Coronavirus has plunged the world into uncertainty. Doubts are being raised on reopening of schools. There is no clarity if and when exams and evaluation would be completed. Will the schools reopen will all students in attendance or will schools be opened to different classes? Will there be social distancing in school transport? What would be the fate of students seeking admission abroad? These and many more questions are answered by school leaders.
The survey would cover all the regions of the country. Here is the second installment covering Tamil Nadu
‘We are creating archives for the future’: Tushar R Kikani, Correspondent, Kikani Institutions, Coimbatore
The outbreak of the coronavirus has caught everyone on the wrong foot but only a few are capable to make the most even in the worst of times. The Kikani Institutions are now creating a data bank for all future eventualities.
Speaking to Brainfeed Magazine, Tushar Kikani said, “We are creating a robust data bank for Math and Science and later add other subjects. We are creating archives so that in the future the students do not suffer”
Joining the tech bandwagon
It is time all hop onto the technology bandwagon says Tushar. We are having a separate room and all sessions recorded live and would be stored for future use.
On the situation in Coimbatore
The Kikani Group is making all attempts to spread the message of social distancing. The situation is alarming as after Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu is worst affected and people in some areas are not following social distance.
Tushar says that he is keen on promoting a few Apps, especially SalKhan App which is free and is a great resource. He shares, “Even a Grade 4 student can easily follow the instructions which are clear and specific. He goes on to add, “Online education is not an all-time solution but some good Apps can help in the learning outcomes. Learning has to be a two-way process.”
A school provides all-round development
Technology is good but a school provides the eco-system for all-round development of the individual. Social skills are important in this world and a school provides it.
On post lockdown
Schools need to look at several issues such as arrangement of classes, reduce the density and mull over shift system.
On contracted programmes
Many schools would now relook at contracted programmes in the areas of cultural events and other programmes including AI, IoT and such and for a while restrict themselves to core education.
NRI students a worried lot: Shanti Krishnamurthy, Director, Chinmaya International Residential School, Coimbatore
Shanti Krishnamurthy is as busy as she can be, after all it is the silver jubilee year. The COVID-19 has hit one and all but we are doing everything possible to see that the continuity of learning is not affected, but our major worry, being a boarding school is the state of NRI students who need to come back and join.”
Chinmaya International Residential School has Non-resident Indian students from all-over the world including Canada, Middle-eastern countries, Denmark, Singapore and other countries.
We do not know when the flights would resume and that is a concern.
IB cancels exams
The IB has cancelled exams and has started the process of validating internal marks. IB would also be informing this to all the universities abroad so that students applying for admissions would not be affected.
Professional development for teachers
Looking at opportunities in times of crisis is what Chinmaya is looking at. All the teachers are now doing an IELTS English course.
Children will catch up
Shanthi Krishnamoorthy says that children have an intrinsic ability to catch up with studies and that will happen. In the meanwhile, online classes for have begun. Teachers are pitching in even from remote villages, thanks to technology.
Reaching out with scriptures
The head of Chinmaya Mission is reaching out to students though videos through the Chinmaya Channel as well as YouTube.
‘Pre-schools should have been included in essential service’: Abirami Vivek, Founder Director, Magnet Minds Preschool, Chennai
Did the government miss out on a point on essential services? It did, feels Abirami Vivek, Correspondent, Magnet Minds Preschool, Chennai. Speaking to Brainfeed Magazine she said, “The Government should have included the pre-school segment. There is no talk anywhere about this crucial segment. What the government could have done was at least to include day care as an essential service.”
Abirami Vivek says that she receives a number of calls from parents especially from the IT sector who say that they are unable to work productively due to the presence of children at home.
There are also a number of police and hospital staff who feel that preschool should have been included in essential service.
Abirami questions, “If laundry can be treated as an essential service, why not day care?”
The Care School Association of Chennai has complained on fee collection turning out to be a big challenge.
Another issue that pre-school segment faces is lack of regulation and guidelines she feels.
There are several requests from nursing staff but we are unable to help. The Government needs to look at this issue. The police personnel and the health sector professionals are tiring out and there is a need for their tiny tots to be taken care of.
‘Training faculty a major challenge’: Dr D Dhanapal, Correspondent, Kovai Vidyashram, Coimbatore
Every year during these months, teachers at Kovai Vidyashram are busy imbibing the core philosophy of the school and prepare lesson plans for the year ahead but this year, thanks to the coronavirus scare, the professional development has been hit badly.
Dr Dhanapal says, “Every school has its unique core philosophy and the annual summer training to school teachers, especially to new teachers is crucial.” He further adds, “Teachers who have worked in other schools have their own way of evaluation and perspectives and the training programmes help in bringing them on board, this is not happening and we are worried.”
Another issues is betting new faculty as most teachers now are in a state of confusion. Travel, apprehensions and the general state of affairs is not conducive for recruitment.
There are some teachers as well as students who are backing out due to the lockdown and the air of uncertainty in the country.
New teachers are recruited but we are unable to train them. When the new session opens we want all the teachers to be on the same page and that can happen only when we train them. It is an area of concern.
Rural children not able to come online
We started online classes but those children who are stuck in remote villages are at a big disadvantage. They are unable to come online due to bandwidth issues and is some houses there is just one smart phone.
