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25 Leaders reinventing K-12 education

EducationWorld August 2020 | Special Report

Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and forced national/ state lockdowns which have accentuated the infirmities of India’s failing K-12 education system, we present recommendations of selected school leaders on ways and means to reinvent K-12 education in the post-Covid era – Summiya Yasmeen

The global Covid-19 pandemic and forced national/state lockdowns have highlighted the infirmities of India’s failing K-12 education system. Already struggling against dismal student learning outcomes, minimally trained teachers, obsolete syllabuses, rote-centred pedagogies, and inadequate infrastructure in the pre-Covid era, the country’s 1.5 million schools — shuttered since early March to arrest the spread of the Coronavirus — are floundering to ensure learning continuity for India’s 256 million school-going children.

In the country’s 1.2 million state government schools, learning has all but stopped with a few states such as Kerala and Delhi broadcasting token classes over television and radio. And though the country’s 450,000 recognised private schools and 400,000 private budget schools claim to have switched to conducting online classes and lectures, only a thin sliver of well-funded and efficiently managed private education institutions are dispensing acceptable quality, digitally transmitted education to children.

The consensus among education experts is that the five month closure of schools will inflict a massive aggregate loss of learning the country can ill-afford. According to the Annual Status of Education Report 2018 published by Pratham Education Foundation, the number of primary school children in class V who cannot read and comprehend class II textbooks has risen — rather than reduced — to 56 percent, and the percentage of class VIII children who can solve a simple three-by-one digit division sum is a mere 40 percent. “Even before Covid hit us earlier this year, this wide diversity of learning levels has been a chronic problem of our classrooms for years. The majority of children, especially in government schools, are several years behind grade level. When schools reopen it is likely this variation of learning levels in each grade will have widened further; the lower end of the distribution will have become thicker,” says Rukmini Banerjee, CEO of Pratham Education in The Indian Express (July 28).

According to Ambarish Rai, national convenor of the RTE Forum, a coalition of over 10,000 NGOs, educationists and social activists gathered under the forum’s banner to enforce the Right of Children to Free & Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, an estimated 20 percent (50 million) children from marginalised households are likely to drop out of education because of prolonged closure of schools. “They will enter the child labour force and/or become vulnerable to trafficking and/or pushed into early marriage. It will be a huge challenge to get them back to school and learning,” says Rai.

Even as India’s faltering public education system is severely hit by the pandemic, efforts of the managements of private schools, which educate 47 percent of the country’s school going children, to provide remote/online learning have been hobbled by a plethora of ill-considered government circulars and notifications on fees and online education. Discerning an opportunity to win the grace and favour of the country’s influential 300 million-strong middle class which overwhelmingly choose private schools for their children, most state governments have issued official notifications directing private school managements to defer and/or waive tuition fees for the March-July period and/or make other concessions. Simultaneously, all state governments have directed school managements to continue payment of salaries to teachers and staff.

Moreover, well-aware that continuously under-funded public (i.e, government) primary-secondaries will be unable to provide online classes or instruction, the majority of state governments has clamped down on online education in private schools on the excuse that excessive “screen time” is harmful for children. For instance, the state government of Madhya Pradesh has banned online classes for all preschool-class V children.

Consequently, because of over-zealous government interference and regulation, private schools and their representative associations have been busy over the past five months petitioning the courts to annul government diktats, instead of focusing on the complex challenge of providing engaging remote/online learning to children and charting safe school reopening strategies.

Against this backdrop, it’s not an under-statement that India’s K-12 education system is confronted with its worst ever crisis. With schools shuttered for over five months at the start of the new academic year and little prospect of opening before September/October, school leaders are facing the formidable challenge of substantially covering the prescribed syllabus and saving the academic year. The switch to digital online learning has necessitated intensive teacher training and capital expenditure at a time when private school parents are demanding fee waivers and government has sidelined education. When schools reopen later this year, teaching-learning pedagogies, processes and indeed objectives, may have transformed forever.

As we go to press, the Union human resource development — now renamed the education ministry — finally presented the long-awaited National Education Policy 2020 on July 29. It proposes major academic reforms in school education and new regulatory structures with wide-ranging implications for the future of Indian education (see cover story p.40).

In the pages following, we present recommendations of 25 carefully selected school leaders on ways and means to reinvent K-12 education in the post-Covid era, as well as their suggestions on implementation of the progressive mandates of NEP 2020

Dr. Arunabh Singh — Director, Nehru World School, Ghaziabad

An alum of Delhi University and King’s College, London, Dr. Arunabh Singh is director-principal of the CBSE-affiliated Nehru World School, Ghaziabad (estb.1978), which has 1,540 students and 92 teachers on its muster rolls. A British Council School Ambassador, Singh is also a committee member of FICCI-Arise (Alliance for Reimagining School Education), an association of private school promoters affiliated with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI).

What is your assessment of NEP 2020 released last month?

NEP 2020 has the potential to radically change Indian education. But the devil is in the details of implementation. The most promising features of NEP 2020 are:

  • Integration of vocational education into schooling. Ensuring all children learn at least one vocational skill is an achievable target.
  • 360-degree holistic student assessment with inputs from teachers, students and parents is a fantastic idea. Teachers often succumb to teaching for examinations rather than skill building and hands-on learning. 360-degree report cards have the power to transform pedagogy in our classrooms.
  • National professional standards for teachers gets my thumbs-up as well. However, I had hoped the policy would make way for investment of clean and patient capital in K-12 education. But this hasn’t happened. We have to wait for the next policy for this vision to become a reality.

Are you satisfied with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

The Covid-19 pandemic has opened a new chapter in teaching-learning around the world. It has truly begun the era of Education 5.0 and the effect of this transition is here to stay. In the long run, it will ensure equity, access and sustainability in school education. A school will never have to close because of high levels of pollution or a procession marching through the city anymore; it will just go online.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

Unfortunately, state governments across the country have tried to ‘solve’ this challenge with their own limited understanding of the situation. Much pain could have been avoided if inputs were taken from stakeholders in education. Private schools and in turn teachers, have been negatively impacted and will face long-term challenges due to these impositions.

What are the major initiatives Nehru World School has taken recently to upgrade teaching-learning?

Our major recent initiatives are in the areas of active learning, assessment and blended learning. In the last academic session, 64 byte sized training sessions were conducted for our 92 teachers. We are happy to share our teacher training material with any school that would like to use it. Moreover to enable parents to develop a shared understanding of new teaching-learning practices, we have also conducted pedagogy sessions for parents.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Reform the assessment system to develop children’s higher order thinking skills.
  • Improve teacher training and accountability.
  • Promote self-regulation of schools, with clear guidelines.

Rohan Bhat — Chairman, Children’s Academy, Mumbai

A commerce and education graduate of Mumbai University, Rohan Bhat is chairman of the Children’s Academy Group of Schools, with three branches in Mumbai, and an aggregate enrolment of over 8,000 students. Children’s Academy, Malad and Kandivali are ranked among the Top 10 co-ed day schools of Mumbai in the EW India School Rankings 2019-20.

