Nationwide disruptions in K-12 publishing in the pandemic era!
The revival and growth of the publishing industry is related to education policy making by the Government. Should this be seen as an opportunity or threat? Sesh Seshadri, CEO & Partner, Overleaf Books LLP & Director & General Manager, Lonely Planet, shares more on this vital topic.
Most of the educational publishers jumped into action immediately during this ongoing Covid-19 period. Some of them opened their digital platforms for free to all pupils, and some offered a few select chapters that can be utilized during the lockdown period. Having said that, most educational publishers had to make serious investments in expanding their capacity and support services.
Since only few schools have taught with digital structures so far, teachers, students, parents, and governments are facing (the entire educational system) a challenging situation to use digital offering for distant and home schooling.
Technology – are we ready?
UNESCO has flagged concerns of exclusion of a large number of students, mostly due to lack of access to technology. It is estimated that 1 billion students in 130 countries are affected.
Let us read the following data carefully, since this is the age where everyone is encouraged to analyse data before taking decisions:
If you read the above data, you will find very few schools have the digital infrastructure Pan India.
Besides, doctors are warning parents of the dangers of increased screen time on their children’s eyes. Recommended age bracket approach to screen time is: Age 3 and below – none; Age 4 – 14 up to 4 hours with at least two breaks.
Need for blended learning solutions
So, how are we preparing students for a new role in the new circumstances? How will the society respond and tackle this situation? Safety is the obvious one when it comes to reopening a school. Apart from that, schools are reviewing digital competency for instructional delivery, outcome, assessment, digital infrastructure in order to provide blended leaning solutions.
The noise is all about online, but that does not mean that the current system should be replaced completely.
Nationwide disruption to academic schedules
The recent announcements by CBSE/NCERT/CISCE/State Boards. Every one of the boards would like to cut down the syllabus between 25% to 50%. Does this mean we were overburdening students with vast syllabus before the pandemic?
Besides, there is cancellation of exams and automatic pass at the school leaving levels. This is going to have a major impact on the self-confidence of the students. This has increased anxiety. Most academics are unhappy with the internal assessment process which is open to inflating marks. How will the employers view these children’s academic record when they seek jobs? Could we have done something better than cancelling the exams.
Books not reaching the end-users…
Schools across the country are purchasing physical textbooks and many innovative methods are being used to send them in the hands of children. However, publishers, distributors and booksellers are struggling to send their stock out to the end user.
There are issues of the supplier being in containment zone or the receiver in the containment zone. In most schools, administrative staff are available and are preparing for school reopening. Most bookstores are open if they are in green zones.
The current challenge has forced some schools to go back to the practice adopted
20-30 years ago; of encouraging students to acquire second-hand books/used books, thereby recycling.
The role of government…
Government is planning to adopt a policy which in my view is not inclusive. There are three options/choices that are being programmed for immediate use:
- Students with access to home devices with internet
- Students with access to smart phones
- Student with access to community radio service AIR and/or TV channels
The RTE Act came into force on 1st April 2010 with a clear view of universalization of education until the age of 14. In the digital delivery policy 1,2, 3 stated earlier there is
Another important policy matter the Government must address is revisiting of the proposed NEP which is still at pre-legislative process. Post the pandemic, it requires a complete overhaul. This is one of the most important action the government should initiate keeping the future course of education.
Can we work on the PPP model?
Here is a great opportunity to encourage PPP models in opening new schools and also hand over Government run schools to the private sector with well thought out guidelines. It is important to analyse and compare the high salaries paid to Government teachers with that of private school teachers and the cost to the exchequer.
Challenges posed by public at large…
In this pandemic, parents are not paying fees, thereby teachers’ livelihood is affected. Schools are struggling with cash flow issues while their expenditure is shooting up for investment in technology and operational expenses for keeping their premises sanitized and unlock ready. Every school has several support staff who are vulnerable to the economic impact and parents are not thinking about them. So much is written about migrant labour but truly little about the maintenance staff in school premises including catering staff, gardeners, classroom assistants, drivers and many such support staff.
Guru Dakshina – the tradition is one of acknowledgment, respect, and thanks and is a form of reciprocity and exchange between student and teacher. We should continue to respect this.
Primary school children must get back to school
Physical education, social skills, soft skills, school friends, growing up process are all important for this age group. Many safe ways are being recommended and there are good international best practices. Regular classroom schedule can commence, and teaching should resume in full pace.
E-learning: not the solution
Are we equipped for e-learning in the short term, the answer is a loud NO. e-learning can never replace traditional classroom learning. Schools need time to create the digital infrastructure to deliver online learning. Having said that, it is not the responsibility of the school to ensure that adequate infrastructure is available in student’s homes. How do we solve this puzzle? Are the schools pressuring parents and children? There is a need to frame guidelines on online education for school going children.
More research is needed, and it should be left to the local school to consult its parents and the local community around them rather than a government didact believing that one size fits all. Teachers should be given freedom to innovate and deliver at local levels.
Whether it is in-school classroom or online classroom, teacher is the sole owner of the class – let us not ignore this important factor. Besides, students are not asked for their opinions, it is parents, schools, and teachers. Can we devise a method to keep the students in the loop?
Let us not write an Epitaph for Brick-and-Mortar schools!