Another Teacher’s Day has passed with Teachers eulogised in WhatsApp forwards and Instagram posts. But a sense of irony would not have escaped most private school teachers as they haven’t been paid their full salaries for the last few months due to COVID pandemic. Several studies across states have indicated helplessness of private schools to pay salaries to its teachers over the last 6 months.
The national lockdown in response to COVID has seen the best of this society rising to the occasion. Doctors, Paramedics, Police, Civil servants have done extraordinary service in these times. But one group of professionals who have silently risen to the occasion with very little public acknowledgement is the school teacher. When the lockdown was announced with very little notice to prepare, many Teachers had to quickly find ways to continue the learning process. Barring a few top K-12 schools who have a culture of blended and virtual training, most school teachers were unprepared with this unknown beast called virtual learning. But they quickly adapted, reconfigured their lesson plans, familiarised with video conference platforms, learnt terminologies like synchronous, asynchronous learning, adapted shortcuts to overcome bandwidth or hardware constraints. All this despite not having the right infrastructure at home or the right social support. Most teachers have a poor wifi connection and even poorer power connection. Worse, they have kids and families to take care including octogenarian members of their joint families. Yet, they laboured through the time table, compensated for technology deficiencies but ensured that no child gets left behind.
Many parents do realise the commitment of teachers and they are, probably for the first time in the history of modern schooling, able to see what happens in a classroom. But with some state governments passing confusing orders on fee payments, schools have been struggling to collect quarterly fees from their parents, putting the financial viability of several private schools at risk. Many parents have entered a wait and watch mode and some have to hope and clamouring government to force private unaided schools to cut fees or collect fees in monthly instalments. While schools should support parents who are in financial need, issuing blanket orders by the government to schools to stop collecting a certain portion of fees will only breed delinquencies even among parents who can afford to pay. These orders are only populist pandering to a small and a myopic voter base but it kills something deeper in society — it's capacity to build and sustain core institutions.
In a country over, 50% of its children study in private schools, private schools are one of the rare few gems of India. Almost all of the world-renowned Indian origin CEOs, scientists, academic deans come from private schools. But misguided socialising and overregulation of the sector by government, has prevented well-intentioned players to set up more K12 schools thereby limiting opportunities for professional growth and development for our teachers.
COVID is also an opportunity for schools and teachers to implement reforms that would have otherwise taken years if not decades to implement. Flipped learning, personalised education, small group work, authentic projects, real-life assessments were just jargon and cliches before COVID, but have now become a necessity to implement online classes. Teachers to embrace this change will spawn a new generation of educators which our countries children deserve.
Vishnu Karthik is CEO of Xperiential Learning Systems and Director of The Heritage Group of Schools. An Alumnus of Harvard University, has over 15 years of experience in leading and setting up K-12 schools. Vishnu is also a proud father of a Daughter with Down Syndrome. Vishnu blogs at: https://medium.com/ @vishnukarthik
(Views expressed are personal)
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