NEP 2020 overview. NEP 2020 has proposed several overdue reforms. I am especially pleased with the proposal to increase public spending on education to 6 percent of GDP; the merger of early childhood education with formal primary education; creation of a new National Curriculum Framework and introduction of a four-year B.Ed degree. 360 degree holistic student assessment is also a great idea. But it remains to be seen how well schools adapt to this new assessment system given that previous attempts have failed due to disconnect of education policy makers with ground realities. If successfully implemented, these reforms will revolutionise school education.

Moreover, education is in the concurrent list of the Constitution, and how each state implements the policy will determine its effectiveness. I sincerely hope the timelines set in the policy are adhered to strictly, else the entire exercise will be futile.

Online/blended learning efficacy during the current Covid-19 crisis. Despite many challenges, online/blended learning has worked well for us during this unprecedented crisis. The learning experience and investment in online infrastructure will benefit all schools and improve teachinglearning processes. There will be a better balance between online and conventional classroom learning once the situation normalizes.

Increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery by private schools. India hosts 1.5 million schools which provide varying infrastructure, teacher-pupil ratios, sports facilities etc. A one-size-fitsall solution is untenable. Therefore, Central and state governments need to prioritise raising teachinglearning standards in government schools. Micro-managing of private schools by government is unnecessary and against the public interest.

Children’s Academy initiatives. The Children’s Academy Group celebrated its golden jubilee in 2019-2020. We have consistently upgraded our infrastructure and learning outcomes over the past five decades and are currently ranked among the most prestigious schools of Mumbai. We accord high importance to teacher training with the first Saturday of every month dedicated to professional development. Over the past few months, we have intensively trained our teachers to use digital tools for creating video lessons and providing online learning.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing K-12 education.

  • Allow schools to operate as forprofit businesses under guidelines prescribed by the government in a manner similar to price control of life saving drugs.
  • Government should establish an independent body of education experts to supervise school managements. This body should have a fixed tenure of 5-7 years to ensure that decisions taken are not overridden by successor governments.
  • Government should provide education vouchers to parents to enable them to select schools of their choice.

Capt. A.J. Singh — Principal, Pinegrove School, Dharampur

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, Khadakvasla; Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and College of Materials Management, Jabalpur, Capt. (Retd.) A.J. Singh is principal and executive-director of the fully-residential co-ed Pinegrove School, Dharampur (Himachal Pradesh) and St. Soldier’s School, Panchkula. Together these schools have a total enrolment of 3,000 students and 250 teachers. Singh is also a former chairman of the Indian Public Schools Conference.

What is your overview of NEP 2020?

NEP 2020 is an inclusive, comprehensive and progressive document which if implemented in true letter and spirit will have far-reaching positive impact on Indian education. Revision of the pedagogical structure from the 10+2 system to 5+3+3+4 was needed to give primacy to early childhood and primary education. Also, the proposal to introduce national examinations to assess the learning outcomes of children in classes III, V and VIII will definitely improve foundational learning outcomes of children. Moreover, the complete overhaul of the regulatory system in higher education, and increased government investment in education to 20 percent of government expenditure over the next ten years, are most welcome.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/ blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

The forced switch to online learning couldn’t have come at a better time. In our case, after sending children home on March 20, we resumed online classes on April 1 and thus far, our teachers have successfully completed 40 percent of the syllabus, conducted two unit tests and issued report cards as well.

In the past few months, there’s been increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

In these difficult times, reduction in school fees was necessary. But various state governments stepped in to make fees payment voluntary. This has prompted litigation across the country. The fallout of the courtroom battles which have divided parents, school managements and government will negatively impact societal respect for teachers and schools, and damage student-teacher relationships. Moreover, it will discourage private investment in education.

What are the major initiatives Pinegrove School has taken recently to upgrade teaching-learning?

Over the past few months, we have focused on training our teachers and students to make a smooth switch to online teaching-learning. Designated a Microsoft Adopted School, Pinegrove has made a successful transition to online learning. We have received numerous letters of appreciation from parents with 98 percent of them satisfied with our online classes.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Increase government spending on public education to 6 percent of GDP immediately.
  • Launch a nationwide teacher capacity building programme and a national publicity campaign to motivate talented people to enter this profession.
  • De-regulate private education and encourage private investment. State governments should motivate private organisations to promote education institutions in rural India through generous incentives and subsidies.

Anjum Babukhan — Director, Glendale Group, Hyderabad

Apsychology graduate of Loyola University, Chicago with a postgrad degree in educational administration and instructional leadership from the University of Illinois, Anjum Babukhan is co-founder and director of the CBSE and Cambridge International, UKaffiliated K-12 Glendale Academy (estb.2003) and Glendale International School (2015) in Hyderabad. Aggregate enrolment: 2,900 students and 300 teachers.

What is your overview of NEP 2020 released on July 29?

It’s a comprehensive policy. However, its success will depend on effective implementation. Specific to school education, extension of the RTE Act from preschool to class XII; options to select from a variety of subjects in senior school; introduction of a robust and continuous student assessment system, are excellent ideas. If executed well they will positively impact India’s K-12 education system.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

An online/virtual classroom can never be as effective as a physical classroom. However, the teachers’ community countrywide has risen heroically to the challenge of adapting to online education during the Covid-19 crisis. This switch is beneficial because now teachers have no option but to learn to use technology, online apps and platforms, and become tech savvy.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

It has hit private schools hard. As it is, schools are facing numerous challenges in switching to remote teaching-learning. Parents are also confused and government interference is generating panic and uncertainty. Prior consultation with educators would have yielded better results.

What are the major initiatives Glendale Group has taken recently to upgrade teaching-learning?

Since end-March we have provided uninterrupted online teaching-learning to all our pre-kindergarten to class XII students. We divided classes into small groups of students to enable teachers to provide personalised instruction. Teachers are also being encouraged to attend webinars and training sessions with all learning compiled into our GOLE — Glendale Online Learning Encyclopedia. We have invested heavily in online teaching-learning infrastructure, particularly in customising our learning and content management platforms and conducting webinars for parents.

What are your Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • Incorporate technology in everyday teaching-learning processes.
  • Design curriculums and pedagogies which encourage self-directed learning.
  • Overhaul the assessment system to develop students’ higher order thinking skills. This will discourage rote memorisation and regurgitation of information in exams.

Dr. Amrita Vohra — Director, GEMS India

An education postgraduate of Himachal Pradesh University with a doctorate in educational psychology from the Rani Durgavati Vishwavidyalaya University, Jabalpur, Dr. Amrita Vohra is the Delhi-based director (education) of GEMS Education India — a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Dubai-based Varkey Group-promoted GEMS Education — which manages 11 K-12 schools in India with an aggregate 6,000 students instructed by 550 teachers. Vohra is also the executive principal of the group’s flagship GEMS International School, Gurgaon (estb.2010).

