The Indian school system is one of the largest in the world, with 247+ million learners and 9+ million teachers across 1.5+million schools. On Monday, March 16th, 2020 the Indian Government announced the closure of all educational institutions and the implementation of a 21-day nation-wide lockdown. For many, classes and examinations have been suspended until further notice. Depending on how long the current lockdown lasts there will be an impact on the duration of the academic year, which will in turn severely impact students, as the planned syllabus will have to be covered over a shorter period of time.
Unlike urban communities where schools have already adopted remote learning solutions, there is limited access to dedicated devices, amongst peri-urban and rural community stakeholders. Lack of connectivity and tech-savviness is posing major roadblocks in the transition to online learning. The expected impact on local communities if the lockdown continues and schools remain closed for a longer period will be harder to combat due to the inherent challenges in these areas, such as limited access to dedicated devices for students, low technology readiness of school staff who often have had limited exposure to online tools and methods of delivery and teaching.
Below you will find three examples of initiatives our HundrED Ambassadors and Innovators have taken to help combat the disruptive effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in India.
Learning Forward India, a professional learning community-led by Sandeep and Devanjali Dutt, is helping galvanise their community to handle the social and emotional connect on the ground in the lockdown. Devanjali shares,
"Before the COVID-19 Crisis, Professional Learning seemed a drag and most teachers were not finding the necessary space and time to look at their personal and social development needs. Today, as we do not have formal school, the focus is on their skill development, they need a plan for the day and look forward to a structured approach. The Joy Of Learning Program (our flagship offering) was built to help teachers at this hour of crises, with a focus on the values that will help children be prepared for the future, overcome the social upheaval, and learn to appreciate the community as well as the environment. "
Learning Forward has taken this lockdown as an opportunity to coach teachers. Multiple studies reveal that teachers’ capacity building strategies enhance students’ performance. Supporting teachers positively also furthers the growth of other key stakeholders, such as students and parents, within learning communities. As a professional learning organisation supporting nearly 400 members and five schools, Learning Forward has taken the following steps:
- Delivering support modules to coach and enable teachers to overcome their tech roadblocks by offering sessions on using various tools and applications
- Offering their flagship professional development programs across 11 sessions of both structured training sessions and self-directed professional learning with increasing amounts of self-directed time as they progress from week to week.
- Providing regular webinars and short sessions on defined themes chosen by the target group to support them in their individual learning journeys.
- Hosting short remote group sessions to take on assignments and discuss solutions to chosen in-class scenarios.
- Conducting dedicated one on one sessions for school leaders/principals to mentor and guide them in the task of remotely managing teaching and non-teaching staff.
- Sharing best practices and inspirational stories across social platforms to applaud and recognise steps taken by their target communities to fight the on-ground impact of the pandemic
From another corner of the country, Ganesh Subramanian, Director at Chrysalis India, shares,
"India has taken ‘social distancing’ pretty seriously and the entire country is in lockdown mode since 24th March. Children from our local community attend either government or private schools. To combat anxiety caused by the COVID pause, the government has declared that all children will be ‘promoted’ to the next grade without any formal year-end academic assessment. Additionally, students who attend government schools are ofter from poor, low-income communities. For them, the COVID pandemic has brought upon additional community-led challenges (looking at the highly-populated communities they live in, social distancing is nearly impossible) thereby making coping up with education least of their priorities, and rightfully so."
Across the country, many educational service organizations have opened up their EdTech platforms free of cost to engage children. It's a little too early to measure the engagement of children, let alone the effectiveness of this approach. But COVID 19 has definitely encouraged local educators to rethink and reimagine the use of EdTech. In Chennai, Chrysalis has been working to engage parents and children to learn in a meaningful and joyful manner. Their resource created using advisory excerpts from Sri Balasubramanium G, Former Director of Academics at the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), has proved to be easy to understand and fairly popular. Chrysalis is also conducting e-CPD modules for teachers with the caption ‘Work From Home' to 'Learn From Home'.
In a city not far from Chennai, Yasmin Mas, Founder of Skill Theatre has enabled her team of volunteers to engage and educate rural students through engaging theatrical activities and games. She prioritized children based on 3 levels of connectivity:
- Level 1: Children with good internet facilities but with limited to no learning opportunities.
- Level 2: Children with good internet facilities and many learning opportunities especially through their school remote learning program.
- Level 3: Children with no internet facilities and poor internet connection without any learning opportunities.
Volunteers and children with good connectivity were engaged through Google Hangouts and Whatsapp, whereas students who had bad connectivity were provided one-on-one sessions through phone calls or voice texts. Due to the high demand for such interactions, Yasmin and her team of volunteers employed youth from countries like the US, UK, UAE, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and New Zealand to create better learning opportunities for students in rural India.
Applauded by parents and children alike, Yasmin hopes to engage another group of fifty children from her communities to make every child feel heard, positive and encouraged during this pandemic.
With a high possibility that India will stay in Lockdown for the next few weeks, there is a need to use this as an opportunity to support educators and learners in a variety of formats. From Zoom, WhatsApp, G Suite, Google Blogger, and Social Media platforms to one-on-one calls and texts, we are incredibly inspired by the work being done by our Indian Ambassadors on the ground. For more such stories and innovative solutions, head to our Quality Education for all during COVID-19 Spotlight page!