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School Opening: A long wait is over!

Every cloud has a silver lining. It is indeed delightful to see the young children out in the streets wearing colorful dresses. The air is abuzz with the hustle and bustle at the dawn of the new spring in the post-pandemic times. It is equally important not to lower the guard and the covid related protocols must be followed.

The last three years have transformed the concept of education in many ways. Our heads of the institutions and the teachers must get ready for a different school atmosphere this time with updated knowledge, skills, attitudes, and management of affairs.

The students got exposed to online education through different tools and applications. There are some encouraging results in the blended mode of teaching-learning but it is still in infancy in this part of the world and needs improvement and infrastructure to flourish.

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Researchers, policymakers, administrators, and educators have witnessed huge learning gaps in the last three years. There is a need to identify the learning outcomes at every level and develop special courses to bridge the gaps created by the closure of schools.

The New Education Policy-2020 is being rolled out. We are in a transitory phase from content-based pedagogy to competency-based pedagogy. The learner/child is the center of all the activities and a classroom is now a place of skill demonstration through activities conceived by the teacher. This is called the constructivist approach.

The teacher’s talk time is minimised and the learner’s talk time has maximised. So, the curriculum, teaching, and planning are organised in a way that the learner becomes the primary target. Through this new method, the teacher is only a mentor who leads and guides the learners to focus on the objectives of the subject.

This is only possible by engaging the learners in activities and by adopting innovative modern teaching methods. The teachers need to encourage the learners to embrace the current teaching methods which will help in reducing the competition among the students, promote cooperation, and boost the healthy study environment.

At the elementary stage, we are implementing National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN) Baharat as a flagship program. According to the World Bank’s Learning Poverty Index, 55% of India’s school-going children cannot read and understand a short age-appropriate text by class 5.13-18% of students from class 3,5, and 8 are below basic learning levels, and only 39-55% have achieved proficiency as per National Assessment Survey (NAS) 2017.

Research suggests that class 3 is the inflection point and only if the children learn to read by then do they read to learn later. This has been addressed by the NEP-2020 which highlights that a large proportion of students currently in elementary level estimated to be over 5 crores have not achieved foundational literacy and numeracy.

The policy further reiterates that it is imperative to address this crisis head-on and immediately so that basic learning can be accomplished in schools, and all students may thereby gain the opportunity to obtain an education of quality. Attaining foundational literacy and numeracy for all children must become an immediate national mission.

Students, along with their schools, teachers, parents, and communities must be urgently supported and encouraged in every way possible to help carry out this all-important target and mission, which indeed forms the basis of all future learning. (NEP-2020)

There is a shift in the process of assessment from the Comprehensive Continuous Evaluation (CCE) to the School-Based Assessment (SBA). The first thing that our teachers have to work on is the process of assessment. The NEP 20-20 suggests that SBA should be started by the session 2022-23. Through this new process of assessment, all students will take the examination in grades 3,5,8,10, and 12..

These exams will be conducted by an appropriate authority along with the state board of school education. In addition to it, there is a 360-degree holistic progress card that will give a complete account of the learner in terms of knowledge, skills, and attitude in each grade which will be assessed through assessment as learning and assessment for learning as the all-important tools.

These examinations will test achievement of basic learning outcomes through assessment of core concepts and knowledge from the national and local curricula, along with relevant higher-order skills and application of knowledge in real-life situations, rather than rote memorization. The Grade 3 examination, in particular, will test basic literacy, numeracy, and other foundational skills. (NEP-2020)

It is proposed to set up a National Assessment Centre, PAREKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development), as a standard-setting body under MHRD that fulfills the basic objectives of setting norms, standards, and guidelines for student assessment and evaluation for all recognized school boards of India, guiding the State Achievement Survey (SAS) and undertaking the National Achievement Survey (NAS), monitoring achievement of learning outcomes in the country, and encouraging and helping school boards to shift their assessment patterns towards meeting the skill requirements of the 21st century in consonance with the stated objectives of the Policy. (NEP-2020)

The NEP 2020 aligns with the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4.7) which ensures 100 percent free and quality education up to the elementary level by the end of the year 2030. The United Nations adopted the agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in New York in the year 2015.

There are 17 goals including a new goal (SDG 4) that confirms inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. This goal also ensures sustainable development of human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship, and appreciation of cultural diversity and cultures contribution to sustainable development by the year 2030.

So, there is a need to shift our gears to forward positions with the energy of 21st -century skills (the globally active world, digitally transforming, collaboratively moving forward, creatively progressing, seeking competent human-resource and, quick in adopting changes.

Critical Thinking, Creativity & Innovation, Collaboration, Communication, Information Literacy, Media Literacy, Technology Literacy, Flexibility and Adaptability, Leadership and Responsibility, Initiative and Self-Direction, Social and Cross-Cultural Interaction ); where knowledge sharing is prioritised in addition to higher-order thinking skills (HOTS) as the competencies required to be successful and relevant at our positions and for our learners to be compatible with the current job markets and in the world of ethics, emotions, and values.

Today, because of rapid economic and social change, schools have to prepare students for jobs that have not yet been created, technologies that have not yet been invented and problems that we don’t yet know will arise,” says OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development)

The first things first approach leads us to develop Effective Communication, Involved Learning with Health and Wellbeing in our learners at the elementary level, and to help them to tread on the path of higher-order thinking skills as per NEP -2020.

In conclusion, we expect to see the schools as the centers of excellence. The HOIs are the prime movers of leading changes to enable transformation while initiating proactive practices. They as the nucleus of the system can’t afford to lack effective management skills which results in low levels of learning outcomes.

The decision-making, innovation, and personality of the HOI affect the quality of education in an institute. There is a need for a paradigm shift from conventional thinking to real-life practices on long-term developmental trajectories on the part of school heads and teachers.

Thus, the new opening of schools has come up with many opportunities and challenges for our HOIs and teachers who must explore their strengths and find out their weaknesses about NEP-2020, SDG-4, NIPUN Baharat, 21st Century Skills, SBA, and HOIs as transformational agents to upgrade to this developing environment and to be relevant in the post-pandemic era in the middle of the huge progress in information and communication technology where at many places learners are ahead of their teachers.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

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