NEP 2020 overview. NEP 2020 is progressive and comprehensive. But the actual impact of any policy depends on effective implementation. I sincerely hope the progressive ideas and goals propounded by the new policy — critical and creative thinking, 100 percent foundational literacy and numeracy by 2025, blended learning, blurring of subject boundaries, experiential learning among others — are implemented in all schools countrywide. Most progressive schools in our country are already working on these ideas. I hope they will be recognised as harbingers of change and invited to form private-public partnerships.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. For years, progressive educators have advocated technology-aided learning, but have been met with resistance. Therefore, it’s satisfying that a range of innovative remote/online learning solutions has emerged in response to the pandemic. As boundaries blur between countries and subject disciplines, our children will learn to navigate this new free education space.

Increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. Contrary to public perception, a large number of private schools are levying only tuition fees and have made generous concessions to support parents in financial distress. A special bond is also emerging as the classroom has now virtually entered students’ homes, and parents are witnessing the dedication of teachers. Meaningful partnerships between parents and school managements is the need of the hour.

Gems India recent initiatives

  • Introduction of remote learning pedagogies and guidelines for students, teachers and parents. Our team of teachers was sufficiently trained to take on the challenge of online education when the lockdown was announced in March.
  • Blended teaching-learning models have been implemented in all our schools to make learning personalised, and differentiated instruction has been seamlessly integrated.
  • Assessment processes have been revamped to include self and peer evaluation, metacognition and growth mindsets. Dedicated reflection time is allocated to help children identify learning gaps even as teachers facilitate learners with SID (scientific information database) marking and constructive feedback.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

First, the government must ensure that every child has access to digital education. Teacher education must make maximum use of technology and ideally follow the ‘joint practice development’ model. Second, the blended learning model must become normative in K-12 education with best practices freely shared with budget private schools. Third, revamp assessment — internal and external — processes to stimulate the ‘growth mindset’ of children to nurture globally conscious individuals committed to sustainable development.

Manan Choksi — Executive director, Udgam School, Ahmedabad

Manan Choksi is executive director of the CBSE-affiliated Udgam School for Children, ranked Ahmedabad’s #3 co-ed day school in the EW India School Rankings 2019-20. A commerce and law graduate of Gujarat University and qualified chartered accountant, he also manages the CBSE-affiliated Zebar School and two preschools — Bodakdev and Satellite — all in Ahmedabad. Aggregate enrolment: 7,500 students mentored by 600 teachers.

What is your assessment of the NEP 2020?

It will be a very good policy prescription even if 50 percent of it is implemented. We need to raise greater awareness about NEP 2020 and discuss it widely on public platforms.

Will the switch to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis benefit Indian K-12 education in future?

Covid-19 has pushed the education community into the tech era. It’s commendable that teachers across the country have risen to the challenge of ensuring learning continuity for children through online education delivery. We are witnessing measurable academic progress and it’s a great achievement that children’s learning hasn’t stopped. The beneficial outcome of the Covid-19 crisis is that hybrid classes are the future.

The past few months have witnessed incremental government interference with the tuition fees and online education delivery of private schools. How much damage has this caused?

Schools are usually run by publicspirited people who want to nurture future generations. No person without public service in mind would enter the education sector as there are better opportunities elsewhere. When government interferes in education, it demoralises school leaders and teachers. Moreover, government should have a balanced view rather than favouring parents all the time. If private schools are evil, why are they not banned?

What are the major initiatives Udgam School has recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

We believe in continuous improvement and made a major push towards integrating technology into our teaching-learning processes before the Covid-19 lockdown. Other initiatives have been in the areas of bolstering teacher training, and providing remedial education through personalised teacher interventions.

What are your Top 3 proposals for reinventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • Government should encourage promotion of private schools. Greater competition will lead to overall improvement in K-12 education standards, and fees will become automatically regulated. Teachers will get good salaries, and students better education.
  • Increase teacher accountability. Teachers should be assessed on the basis of student performance, and parents’ ratings under several parameters.
  • Government should frame rules for private schools bearing parents aspirations in mind. Very often, parents demands are at variance with government guidelines. For instance, the government recommends mother-tongue as medium of instruction but parents want English-medium education.

Saad Sait — Executive Director, Legacy School, Bangalore

Saad Sait is board member and executive director of the Cambridge International and IBaffiliated Legacy School, Bangalore, ranked Karnataka’s #1 international day school in EWISR 2019-20. Sait, who recently completed certificate courses in ‘Leading Change in Education’ and ‘Leading Schools’ from Harvard Business School and Harvard Graduate School of Education, is also co-founder of the state of-the-art Kai Early Years, an IB-PYP candidate school in Bangalore.

NEP 2020 overview. NEP 2020 has given belated recognition and high importance to early childhood education. India stands to benefit greatly by investing in nurturing its human and intellectual capital from the early years. However, a challenge, and very likely contentious issue, is to teach children in their mother tongue at the primary level, possibly till class VIII. Also, a significant void in the policy is lack of recognition of the role and contribution of private schools and institutions. The biggest challenges that confront NEP 2020 are the regulatory mechanism for K-12 schools, bureaucracy, allocation of financial resources, lack of trained teachers and political will to ensure it is well implemented.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. Digital learning is the next best alternative for children during the current crisis. We believe that developmentally appropriate practices, rooted in research and proven practice, combined with the judicious use of technology, supported by ongoing professional development, can support our children’s well-being, learning and development during this global pandemic era.

Fallout of increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Several state governments have issued arbitrary orders to ban online learning. These ill-advised diktats are counterproductive for national socio-economic development. In India, private schools have shouldered a large part of the government’s responsibility to educate the children and youth of this country. These notifications are unwarranted, and detrimental for future generations. When such decisions are taken without consulting key stakeholders, they adversely impact the viability and ability of private schools to continue to provide quality education.

Legacy School major initiatives. We have been very intentional in nurturing a culture of ongoing learning under our Learn-Reflect-DiscoverEvolve philosophy, learning for life and life-long learning. This approach and attitude has helped us make an easy transition to online teaching and learning.

Six years ago, we began integrating technology to improve teaching and learning, and to develop future skills for the 22nd century using the Apple ecosystem and framework. Our teachers are now more focussed on innovating technology to engage students meaningfully in online learning. Moreover, we have continued to invest significantly in differentiated professional development opportunities offered by world-class universities and organisations such as Harvard, Cambridge and the International Baccalaureate to support our teachers.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Define a clear vision for quality education in India from the early years to university. Articulate clear objectives and develop systems and frameworks on a par with international standards in the areas of policy and governance, funding and teacher education, training, qualifications.
  • Increase government spending and investment in education to address issues of access, equity, literacy, digital and education divide.
  • Reduce barriers to entry and provide economic incentives to attract greater investment in education.