There would be an effect on admissions as well as some may back out due to uncertainty.
Assessment part affected: Girish Eswaran, Principal, PSG Public Schools, Coimbatore
Everyone is talking about online classes, that is well and the need of the hour but all would agree that there is a lacuna in the assessment part says Girish, principal of PSG Public School.
Speaking to Brainfeed magazine, he said that schools have not really missed much in the sense that the COVID -19 struck at the fag end of the academic year and for the first 15 days, there were no classes but as soon as people realised that that the coronavirus is here to stay at least for a month or two, everyone joined the bandwagon.
Teaching five subjects with a proper time-table in place is going on says Mr Girish but the problem arises in the case of assessment. Not all schools are now fully equipped on this front.
While a few schools who have been doing online teaching for the past few years are at an advantage and have scaled up even the assessment part, a majority of the schools are still in the process.
From the school management’s perspective, collection of fee is a major issue. He says, “At our school, parents can pay the fee in four instalments but in some schools this is not the case.”
‘Engage students during lockdown’: Vijayakumar B, Director, VELS Group of schools, Chennai
Engaging students during lockdown is one of the biggest challenges. These are trying times and students need to be engaged in constructive ways. While conventional schooling is now not possible atleast in the next few days, making the most by interacting with students and helping them with interactive sessions along with videos goes a long way says Vijyakumar.
The other challenges are keeping the continuity of teaching, evaluation and assessment, and those who have schools catering to different boards have a huge challenge. Mr Vijayakumar says, “We have schools with three boards and need to plan. We also have devised our own curriculum for primary school.”
Reaching out to parents and also keeping them abreast with the developments is a task. How parents receive and what their perceptions are is important.
Keeping all the stakeholders together is something school leaders need to look.
Fee, a billion-dollar question
There are instructions by the government every now and then advising schools not to send sms on remittance of fee. Parents start thinking that there is no need to pay. There is a difference, the government says not to insist but does not say to write off fee.
Parents who are in the unorganised sector may face difficulties.
We are preparing plan A and B. The former plan is on how we plan to take the year ahead and the plan B is if there is a further lockdown and schools do not start as per schedule. One needs to be prepared for every eventuality.
‘Govt needs to protect interest of schools’: John Xavier Thangaraj S, Correspondent, Little Flower Matric Higher Secondary School, Chennai
The Government is reaching out to several sectors and there is talk all around about small and medium scale industries, how they are affected but no one is talking about the thousands of private schools across the country.
Schools too need to pay their staff and this can happen only parents pay the fee. It has been noticed that a majority pay fee in the last month.
There are 40,000 private schools in Tamil Nadu and a great number of teaching staff is vulnerable.
Even the sop in the form of moratorium and that government would help in PF does not help the majority. For example, if there is a staff of 50 in a school out of which seven get a salary of more than Rs 15,000 they will not get the benefit.
In the given scenario, there is every possibility that many parents would opt for government schools.
The next three weeks are important as it would become clear on several issues. For small and budget schools, it would be a huge challenge to keep the system going.
Presently, school maintenance is underway. We need to pay the staff and there is huge amount of fee that needs to be collected.
‘Hope is what keeps us going’: K Navamani, Principal, Angappa Senior Secondary School, Coimbatore
We started online classes for Grade 9, 10 And 12. As far as teaching and learning is concerned there is no problem but what the students are missing is the ‘school environment’. Hope is something that is keeping all of us positive.
There is a need to keep restraint and follow the government guidelines as health comes first. We are hopeful that the coronavirus pandemic abates and schools start on time.
Time to develop new skills: Lalitha Prakash, Principal & Secretary, Kaumaram Sushila International Residential School, Coimbatore
Till health conditions become better and it is safe for movement. Possibly June end or July but only if corona case is nil. Academics can be done anytime. We can even work extra hours. Life is important. There is light at the end of a tunnel. So also this will change. There is no hassle if things are taken positively. As far as our institutions are concerned, we are okay as projects and other assignments have been sent home and we will be able to cope with next academic year even if we start late.
Students if left to become lazy and just television and technology can upset their system. Parents who ensure children are helping and engaging in daily chores will learn better during this period. Child can start developing new skills like cooking washing gardening and other creative art forms. As far as education is concerned this is not a rat race and can happen slowly nothing gets lost because of this quarantine. Health is important and schools can work extra time to compensate for the days lost.
No need to rush with syllabus: Dr Niranjani Senthil Raj, Correspondent, Dr Dasarathan International School, Coimbatore
The biggest challenge is completion of syllabus. The lockdown effect is more on academics. Although the lockdown started when the academic year almost came to an end, the final revision is essential and plays an important role in the final result.
The board exams are not completed and students preparing for NEET have a double burden. It is true that all schools have jumped onto the online mode but there are limitations. For instance, clearing doubts is an area. Also online tests do not match the traditional method. Issues of assessment, teaching and understanding are to be tackled.
Given the present circumstances, online teaching is the best option and one needs to make the most of it, however, getting the attention of all students is important and that is an area of concern. In a one-to-one scenario, the teacher is capable and know to reach out to the weakest but on online mode, it is a challenge.
Once the dust settles down and schools reopen, I am not a believer of rushing with the portion, but to take on important topics and make students understand the concepts well.