The world is facing a crisis that will test its collective will and ability to respond to a truly global crisis. We did not learn the lessons from earlier health hazards like Ebola, SARS or MERS. The Pandemic of nCOVID-19 is, perhaps, only a pre-cursor to enormous challenges that humanity is likely to face in the future. The threat of climate change, changing ecology and blurring lines between natural and artificial intelligence would sooner or later be another pandemic that humankind may face. I am hopeful that the looming threat of Corona Virus will subside soon and people will resume normal routines. I am a firm believer in the thought that “the Teacher will continue to teach unless the lessons are not learned”. I hope we the Seven billion-plus people will collectively learn our lessons from this pandemic and contribute to improving the system around us. I would like to focus on my area of work – education.
The fundamental change in our thinking and action can only be transformed through education. Schools may incorporate the following:
- Global understanding: Schools may have to re-write the curriculum and focus on a global understanding of local problems. Not long ago, we thought that the coronavirus was a local problem affecting the people in Wuhan, China. Today, we see the severity of this crisis and its impact across borders, organizations, and communities. We need to develop systemic thinking in a child to relate with diverse systems that operate in society and how one affects the other.
- Re-define the 21st-century skills: The hitherto 4Cs of 21st-century skills – creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication are inadequate to deal with the future. These skills must be expanded to include trust-based relationships, constraint-driven goal-orientation, the sustainability of the environment, empathy for the global community, and connectedness across cultures. The agility of the mind and clarity of thought will also be must-have abilities for the uncertain times ahead.
- People Driven but Tech-enabled: The tools of teaching and learning will change forever. It is no longer possible to learn in cells and bells culture of silos called Schools. Home-Schooling and Schools-in-a-Cloud can be a blip in the dark sky but certainly cannot replace or recreate the experience of working with people, real people – classmates, teachers, and others. Schools must increasingly look at collaborating with Schools abroad and with their communities. The cross-pollination of thoughts and ideas could develop empathy and global understanding for our better future. Flipped Learning, Google Classrooms, Blended Learning, Remote Learning, Virtual Expeditions, Project-Based Learning through online collaboration may become commonplace rather than exceptions.
- Slow down: Parents and Educators must appreciate the importance of slowing down. The frantic pace at which a child moves from one grade to another grade in Schools is maddening. The vast curriculum and syllabus that the teacher aims to “cover” in 210 days must reduce. Skills, Thinking and Values should take precedence over content mastery and “rote learning”. I find a large number of students missing their “childhood” as they shuttle between home, schools and tuition classes. This must end.
- Values are nurtured at home not Schools: With nuclear family structures and commercialized models of Schools, the onus of nurturing values in a child was shifted from families to schools. Sure, the human values can be taught in School but it can only be nurtured at home, by the parents, family, and friends. The best teacher: student ratio, which every child deserves, is 2:1 – i.e. parents and child. Parents spending time with their children at home after school hours and during weekends must once again become ‘fashionable’. Hopefully, the culture of work-from-home and renewed priorities of business and society will make this change possible. It must be recognized that “Proper Parenting Prevents Poor Performance” of the child in society.
- Health, Hygiene, and Safety: These will gain importance across the School experience. SOPs will be re-written and routines may be built around this renewed focus on health, hygiene, and safety. Curriculum related to diet, food chemistry, sustainability, mindfulness, first-aid and community service might become an integral part of the school education. Learning the art to discipline the mind and to be ‘indistractable’ will be essential qualities for success. The Residential Schools have a major role to emulate here.
- The new mantra for Schools: To be ready for competitive life rather than competitive exams should become the new mantra for Schools. These are challenging times and life skills must be taught to each child in the Schools. To become resilient and accept failures/setbacks with a smile may become all the more necessary.
- The world is open: Parents and Students must understand that there are a plethora of new job roles open for their children. The mad rush for 20th-century careers like engineering and medical alone limits the abundance of life for their children. No job is small if it fills the heart with joy and satisfies the mind. Money or Earnings from the job is no longer the benchmark of success as people now realize the importance of health, relationships and peace of mind.
As the pandemic evolves, it may unfold more opportunities for us to transform the way we learn. I hope we remain positive about the future and emerge stronger, fitter and better.