Dr. Vidhukesh Vimal — Headmaster, Assam Valley School, Balipara

An alum of Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia University with certification in school management and leadership from University College, London and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Dr. Vidhukesh Vimal served with the Doon School, Dehradun and Mayo College, Ajmer prior to his appointment as headmaster of the Assam Valley School, Balipara (AVS) last September. Routinely ranked among India’s Top 5 co-ed boarding schools in the annual EWISR, AVS has an enrolment of 817 students and 104 teachers on its musters.

What is your overview of the recently released NEP 2020?

NEP 2020 should be examined from three perspectives — context, challenge and aspirations of citizens of this country. When we look back to the Yashpal Committee and NPE 1986, the prime challenge before then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was to ensure every child attended school. Hence Operation Blackboard was launched. The prime objective of NEP 2020 is to guarantee quality education and enhance employability, hence the emphasis on vocational education.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

Is this a beneficial development for school education? The Covid-19 crisis has worked as a catalyst to speed up integration of technology in education. This is a good development since it has helped educators create a repository of resources and larger teaching-learning bandwidth which has helped teachers and students. Exchanges, discussions and discourses are now available to all without distinction. The new blended classroom is here to stay, benefiting us with flexibility of schedule and resources, amongst other things.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

Since education comes under the Directive Principles of the Constitution, the government looks upon it as a welfare scheme. The role and contribution of private schools is ignored despite their providing superior education to a large proportion of children. The contribution of private schools to nation building must be duly acknowledged.

What are the major initiatives that the Assam Valley School has recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

We have accorded top priority to remodify policies and implement systems that enable our teachers and students to make a smooth transition to online teaching-learning. We have also moved the school’s activities programme online and successfully conducted two student examinations.

Top 3 proposals for reinventing India’s K-12 education system.

Government should establish a dedicated department of education research and development with the remit to design and develop subject-specific content. Second, it must focus on bridging the digital divide by providing digital devices and Internet bandwidth to enable all children to access online learning. Third, it needs to urgently pay attention to capacity building of teachers through high-quality pre-service and in-service training programmes.

Ashish Gulati — Vice chairman, Blue Bells Group of Schools, Gurgaon

An alum of the top-ranked Management Development Institute, Gurgaon, Ashish Gulati is vice chairman, Blue Bells Group of Schools comprising five schools and preschools in Gurgaon with an aggregate enrolment of 3,700 students and 350 faculty.

NEP 2020 overview. Arriving after a 34-year hiatus, the NEP 2020 is welcome and heralds overdue reforms in Indian education. Reiteration of the resolve to double government spending on public education to 6 percent of GDP is encouraging although this promise has been made before and not fulfilled. I also welcome the 360-degree assessment system that takes into consideration the holistic development of children. The change to the 5+3+3+4 schooling system, in line with international education standards, together with the proposed reforms in higher education, will develop India into a education hub. I am hopeful that implementation of NEP 2020 will be smooth and successful.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis? Is this a beneficial development for school education?

The switchover to the online mode was the only option available to schools to ensure learning continuity for children. Fortunately, teachers and students adapted very quickly. Blended learning is here to stay as it allows greater flexibility and interaction between students, parents, and teachers. However, it will never entirely replace bricks-and-mortar learning, which offers a more wholesome learning experience.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

Inevitably in times of crisis, vested interests try and create conflict. Erosion of trust between schools and parents is the worst damage they have caused. Our constant endeavour is to assure parents that we are equally invested in the well-being of their children.

What are the major initiatives Blue Bells Schools have recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

Blue Bells Group has devised a two-pronged approach to improve teaching-learning in our schools. Started eight years ago, our in-house curriculum development and teacher training centre enables us to continuously upgrade curricular content and pedagogies. The second initiative focuses on organisation-wide behavioural interventions to develop a compassionate culture conducive to child-centric learning and emotional well-being of our students.

What are your Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system?

It is critical that we build policies and systems that enable schools to focus on teaching-learning, rather than on administration. Also establishing a separate regulatory and accreditation body for private schools — one that supports and improves rather than merely regulates their activities — is imperative. However, school reforms will be effective only when similar reforms are introduced in the higher education system.

Dr. Skand Bali — Principal, Hyderabad Public School, Begumpet

An alum of Punjab University with 20 years experience in top-ranked schools (Army Public School, Dagshai, Doon School, Dehradun, G.D. Goenka World School, Gurgaon), Dr. Skand Bali is the high-profile principal of the CISCE-affiliated Hyderabad Public School (HPS), Begumpet, which has 3,600 students and 162 faculty on its muster rolls.

NEP 2020 overview. NEP 2020 delivers a strong message: Education must prepare children for life and not just careers. Among the policy’s noteworthy reform proposals are inclusion of skills-based vocational training in school curriculums, integration of technology, continuous professional development of teachers and universalisation of early childhood care and education. Although opposed by many, allowing multi-lingualism in classroom instruction is in my opinion, a positive step as I believe teaching-learning is a cognitive theory of concepts which happens best without language compulsion.

Switch of K-12 schools to online learning during the Covid-19 crisis. The online/ blended learning solution is specific to the Covid-19 crisis. This mode of learning certainly cannot replace face-to-face teaching that connects schools, teachers and students. I am a strong proponent of hands-on learning pedagogies as expounded by the great educationist John Dewey.

Government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Government interference causes little damage to private schools run with the objective of providing quality education, as most regulations are in favour of children. However, I believe that the education ministry/department should consult with experienced educators before drafting rules and regulations.

HPS-Begumpet initiatives. We have designed an international curriculum and introduced agriculture and entrepreneurship development as subjects. The school’s department of progressive learning pedagogies is also working with teachers to continuously upgrade their skills and expertise using latest research in education.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing K-12 education.

• Switch to child-centric skills-based education where learning is not only about acquiring knowledge, but life skills as well.

• Integrate technology as a pedagogical tool, so that learning is life-long and doesn’t stop.

• Reform the assessment system and appreciate children for their effort and not just exam scores.

Jyoti Arora — Principal, Mount Abu Public School, Rohini

A science, education and information technology alum of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim Manipal universities, Jyoti Arora is founder-principal of the CBSE-affiliated Mount Abu Public School, Rohini, Delhi (estb.1998) with 2,700 students and 130 teachers. Arora also serves as an elected member of the governing body of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Delhi.

NEP 2020 overview. NEP 2020’s sharp focus on early childhood care and education was long overdue. I am hopeful that NCERT and other agencies will design a comprehensive curriculum to build strong literacy, numeracy and other foundational skills of children. The shift from the 10+2 to the 5+3+3+4 system is also welcome. It will ensure a strong start, education continuity and exposure of children to life and vocational skills. However, I am disappointed with the policy’s failure to recognise the contribution of private education institutions to nation-building.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis.

