The announcement of mass vaccination against Coronavirus in India and elsewhere in the World has brought hope and optimism back in humanity. As a component of this good news, vaccinations will progress logically to inoculate people and this signifies the triumph of human spirit and pursuit of science & technology.
However, the bigger component of this optimism is revival and building back. There was big talk of rethink and re-imagination all through this nearly 9-month long pandemic. There has been much discussion and brainstorming around learning, teaching and the learning ecosystem. The closure of schools and institutions of higher education for such long has been unprecedented and it will have its own repercussions, costs and learning. The danger, however, is human memory being short-lived, will tend to forget it rather quickly as the new normal stabilizes in coming months.
People with agenda are always around and they exploit the situation smartly. Inclusiveness through education is a durable national objective with inherent and embedded sustainability quotient. So policy planners and governments must rise to the occasion and restore primacy of education through liberal provisions and enabling ecosystems.
Online to hybrid is most likely going to be the mode of teaching/learning and while those with resources particularly in the private sector will make their offerings better and attractive, a large number of small and medium schools in private sector along with bulk of municipal and other government schools, will be left behind. The digital divide is a reality and can’t be bridged overnight but a sort of national mapping of infrastructure will demarcate the areas of attention and this must be a priority for the country.
The human capital in education in the form of teachers is more than ever precious. Already a large number of edtech companies are busy in recruiting good teachers for content and delivery but if it is encouraged at a scale, it will affect organic process of churning quality teachers. Identification of best teachers and promoting them to mentor and leadership roles must be a national programme. It will have twin benefits of having a resource pool for training subject teachers as well as make teaching inspirational as a career.
The pandemic has devastated children in more ways than others. Their lives have been disrupted, their vulnerability has increased and above this their state of mental health will bear scars of the first two for years together. The children need special package, they need more voice and attention. They need their childhood back. Those who risk dropping out must be rescued. Child labor, child trafficking and child marriage must be prevented at all costs. The law enforcement agencies need to be proactive. Social sector organizations and groups must lend support to this effort.
With union budget 2021 coming up, there is an opportunity to ink some of the above-said intentions. A signal of increased public spending on education, children and skilling can set the process in motion. The ecosystem needs galvanization and incentives in this nation building effort,.