In conversation with Brainfeed, Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Delhi, and recipient of Acharya Chanakya Shikshavid Samman, 2020, by World Book Of Records shares her opinions on Alternative Academic Calende (AAC) and digital learning for differently-abled students
In view of the recent changes introduced by NEP 2020, how can schools inculcate the spirit of learning in the preparatory stage?
Right from a tender age, space should be given to each child, wherein he/she is free to express himself/herself. Students should be allowed to make mistakes and the teachers must ensure that they do not judge the students based on their opinion.
Expeditionary and Experiential Learning needs to be at the center of the focus to ensure the development of core skills like critical thinking, problem solving and effective communication. The school should encourage mutualism, develop global vision, enhance value based education and build the capacity of the students to take sound decisions in difficult times.
The schools can also work towards empowering students by providing flexibility to students in course choices. NEP 2020 would also help schools in championing Integrated Curriculum focused on Thematic Units by synergizing the inter-disciplinary expertise. The education of today focuses on integrated curriculum wherein different areas of study are interconnected, going beyond the subject matter and emphasizing unifying concepts.
It would also be beneficial for the students if the schools take a cross cultural pedagogical approach, unifying arts in other subjects like comprehending a picture, and going beyond the text. Also, more emphasis can be laid on sports, specifically indigenous games. Aside from that, NEP 2020 would also facilitate integration of local and international fervor into mainstream education.
In your opinion, what are the main challenges towards bridging the digital gap?
There are a number of challenges that we encounter while attempting to bridge the digital gap. The first one is computer literacy. The grave disparity that exists between different sections of the society when it comes to operating technology, leads to a digital divide.
Another major challenge that we face is that most of the people who are digitally inept also coincidentally lack a working knowledge of the English language. Language barrier is one of the important causes of the digital divide in India. Most of the online/digital applications prefer English language and in India, there’s a bounty of regional languages, which means that not a lot of people feel the need to learn English.
Another big challenge is unequal penetration of internet facilities in the country. People using internet have more advantage in terms of comfort and convenience in the lifestyle than those who do not use internet.
Economic inequality is also one of the prime causes of digital divide in India and it makes it difficult to bridge the gap. This inequality does not allow some people to buy digital devices frequently. Even education is also affected by economic conditions of a particular family.
Last but not the least, a major hurdle to fixing the digital gap is India’s low literacy rate. The literacy rate of India is relatively low in comparison to many other countries of the world. This education disparity rate becomes the cause of digital divide in India. Therefore, a multi-faceted approach needs to be adopted and all these issues must be addressed simultaneously if we want to fix the digital divide in our country.
more emphasis can be laid on sports, specifically indigenous games
How will AAC impact the student’s education?
AAC will serve as an important tool that would minimize academic loss for the students, and it will facilitate and promote the objectives of NEP 2020. It’s an efficient way of learning at home through interesting activities.
Immediate Weekly plans to continue learning process act as short term objectives and are easy to attain as well. Mapping of themes with learning outcomes is to facilitate teachers/parents to assess the progress in students’ learning. This may be done in a variety of ways i.e., asking questions, encouraging interactions, suggesting another activity of a similar kind, observing children’s interest and participation in the activity, etc. and the role of family members is extremely important in all this.
In your opinion, are schools doing enough to involve the differently-abled children into virtual learning?
The schools, I believe, are doing everything within their capacity to involve the differently-abled children into online learning, these children have special needs that are difficult to fulfill on the online platform. It is quite unfortunate that the parents do not know how to deal with this transition to virtual education and children with disabilities lack the resources required to be a part of inclusive education as well. Also, it is much easier for a teacher to focus on a differently-abled student in a classroom as compared to the online platform.
No two disabilities are the same and therefore, alternate course material must cater to different disabilities. We must empower students, teachers and parents so that they can play their roles more effectively. The transition to virtual learning hasn’t been easy for the differently-abled students, but we have to stay positive and do everything we can so that no child gets left behind.
Technology has been intimidating for many teachers. Teachers are reeling under stress and anxiety. Is there a way out?
Even though we have been forced to transition to the online platform because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to face the fact that this transition was going to happen sooner or later. We are not sure how long it will take for the pandemic to subside and therefore, we need to work with what we have.
Unfortunately, we do not have too many options right now, and as much as the teachers would like to teach in a classroom, it may not happen anytime soon. Therefore, the best way of dealing with the current situation is to adapt to the change. The schools should conduct training sessions for the teachers to familiarize them with the software and equipment that they would need for conducting online classes. If the teachers are properly trained, they wouldn’t have to face stress and anxiety.
Considering the bleak scenario of economy and healthcare, how hopeful are you in India’s reconstruction of digital education?
There are definitely some challenges that we need to address, especially those concerning the digital divide that exists between the rural and the urban areas of the country, but I’m positive that slowly but surely, we’ll get used to digital education. In my opinion, the best way to ease that transition would be to rely on blended learning. Blended learning is a mode of learning wherein the education is imparted partially on the online platform and partially in the classroom. By offering flexibility and letting each student decide the optimum ratio of online to offline learning for himself/herself, we can allow every student to learn at his/her own pace. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution just around the corner, a wave of digitization is headed our way, and we’ll fare much better if we embrace that change.
[Story by: Puja Sinha]