The smooth transition of private schools to online/blended learning has ensured learning continuity with minimum academic loss. This is a beneficial development because it also connects learning communities beyond national borders. But since the country’s digital infrastructure is still underdeveloped, many underprivileged children are excluded from online learning.

Increasing government interference in private schools fees and online education delivery.

Schools flourish when they have strong support from parents. Therefore, it is disappointing that the trust between parents and schools has reduced considerably because of government circulars and notifications.

Mount Abu Public School major initiative.

We have recently introduced our global citizenship curriculum to sensitise our children to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Revamp teacher education and make the profession attractive for talented people. Only well-trained teachers will be able to equip students with 21st-century skills and inspire innovation.
  • Rebuild and restore trust between schools and parents.
  • Redesign K-12 curriculums and pedagogies to ensure children are prepared for life and not just workplaces.

Vinay Jain — Founder, Witty Group of Institutions, Mumbai

Vinay Jain is promoter of the Witty Group of Institutions (estb.2000) comprising four schools in Mumbai and two in Rajasthan with an aggregate enrolment of 5,200 students. Jain is also CEO and managing director of VJTF Eduservices Pvt. Ltd, an education consultancy, and a motivational speaker and trainer.

NEP 2020 overview. NEP is a progressive document which if implemented swiftly and effectively will transform India into a global knowledge powerhouse. Though belatedly, it has finally given prime importance to early childhood care and education for developing children’s foundational numeracy and literacy skills. ECCE is the cornerstone of all future learning.

Transition of K-12 schools to online/ blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. For schools, the pandemic is nothing short of an apocalypse. Schools are temporarily using the online medium to maintain learning continuity. However, online has its own drawbacks such as poor Internet connectivity, lack of digital devices, inadequately trained teachers, screen time effect on health of children, and poor learning outcomes. Online education is a good temporary alternative, that’s all.

Increasing government interference in private schools’ fees and online education delivery. Knee jerk reactions and circulars by government have caused severe damage to private education. Some parents have taken undue advantage and are raising the slogan ‘No school no fees’. Government should take into consideration that private schools are entirely funded by students’ fees. Even while schools are not physically open, salaries of teachers and support staff have to be paid.

Witty Kids’ major initiatives. Some of our recent initiatives include remodeling the curriculum to suit the digital medium; investing 36 man hours per week to train teachers to manage online classes; monitoring online teaching-learning sessions to enable continuous improvement and conducting online parent orientation programmes.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Grant loans to education institutions under the priority sector lending programme with tenure extending to 40 years and interest rates on a par with housing loans. This will result in reduction of school fees.
  • Scrap B.Ed as a compulsory qualification for teaching in schools. Allow highly-qualified professionals such as doctors, engineers, lawyers to also teach.
  • Redesign curriculums to remove information-based concepts which encourage rote learning.

Nishi Misra — Principal, Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior

An alumna of Allahabad University with valuable teaching and admin experience in St. Mary’s, All Saints and Sherwood College — all in Nainital — and former headmistress of Vidya Devi Jindal School, Hisar, Nishi Misra is principal of the all-girls boarding Scindia Kanya Vidyalaya, Gwalior (estb. 1956), consistently ranked among India’s Top 3 girls boarding schools in the annual EW India School Rankings.

NEP 2020 overview. A single regulator for higher education and setting up national missions for implementing education reforms are welcome prescriptions. But though the policy document recognises the role of private schools, the unwieldy involvement of the government machinery in regulation is sure to demoralise private school managements. Moreover, the three-language formula, integration of technology-aided learning and assessment reforms in my opinion, will pose implementation challenges.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. This shift is only a stop-gap response to the sudden crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Neither individuals nor society can survive in an entirely online world.

Government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Government directives on fees and online education expose the lack of vision of the political class. It’s also a pity how tax-paying parents who are funding the huge and ponderous machinery of government schools that deliver minimal learning, resent paying fees to private schools which are building the education foundation of their children.

SKV initiatives. Two path-breaking SKV initiatives are our peer observation and mentoring system which motivates teachers to learn from and improve each other, and parent-teacher collaboration which has enabled parents to get involved and participate in their children’s education.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • There is urgent need to bring private schools within the ambit of organised sector industry with safeguards.
  • Encourage school and higher education linkages and involve the latter in framing K-12 curriculums.
  • Promote high-quality and result-oriented research across the education spectrum.

Praveen Raju — Founder, Suchitra Academy, Hyderabad

An engineering graduate of Osmania University, former nationally ranked snooker player and former executive director of the Indus International School, Hyderabad, Praveen Raju is founder-director of the CBSE (Delhi) and Cambridge International (UK)-affiliated Suchitra Academy, Hyderabad (estb.2011), which has 1,500 students and 120 teachers on its muster rolls.

NEP 2020 overview. It’s a forward looking policy. Reforms such as integration of vocational skills and co-curricular education, overhauling of the B.Ed study programme, introduction of playbased early childhood curriculums, project-based learning, are sure to make Indian education globally comparable. However, effective implementation of NEP 2020 is required to realise transformative change in the education sector.

Transition to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. I am very pleased with the way our teachers have embraced the transition to online/blended learning and ensured learning continuity of children. The blended learning model is here to stay. In the post-Covid era, remedial classes, parent-teacher meetings, etc can all be done remotely. Teachers are no longer averse to technology and this is sure to benefit all schools in the years to come.

Fallout of government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. About 1,000 budget private schools have shut down in Telangana and another 2,000 are on the verge of closure. With 90 percent of school expenditure fixed, fee deferment/waiver notifications have resulted in massive losses to school managements. Moreover, the government has offered no rebate in GST, property tax, electricity or road tax to schools.

Curiously, some sections of the media have contended that school managements can afford to, and should give, concessions to parents. This has resulted in parents holding back fee payments despite having capacity to pay, creating a debilitating atmosphere of mistrust. Now with unreasonable screen time restrictions, government is ensuring that we won’t complete syllabuses on time.

Suchitra Academy major initiatives. We run the Suchitra Badminton Academy, a training centre for badminton professionals — Olympic silver medallist P.V. Sindhu trains at our academy — and are also a recognised Khelo India centre, training many athletes ranked in India’s Top 10. During the recent Covid crisis, we designed a unique fitness curriculum for school children delivered online by experienced trainers. These workout sessions energise the mind, body and spirit and include yoga and meditation.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Implement the curricular, pedagogical and teacher reforms proposed in NEP 2020 at the earliest.
  • Allow for-profit institutions in education to attract long-term capital from domestic and international capital markets and boost foreign direct investment. USA, China, Japan, Germany and UK and almost all of India’s neighbouring countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa allow for-profit investment in education.
  • The Central government should issue an advisory to all state governments to enact enabling legislation such as the Uttar Pradesh SelfFinanced Independent Schools (Fee Regulation) Act, 2018.

