As India and the world face a completely unprecedented crisis due to spread of Covid‐19 virus, our social institutions have great opportunity to bring in the right order. You, as Principals, can influence the entire education system to not just deal with the current emergency but also build foundation to face such difficult future events.Yes, you have your anxieties and fairly so. Yet there is tremendous window to rethink many things.
Covering the course. With more academic days getting lost, you may be wondering how will you catch up when the country reopens. Don’t get consumed by this incredible demand. Rather leverage certain untapped resources. What about those fringe agents who also have experimented huge deal on education? Can the homeschooling community be involved for some lateral solutions? Can outfits that have built high credibility around learning through art, music, cinema, quizzes, gardening, informal setups and so on be summoned for handy toolboxes? Let the focus forever shift to ‘learning’ from ‘schooling’.
It takes a village to raise a child. Everyone knew that it is not school’s responsibility alone to teach the child, yet no big breakthrough was coming in. Let us relook at the various symbiotic relationships – human to human, human to nature and nature to nature – that can share the burden of child’s education. Time to move beyond the customary parent‐teacher meetings and invite parents to a much deeper and long‐term relationship. Can they really become your partners in the child’s education? The school must engage with the parents to understand source of child’s temperament, rhythm, habits, mindset and inclinations. There has to be a synergy between the home environment and school environment. Parents indeed are vital to build a learning community. Exposure to diverse kind of parents and their vocations will allow children to deeply appreciate and respect the differences.
Hand-Heart-Head. Head centric rote learning must give in to experiential learning. Now is the time to reintroduce ‘learn by doing’, to tilt the balance away from head heavy theoretical education. Therefore, hand is placed before heart and head. Activate the triad of children, parent and teacher to work on problems that they see in their community and geography. Textbook cannot be the only source of knowledge, but should support children to construct knowledge through all sources around them, such as people, their vocation, their environment and so on.
Kitchen can be an immense learning resource. Our homes, and especially the kitchens inside our homes, remain the most underrated and underused place for child’s development. Kitchen is perhaps the best lab one has at home. So much of experiments go on there and with real tools. Children must take part in the kitchen work and there can be no better time than this to get started. Tell the parents of your school to include their children in kitchen work. Not only will they learn one of the most important survival skills – cooking – they can learn STEM through classification, organization, quantities, proportions, thermal conductivity, chemical reactions, audits, optimization, hygiene, timing, nutrition, and even home remedies for many more. They will also learn about interdependency, collaboration and joy in community work.
Upkeep is a course in itself. Upkeep of our space was perhaps done by helpers till now. It is now time to take this task on as a lesson in space management, time management and self-management. Until we learn to manage our own space, and understand how little time it takes to do so if we all work together, we cannot possibly learn to manage our selves. Inspire the teachers and children to take responsibility to manage their class rooms, labs and libraries and help them to manage their environment better in the future. They will also be able to understand the importance of mundane work like cleaning toilets and class rooms and appreciate the effort it takes to keep spaces hygienic thereby generating respect for the service providers. Already there are instances of schools providing space and time for gardening. It is also important to know how we can easily make cleaning agents like bio enzymes and soaps! That we can grow herbs that heal! The world needs a paradigm shift! And you can facilitate this if you choose.
Build resilience for climate change. For years, we have now heard about climate change. UN talks about it. Researchers do it. More and more governments are taking actions now. Perhaps nothing affects our well being more directly than climate. It is only a matter of time that ‘climate change’ will find its coveted place in school curriculum. While that happens, prepare yourself, your teachers, your school to celebrate ‘contribution’ more than ‘consumerism’. Now, because of Covid-19,we are forced to minimize unnecessary consumption. Imagine if this becomes the new normal. We will have a much better planet for ourselves.
It’s also the time to embrace technology – doesn’t matter it is Internet based or not. Group video calls, conference calls, simple voice calls can help in effectively communicating with each other. Make judicious use of it to work with the students and parents. At the same time, sensitize parents about possible trauma that can happen to children because of exposure to age inappropriate content.
Covid-19 is showing us that when humanity is united in common cause, phenomenally rapid change is possible. Spread love and lead by example, as you always have.