. The French school has divided its strategy according to the age group of the children.
“For kindergarten students, our goal is to familiarize them with the school environment, improve their social skills and not focus on studying for the first few weeks. Initially, these children are not bound by school timetables and are allowed to leave with their parents when they feel comfortable. Once all the children adapt to the classroom environment, a fixed schedule will be created, ”explained Martial Bey, primary school principal, International French School of Delhi.
Meanwhile, for elementary classes, the school focuses on children’s adaptability to classroom learning. “These children are coming to school after a gap of more than a year. We encourage group activities following distance standards, ”Bey said.
Suchitra Academy International School, Hyderabad has reopened its campus for students with a plan to conduct academic activities outdoors or in different locations instead of restricting students to classrooms.
“We have set up a partnership program where a teacher connects with around 12 children each week with different modules like ‘know yourself’. The counselors spoke to the children in general, then specific sessions on different topics were scheduled. We are seeing a sudden loss of focus and fear of taking an offline exam, ”KV Praveen Raju, founder of Suchitra Academy International School, told indianexpress.com.
While many schools are currently implementing the socio-emotional aspect in the curriculum, the Seth Anand Ram Jaipuria School in Kanpur had taken the steps a year ago.
“We have witnessed changes in student learning and behavior patterns in the early months of online learning. Therefore, we have improved our curriculum by including four main aspects: self-awareness, self-management, environmental awareness and strategic decision-making. Discussion sessions were also organized for one-on-one interaction with the students, ”said Shikha Banerjee, principal of the Seth AnandRam Jaipuria school in Kanpur.
Train teachers to fill learning gaps
While socio-emotional support is one aspect of post-covid education, another pressing concern is the learning gap created as a result of online education.
According to a UNICEF study, a substantial proportion of students and their parents said students were learning much less compared to pre-pandemic levels. In India, 80 percent of children aged 14-18 reported lower learning levels than they physically had at school.
“The safe reopening of schools should be seen as a top priority for all governments. At the same time, investing in teachers will ensure that teachers and schools can adapt to any situation. The more teachers are trained, equipped and supported in distance and blended learning, the better they will be able to reach all their students, ”the study said.
Gunjan Mehta, mother of nine from Surat, said her son, who was among the top performing students in her class, is now struggling to match his previous performance in online mode. “For kids like my son who are interactive and attention seeking and need to be appreciated in order to work hard, online classes have proven to be a difficult option. My son’s interest in studying has greatly diminished. To close this learning gap, I have to give him extra time. I hope that reopening the school will help improve its performance, ”said Mehta.
Jaipuria School Kanpur has addressed the problem of learning gaps by conducting surveys and online surveys of students. On this basis, three groups of pupils were identified: in group 1, the children follow the program and are ready to learn; group 2 students are good at studying but don’t want to learn; and group 3 students are ready to learn but are not on par with the curriculum.
“These groups are identified but the students are not informed of this segregation. These students are given worksheets, a learning program based on their current level of understanding. The aim is to close the learning gap created at the end of the session, ”explained the school principal.
However, experts suggest that parents shouldn’t worry about their children’s loss of learning, especially in primary grades. “A child’s founding years are crucial, but children’s gripping power is at its highest. Children will easily bridge the gap created by online learning once offline classes resume, ”said Public School Vice President Khaitan.
Parents fear sending pupils to schools
Meanwhile, many parents are reluctant to send their children to schools that are skeptical about their children’s safety.
“My daughter really wants to go back to school but we are afraid because the third wave of Covid-19 is predictive. In addition, there are no vaccines available for children yet. We won’t send him to school for about a month, ”said Shama Tripathi, a parent from Kanpur.
Suchitra Academy founder Praveen Raju said that at this point the first effort for schools is to make parents understand that it is extremely important to send children to school. Blended learning creates a new divide.
“Once most kids are in school, the first thing we’re ready with are diagnostic assessments. An understanding of the needs of each child and a precise and focused path must be traced where the participation of the parents will be crucial. The most important thing that can happen to children to bridge this gap would be to make them feel confident and happy, only then can they work hard, ”he said.