Sumeet Mehta — Co-founder, LEAD School

Sumeet Mehta is co-founder and CEO of Leadership Boulevard Pvt. Ltd (estb.2012), a company which offers its LEAD School academic solutions to four owned and 800 partner schools across the country. An alum of the Punjab Engineering College and IIM-Ahmedabad, Mehta was a top-rung executive at Proctor & Gamble, Singapore, and former CEO of Zee Learn.

What is your overview of the NEP 2020 released recently?

Overall, the policy is forward looking and has introduced path-breaking reforms. Two stand out: recognising the importance of early childhood education with the 5+3+3+4 schooling formula, and the flexible entry and exit proposal and breaking down barriers between arts, commerce and science streams. This will herald a new era of cross-disciplinary learning.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

It is heartening to see how schools, teachers, parents and children have responded swiftly and positively to the pandemic and embraced online learning. Learning in the physical world with a peer group is ideal, but in the given lockdown situation, we have been able to develop a model of online learning that comes close.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

Shifting and often unclear government directives have generated confusion among parents and educators. These directives have persuaded some parents that they don’t have to pay school fees. This has thrown private schools into disarray because they rely on fees to pay teachers, staff salaries and loan EMIs.

Further, blanket bans on online learning have nullified the efforts of schools to provide uninterrupted learning to students. Since then the courts have intervened to allow schools to charge tuition fees and continue online learning but the damage was done. Confusion prevailed, learning was interrupted, and schools and parents got into a tussle that has eroded mutual trust. All this is not good for the education ecosystem.

What are the major initiatives LEAD School has recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

Even before the government imposed the 21-day national lockdown, LEAD School — one of the fastest-growing technology-enabled academic systems in India — had launched its unique [email protected] programme on March 16. Online classes under the programme have generated approximately 20 million video views. This initiative has made remote learning accessible to students in over 800 affordable private English-medium schools. We have also trained over 15,000 teachers during the past four months through the online mode.

What are your Top 3 proposals for reinventing India’s K-12 education system? NEP 2020 has documented most of the ideas needed to reinvent K12 education. If we implement even 50 percent of the intent of the document, we’ll take a big stride forward. However, I want to see more public private partnerships because that’s the fastest way to improve the quality of the country’s 1.2 million government schools.

Anil Sharma — Principal, Birla Vidya Mandir, Nainital

Aphysics and education postgrad of Delhi University and M.D. University, Rohtak, Anil Sharma is the principal of Birla Vidya Mandir, Nainital (estb.1947), ranked among India’s Top 5 all-boys boarding schools. In a distinguished career spanning three decades in Indian education, Sharma has served as former principal of the Sanskriti School, Ajmer, Gyan Bharati, Delhi and deputy principal of Lawrence School, Lovedale.

What is your overview of the NEP 2020 released last month?

NEP 2020 is a progressive futuristic document. Connecting pre-primary, school and higher education through a seamless education continuum will go a long way in raising academic standards across the board. Also including vocational subjects in mainstream K-12 education will develop skill-based and academic competencies of children, while the shift from rote to competency-based learning, and teacher training reforms will radically change Indian classrooms. Another great idea is the annual Compulsory Continuous Professional Development programme for principals.

However, the suggestion to teach primary classes in the mother tongue/local language is ill-advised especially for residential schools, as they enrol students not only from different states of the country, but from countries around the world.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis? Is this a beneficial development?

The switch to online/blended learning was necessary because schools didn’t have any other option to ensure learning continuity. We cannot compare physical and online classes. But I believe this switch is a beneficial development for school education as teachers have become adept at using and integrating technology into classroom transactions.

The past few months have witnessed incremental government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

The only source of revenue for private schools is fees. Since the lockdown in March, private school teachers are conducting online classes without interruption. But if schools are not allowed to collect fees, how will they pay teachers and staff salaries? Moreover, government guidelines allow schools to conduct online classes for not more than three hours per day while the syllabus has been reduced by only 30 percent. Schools will find it very difficult to complete the syllabus with these restrictions.

What are the major initiatives Birla Vidya Mandir has recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

We have sharply upgraded the school’s IT infrastructure by creating digital resource centres in our IT labs, increased Internet speed and conducted online orientation programmes for teachers to improve pedagogies and assessment processes.

What are your Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • School curriculums should be redesigned to develop students’ problem-solving skills and scientific temper.
  • Continuous and comprehensive orientation programmes for principals and teachers must be made compulsory and conducted regularly.
  • Integrate parenting education and mentoring into school education.

Francis Joseph — Co-founder, SLN Foundation, Mumbai

Well-known educationist Francis Joseph, who has over 25 years experience in education management in India and the Middle East, is the co-founder of School Leaders Network (SLN) Foundation (estb.2015) which works with 720 private and public schools countrywide to promote collaboration and sharing of best teaching learning practices.

NEP 2020 overview. It’s a forward step in the right direction. The policy’s focus on student learning outcomes and achieving foundational literacy and numeracy skills will positively impact Indian education. The universalisation of early childhood education, multi-disciplinary curricular and pedagogy approach, and focus on vocational education holds a lot of promise for the future generation.

The establishment of State School Regulatory Authority (SSRA) is welcome provided it is balanced with equal participation of all stakeholders and adopts a consultative, transparent and accountable approach in its functioning. However, the success of NEP 2020 will depend on its implementation and cultural adaptability, especially at the state and district levels.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. The compulsory closure of schools induced common pain for all educators who had to switch to the online medium to maintain learning continuity. Some positives of this transition are that parental engagement has increased with parents and teachers becoming aware of their roles, teachers’ capability to use modern technology has improved vastly, and schools have greatly upgraded digital infrastructure, curriculums and innovated differentiated and personalised learning pedagogies. However though I am excited about teachers embracing online technologies, I am hopeful of physical schools reopening soon so that students can benefit from a holistic school experience.

Increasing government interference in private schools’ fees and online education delivery. Unfortunately, the myth that private schools are commercial, exploitative and indulge in unfair practice has wide currency. This perception is wrong and needs to change. Most recent government policies have been framed without any research and consultation with important stakeholders such as school managements, parents, legal experts and education boards. Faulty populist policies can seriously damage the private school ecosystem, creating a cloud of confusion and distrust among stakeholders. This will discourage private investment in school education.

