We have almost come to the end of June; in the normal course of events, by mid-June all students would have been back in school, classmates hugging each other and the school curriculum operational in full swing. Not ‘this’ June, however. Not only do schools continue to be closed, there’s no visibility either on what the future holds for students and teachers, given the COVID-19 curve in the country that shows little sign of flattening.

Just as everywhere else, schools in the city are apprehensive. It is unlike any situation they’ve faced before. “I think the education system has never been questioned like this before, because it was convenient to not think about it. But today schools are forced to innovate,” says Naveen Mahesh, Managing Trustee of Headstart Learning Centre (HLC) in Thalambur.

The huge impact of COVID on schooling is visible in that there’s no consistency in the teaching methodology that schools are following. Karnataka has already banned online classes for kindergarten and primary class students. Some schools are resorting to video conferences, while others are using recorded video lessons and resources or YouTube links to impart knowledge.

Many schools in Chennai have started online classes for kindergarten and primary. Priya (name changed) says, “I have to sit with my child to operate the laptop and manage my office work at the same time. It is not easy.”

With many parents also working as front-line COVID workers, they are finding it increasingly difficult to adjust to this change.

Schools themselves are not clear on when they can start physical classes. Most are waiting for the state government to instruct them. But parents are still not confident of sending their children back to school. Prabha Dixit says, “We need to find a middle ground. And most schools are yet to figure that out. We cannot replicate the entire offline learning experience in the online mode; at the same time, we cannot say no to virtual learning.”

“What we need to think of now is how we can keep the child’s creativity and passion alive. Schools should not assess all children in the same manner. The world is richer due to our differences, not by our similarity,” says Naveen who insists on nurturing ideas and creativity in children rather than a text-book based approach.

He adds, “I would say one of the drawbacks of our system is we have a curriculum due to which everyone is forced to master the same knowledge, which does not help.”

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