For more than two months now, all schools, colleges, and educational institutions in India have been shut, adversely impacting more than 32 crore students across the country.
While some schools have shifted to online teaching, low-cost private and government schools do not have the resources to do so.
Students, on the other hand, who are under social stress during the lockdown, are not only missing out on their education, but no longer have access to healthy meals and other resources that they had earlier.
A nonprofit, Dream a Dream, conducted a survey with schools in Karnataka, to gauge the impact of COVID-19 on them, and understand their concerns as well as the support they would require to get teaching and learning back on track.
The survey was administered to a total of 853 school principals, heads of institutions, and teachers (of three types of schools in the state, as shown below). About 75 percent of the schools were located in rural areas and the rest were in urban areas.
What are the Crucial Findings From the Report?
There are five major areas in which schools from the survey have requested support:
1. Ninety-five percent of the schools want to postpone board exams
The Karnataka government had decided to schedule board exams in end-June. However, the schools surveyed are not ready for the exams – they fear that students would not be able to clear them, given the lack of proper training or mock exams. Many students have also moved back to their home towns or villages due to the lockdown, and schools are unable to contact them.
2. Ninety-two percent of the schools seek reduction of the syllabus for the new academic year
While the states and central government are yet to finalise the dates and specifics of the new academic year, the schools surveyed suggest that considering the loss of instructional time, the syllabus of the coming year could be reduced to ensure that they are able to cope with it in a shorter time frame.
3. Ninety-seven percent of the schools require digital support
There are strong recommendations for schools to begin providing online and remote classes, but none of the schools surveyed have had any experience of teaching online.
Many teachers are not trained in handling online classes, and schools are also unable to contact students who have moved back to villages.
Therefore, they require help in the form of accessible digital learning solutions and training sessions for teachers.
To address this, appropriate teaching aids, digital resources, and training of teaching staff for remote, virtual, or blended learning should be provided by government authorities. These teaching solutions should be of high-quality and adaptable to any ecosystem.
4. Eighty-nine percent of the schools need financial support
Due to the lockdown, private schools in the survey have not been collecting fees for the past few months, and consequently, most have stopped paying salaries to their teachers and other staff. Schools expect some financial assistance from the government.
Stakeholders in the education system such as the government and civil society also need to work together to build the financial capability of schools. Some ways in which to do this include interest-free loans, tax subsidies, and free online teaching aids.
5. Ninety-six percent of the schools require support to address students’ well-being and mental health concerns
“Many of our students coming from a vulnerable background may need support and care as the pandemic has affected them badly,” says a principal from Mysore.
While most schools recognise the psychological and emotional needs of students in a post-lockdown classroom, they do not have definite plans or solutions to address them.
Further, the mental health and well-being of teachers needs to be addressed as well.
Given the increased rates of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation among children during the lockdown, school administrations should prioritise building a psychosocial support system within the school. Schools would also need to safeguard the physical health of students once they reopen.
This would require practical action guides and checklists for administrators, teachers, parents, and children that ensure safety of students from COVID-19. This can be done in coordination with the government and departments of education, with critical support from teachers, parents, and the local community.
Apart from these five areas of concern, schools are worried about the negative impact of the lockdown on learning outcomes, and the potential increase in dropouts. Most of them believe that student’s learning levels may have been impacted drastically. As one teacher in the survey says, “It’s a continuous effort by teachers to improve the learning levels of children, due to school lockdown, I am afraid they haven’t engaged in any learning activities.” Schools believe that they may have to begin again, right from the start, to improve reading and numerical abilities of students.
During the lockdown, many families and students travelled back to their home towns and villages. While most schools in the survey believe that a majority of the students will come back to school, they expect a delay in re-joining.
Teachers are concerned that if school closures continue further, there could be an increase in dropouts.
(The author is an intern at India Development Review. She is pursuing her undergraduate degree in economics from Daulat Ram College, University of Delhi. She has previously interned with the Global Tiger Forum and the Green Governance Initiative. This article was originally published on India Development Review and has been republished with permission. The views expressed in this article are that of the writer’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)