SLN Foundation. The objective of the School Leaders Network Foundation is to upgrade both private and public schools through the power of collaboration. Over the past few months we have worked with school leaders, policy makers, education boards and influencers to improve teachinglearning standards across the board. SLN has made education policy recommendations to governments and education boards, enabled curriculum reforms in municipal and state government schools in Maharashtra, and conducted school development activities for affordable schools run by the Western Region Catholic Foundation for Education.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Grant greater autonomy to private schools especially in curriculum planning/delivery/assessment and administration.
  • Establish an independent regulatory body or a shadow ministry of education in every state with equal participation of experts and practitioners from public and private schools, research organisations, parents, legal experts and government authorities.
  • Set up a government recognised virtual school board, ensuring access and affordability of learners to online education

Anirudh Gupta — CEO, DCM Group of Schools

An engineering and business management alum of Punjabi University, Patiala, Anirudh Gupta is CEO of the DCM Group of Schools (estb.1947) comprising six K-12 schools across Punjab with an aggregate enrolment of 20,000 students instructed by 1,200 faculty.

What is your overview of the NEP 2020 released last month?

NEP 2020 is an excellent document aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and five pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability. Suggested reforms such as setting up a gender inclusion fund, strong emphasis on foundational literacy and numeracy, elimination of rigid boundaries between academic streams, and universalisation of education from preschool to secondary level are laudable. If implemented in its true vision and spirit, I believe the policy has the potential to bring India on a par with developed OECD countries.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

Is this beneficial for school education? The switch to online/blended learning is the best and only option to continue teaching-learning with minimum academic disruption during this crisis. This forced transition has opened up new vistas for learning, forcing hitherto IT-shy educators to step out of their comfort zones. However, in India which is steeped in poverty and inequality, the transition to online learning will benefit school education only when every child has Internet connectivity and access to digital devices.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

When the national Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in end-March, the annual/board exams had commenced, admission process for the new academic year had begun, and teachers were being recruited. In short, the school system was thrown into disarray. Despite this, a large number of private school managements, anxious to maintain learning continuity, quickly adopted digital technologies and started online classes. What followed were mindless government diktats. We are in the fifth month now, and fee collection is less than 10 percent in most private schools. Unnecessary government interference has caused severe disruption in private schools.

What major initiatives have the DCM Group of Schools taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

Since the Covid outbreak in March, we singularly focused on equipping our teachers and students with the skills needed to transition to online learning. To this end, our schools arranged numerous training sessions for teachers and students to acquaint them with virtual platforms such as Zoom, MS Teams, Google Classroom etc.

What are your Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • Redesign academic curriculums to enable learners to translate learning into practice to improve their employability. Add a strong vocational education element to all curriculums.
  • Promote industry participation from the stage of curriculum development to institutional management.
  • Revamp teacher education to enable them to meet the demands of industry.

Bharat Malik — Chairman, Arya Gurukul Group of Schools, Mumbai

Bharat Malik is the Mumbai-based chairman of the Education Today Foundation (estb. 2006) which manages the Arya Gurukul Group of primarysecondary schools and preschools, with an aggregate enrolment of 6,000 students and 180 teachers. Malik is also a founding member of the National Independent Schools Alliance (NISA) and vice president of the Federation of Unaided Private Schools Association of Maharashtra.

What is your overview of NEP 2020 released last month?

NEP 2020 has been announced after a waiting period of over three decades. The proposed shift to the 5+3+3+4 academic system, focus on vocational education and multi-lingualism in classroom instruction are all welcome reforms. But their implementation will require higher budgetary allocations for education and the willingness of stakeholders to change entrenched mindsets.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis? Is this a beneficial development for school education?

Digital online learning is the future of school education and the Covid-19 crisis has helped hasten this transition for many schools.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

The issues of online learning and fees should be resolved bilaterally by schools and parents. Government meddling in these matters is causing more harm than good. It’s clear there is little understanding within government of the enormous costs incurred by private schools in building IT infrastructure and training teachers. My earnest request to government is to let schools do their job to the best of their ability.

What initiatives have the Arya Gurukul Schools recently taken to upgrade teaching-learning?

Designated Microsoft Schools, all Arya Gurukul schools made a smooth transition to online teaching-learning when the national Covid-19 emergency lockdown was announced. Online classes, exams and virtual events are being conducted with ease and efficiency. Moreover, we have intensively trained our teachers in online pedagogies and encouraged them to enroll for online professional development programmes.

What are your Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • Increase government investment in teacher education and training.
  • Revamp assessment systems to include students’ individual and group learning capabilities.
  • Design pedagogies that promote self-directed learning.

Rajiv Solanki — Chairman, Venkateswar Group of Schools, Delhi

A business management alum of London University, Rajiv Solanki is the Delhi-based chairman and director of the Venkateshwar Group of four K-12 schools (estb.2007) — two in Delhi, Raipur and Pune. The group’s Sri Venkateshwar International School, Sector 18, Dwarka is ranked among the national capital’s Top 10 co-ed day schools in EWISR 2019-20.

NEP 2020 overview. The National Education Policy 2020 is a welcome document prescribing meaningful school and higher education reforms. The policy is futuristic as it promises online content in English, Hindi and regional languages. Encouraging collaboration between Central and state governments to increase public investment in education is another welcome feature. Clearly, the NEP committee has outlined a far-reaching vision to create learning environments that are multidisciplinary and provide well-rounded education. Proper implementation of the reforms envisioned in NEP 2020 will fundamentally transform India in terms of better learning outcomes and employment.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. The Covid-19 crisis has transformed Indian education. With millions of children out of school, teaching-learning during the past several months has been delivered remotely through digital platforms. I believe traditional classroom and online learning can be blended perfectly. This emerging hybrid model of education will confer significant benefits to K-12 education.

Fallout of increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Self-financed private schools have transitioned to online learning and are investing in training/upskilling teachers and also organising counselling for parents and students. Without regular fees income inflow, we are under immense financial strain and finding it difficult to function.

Venkateshwar Schools initiatives. In March, our schools kickstarted online classes for all students by leveraging Microsoft Teams. Five months on, our teachers have adapted a range of digital applications such as Microsoft Forms, Class Notebooks, Assignments, Sway etc, to maximise the effectiveness of online learning as also online art, yoga, aerobics, music and dance classes.

Top 4 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Do away with rote learning • Redesign the evaluation system to include peer learning.
  • Revamp teacher education
  • Focus on personalised education.

Ranjan Mitter

Principal, The Future Foundation School, Kolkata

An alumnus of Jadavpur University, BITS Pilani and INSEAD, Fontainebleau (France) with a decade’s working experience in blue-chip companies (Philips, Shaw Wallace, Polaroid, Titan), Ranjan Mitter took charge as principal of the CISCE (Delhi)-affiliated The Future Foundation School, Kolkata (TFFS, estb.1981) after the death of his mother Joya in 1999. TFFS is ranked Kolkata’s Top #2 co-ed day school in EWISR 2019-20.

NEP 2020 overview. The National Education Policy 2020 is a progressive and welcome document prescribing urgent pre-primary to higher education reforms. In a country where policy implementation often falls short of intended outcomes, all stakeholders should pledge to ensure successful implementation of NEP 2020 in letter and spirit.

