Education institutions provide structure for learning, socialisation, language skills, and collaboration for kids. Pandemic is changing the landscape of education. All the stakeholders of the education industry are affected. All grades are unlikely to open for 2021-22 and uncertainty of reopening of schools for 2022-23 continues. Several teachers have lost their jobs or have had to take a cut in salary. Kids learning online are seen as cheap and collection of school fees continue to be challenging. If schools don’t open till 2022 which it is very likely and that would mean two or three years of education gap. Schools may be left with a blended option. How can we expect children to learn any of the skills that schools teach?

Even if schools open, some parents' concern of infection to kids and in turn family members getting infected would hamper the possibility of kids attending school 2023. How are schools prepared to embrace children who are likely to have education gaps? What would schools do if parents and kids ask for online classes not offline or not even blended?

Several questions on school as a system stand tall! or Is it just a pause? Will it be permanent? Will our education system wait, wait, and wait for a solution?

To explore on several such issues, three seasoned educationist share their views in two conversations -

1. Fr. Nicky (Nicolau D’Costa) who is serving as a Principal at St. Theresa High School, Bandra Mumbai

2. Principal Mrs. A N Suryavathy who is serving as a Principal at Harvest International School, Bengaluru.

3. Mrs. Gowramma K S, who is serving as Vice Principal at Harvest International School, Bengaluru.

Excerpts from the conversations -

Q1: When movie theatres, malls, bars and restaurants can be opened. Why not schools? I understand an argument that one doesn’t shop every day or watch movies in the hall each day unlike kids who would be in schools every day. In other way, I am asking if school isn't an essential category?

"Responsibility & fear are two factors that are stopping schools from reopening," said Fr. Nicky

"Places like malls, movie halls are for recreation and it can be a choice. Whereas Education isn't a choice," said Gowramma

One infection can make headlines and all the stakeholders will be in question. Responsibility is going round and round in all stakeholders' heads. When will all the stakeholders find a solution that saves the future of kids? Several states like Karnataka have initiated the reopening of schools. After reopening for Grade 9-12, from September 6th onwards Grade 6-8 will see a beginning. However, doubts of closing again with wave 3 stalking us would be no surprise!

Q2: Several reports suggest parents are looking forward to their kids going to school. Why are those opinions not heard? However, wave 2 must have changed some parents' decisions. But, I would like to believe several might still want to send their kids to school as for some would be first generation in education where school would be an only means for education.

"87% parents responded No to school reopening to survey conducted by the school," said A N Suryavathy

Q3: Last year in July a report said 40K teachers lost their jobs. Another report this July states 55% teachers face salary cuts & 20-25% revenue dip. I have three questions to ask -

One side is the job loss but the other side is also about the talent being taken away.

3a) How are schools prepared to retain teachers?

3b) How are schools prepared to handle online & offline in 2022-23 if the government doesn’t mandate offline classes? Which I foresee that they wouldn’t mandate.

3c) What would school do if the majority of parents and kids insist on online classes in the future?

Q4: Adults have a choice to move out with work or purchases. Whereas kids are mostly indoor and several don’t have access to online education as well. How are schools prepared to embrace them if schools reopen in 2022? What would happen if the situation remains similar till 2023? Is it going to be a confusing and disturbing time for kids and parents who missed straight 3 years of education?

"Education system is likely to have a new normal and all the stakeholders will have to accept it," said Fr. Nicky.

"Education in the future is moving to a blended learning where practicals/ hands-on classes would happen in school whereas some classes would be online," said Gowramma

What are your thoughts? Appreciate it!