Transition of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. The Covid-19 crisis has enabled Indian education to take a giant technology leap to facilitate teaching-learning. It has opened up a whole new space for communication and sharing. If used prudently, it will bring about revolutionary changes in school education. However, physical interfaces have advantages that online education cannot provide. In our case, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has strengthened our online teaching-learning initiatives, in place for several years now, through live streaming, video conferencing and other learning apps.

Increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Private schools like ours are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain operations in an over regulated environment. Even though we are striving to strike the right balance bearing in mind the best interests of our students, the going is getting very tough.

The Future Foundation School initiatives. Some online teaching-learning practices we follow include flipped classroom pedagogy; enhanced student-teacher communication; online classes on digital security and cyber bullying; live streaming of laboratory practical classes for class X and XII children and online counseling for students’ socialemotional well-being.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K-12 education system.

  • Provide seamless Internet connectivity in urban and rural areas to support remote learning as also affordable digital devices.
  • Restructure evaluation and assessment methods and processes.
  • Incorporate critical thinking and problem-solving skills into school curriculums.

K.E Harish — CEO, Sadhbhavana Group, Kozhikode

Apolitical science and education postgraduate of the University of Calicut, K.E. Harish is CEO of the Sadhbhavana Group comprising five education institutions including its flagship CBSE and Cambridge International (UK)-affiliated Sadhbhavana World School, Kozhikode (SWS, estb. 2008) with an enrolment of 643 students and 75 teachers.

What is your overview of the NEP 2020 released recently?

NEP 2020 is a progressive and welcome document. For example, it rightly accords primacy to early childhood education and foundational literacy and numeracy, prioritises vocational and skills education, allows academic flexibility, and shuns excessive compartmentalisation of curricular and co-curricular domains. However, some provisions such as the recommendation to use mother tongue/local language as medium of instruction until class V, Right to Education Act and its implications, funding for implementation, need to be clarified.

How satisfied are you with the switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis?

Is this a beneficial development for school education? When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the academic fraternity around the world was forced to take a crash course in information technology. What would have taken a decade to learn and adapt happened in a span of four months. However, it’s important to understand that schooling is a bundle of experiences beyond mere teaching-learning. School is where children learn socialisation, how to manage difficult situations and develop life skills. Therefore, online learning is no substitute for physical schooling.

The past few months have witnessed increasing government interference in fees and online education delivery. How much damage has this caused to private schools?

For governments, the pandemic crisis became just another opportunity to command and control private schools. Government circulars in different states of India have thrown private education into deep crisis. In a country where almost 50 percent of the student population is enrolled in private education institutions, state governments should at least engage and consult with private schools and/or associations before issuing arbitrary diktats.

What major initiatives has Sadhbhavana World School taken recently to upgrade teaching-learning?

SWS is in the process of transitioning from content to skills-driven schooling and developing students’ self-learning capabilities. We are one of few schools in Kerala to provide commerce and humanities streams at the senior secondary level and are committed to promoting these career paths. Moreover post-Covid, we plan to retain our digital learning system and follow a hybrid learning model.

What are your Top 3 proposals for reinventing India’s K-12 education system?

  • Change government policy and legislation to allow ‘for-profit’ schools.
  • Overhaul the teacher education system to make it flexible and practice-driven. Also encourage and incentivise continuous in-service training.
  • Design a school accreditation process based on quality and grant full autonomy to schools which have proven high-quality standards.

R.J. Bhuvanesh — CEO, KRMSchools, Chennai

An alumnus of Coimbatore Institute of Technology and Alagappa University, R.J. Bhuvanesh is CEO of the Kaligi Ranganathan Montford (KRM) Group comprising five K-12 schools in Chennai with an aggregate enrolment of 9,500 students and 550 teachers.

NEP 2020 overview. This is the first education policy to give prime importance to the foundational pillars of access, equity, quality, affordability and accountability in education. It aims to transform India into a global knowledge superpower by making school and higher education more holistic, flexible and multidisciplinary. I am especially happy about setting up of the National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy to ensure all class III children acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills by 2025.

Transition of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. I believe today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) environment will perforce reshape education systems and processes. In the current Covid-19 crisis and shutdown of all schools countrywide, the switch to online learning was necessary to ensure children’s education is not interrupted. However, the success of online teaching-learning is heavily dependent on well-trained teachers who will provide high-quality education to fulfil lofty parental expectations.

Government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. Unwarranted government interference has hit private schools hard. Most schools are unable to pay teachers’ salaries because of fees collection delays. Moreover, government restrictions on online learning hours will result in learning loss to children and increase parental anxiety about their future.

KRM Schools major initiatives. We have successfully conducted continuous online professional development programmes for our teachers, collaborated and engaged with all stakeholders — schools, teachers, students and parents — to make the switch to online teaching-learning smooth and effective, and provided online counseling for anxious students, parents and teachers.

Re-inventing India’s K-12 education system proposals. We need to use our own VUCA (vision, understanding, courage and adaptability) 2.0 strategy to train teachers to develop into tech-savvy, kind, thoughtful and caring professionals. There’s also urgent need to develop joyous curriculums that focus on all-round development — academics, values, sports, life skills — of children.

Ekta Sodha — CEO, Cadmus Sodha Group of Schools, Jamnagar

A postgraduate in education, international leadership and management of Newcastle University, UK, Ekta Sodha is the Jamnagar (Gujarat)-based CEO of the Cadmus Sodha Group of Schools, a chain of five affordable K-X schools in Gujarat with an aggregate enrolment of 5,500 students and 550 faculty.

NEP 2020 overview. The government has done an excellent job in stating the problem, and a problem well stated is half solved. However, I have reservations about even half of what’s promised seeing light of day by 2025.

Switch of K-12 schools to online/blended learning during the current Covid-19 crisis. The switch of schools to online learning has largely been inefficient and there’s likely to be a major drop in students’ learning outcomes. Children can only benefit when online learning is disseminated as a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning. However, I believe blended learning is the future of education.

Increased government interference in fees and online education delivery of private schools. The outlook of government towards private schools is heartbreaking. How can government be so insensitive as to expect us to continue delivering education without paying salaries to our teachers and staff? Just like any commercial entity, schools need funds to run day-to-day operations. Moreover, the divide between parents and school communities is growing wider and denting our mutual trust which has taken years to establish.

Cadmus Sodha Schools initiatives. We have designed innovative age-appropriate online pedagogies and intensively trained our teachers to use them. For young learners, we are using skill-based online worksheets and for higher classes, high quality audio-visual content. Moreover, our teachers are counseling students on a regular basis.

Top 3 proposals for re-inventing India’s K12 education system.

  • Redesign syllabuses to promote skill-based learning and logical, analytical, critical and creative thinking. Rote learning should be discouraged.
  • Promote industry-academia interaction by incentivising schools to collaborate with industry and vice versa.
  • Design pedagogies which can be easily adapted to face to-face schooling as well as remote learning.
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