EducationWorld has introduced a new series, the ‘Eduleader Focus’ featuring interviews with principals of reputed educational institutions who are popular among their students and staff. In this edition of ‘Eduleader Focus’, Alka Kapur, Principal, Modern Public School, Shalimar Bagh (New Delhi) discusses the current state of education in India, about teacher welfare and her interests.
Schools were shut for the past two years. What are the challenges confronting the school community after reopening?
We are witnessing several challenges with the reopening of schools after two years of shutdown. Maintaining social distance at all times, taking care of personal hygiene by washing hands, using sanitiser, wearing masks, etc., face-to-face communication, etc are inconvenient and unfeasible for many kids in the post-Covid times.
Also, during the last two years, students were accustomed to online exams and have extensively used electronic gadgets to complete tests and projects. Now with schools reopening, it may take longer than anticipated for them to get back into the habit of writing and jotting down notes.
Children might be lagging behind in social skills due the prolonged isolation prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic and may feel awkward to socialise with their peers. Therefore, it would be challenging to rekindle connections and interact with their peers and teachers.
Moreover, I believe the prolonged home isolation has led to students becoming complacent and lacking in drive and determination. It would be quite tough for them to get back on track and finish their tasks and assignments on time.
What are the challenges of online teaching and how far has your school been able to deal with them?
Online teaching for a prolonged period posed several challenges with students experiencing lack of motivation due to the dwindling student-teacher interaction in online classes.
Another challenge was lack of access to stable power supply and internet connection, computer/laptop or smartphone, and appropriate software, faced by several students. With frequent technical issues and the online classes not being engaging enough, attendance was on a steady decline. Overall, the quality of education and accountability both declined with online education.
Despite the challenges of online education, we at MPS did our best to provide a seamless online learning experience to our students. We included a fun session to improve student-teacher interaction and social skills. Also, we held counselling sessions for our students on a regular basis to address the stress and difficulties they experienced.
Moreover, to address network and connectivity issues, we constantly updated all assignments and notes in our school’s Whtsapp group so that students could access them if they missed the online classes. Our experienced faculty were also accustomed to scheduling extra lessons and practice examinations to help students understand the subjects better.
The absence of physical interaction has taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of children. What steps has your school taken to ensure the mental wellbeing of students during the pandemic?
To ensure mental and emotional health of students, we arranged various online activities including online competitions, and regular counselling sessions.
If not a teacher, you would be a ___________?
If not a teacher, I would be a environmentalist and a social worker.
What is your philosophy of education?
Education, in my opinion, is a birthright regardless of age and gender. Education is the only tool for national development and therefore, it should take precedence.
Describe your leadership style.
I strive to be a leader who believes in bringing about positive changes. A leader must believe in comprehensive leadership and teamwork and must constantly inspire his or her team to perform at their best in order to achieve the organisational goals.
What do you do to unwind/de-stress yourself?
I prefer spending time with my family and friends by going on trips and sharing meals with them. In addition, I love to spend time in nature and have some solitary time.
If there was one thing you could change in India’s education system, what would it be?
I would do everything necessary to ensure that education is accessible to the masses, particularly the underprivileged women and kids.
Can you give us an estimate of the learning loss children have faced during the pandemic? How can we make up for the learning loss?
The loss is tremendous and it has led to a lack of student development, loss of writing skills and a decline in the experience of being with and studying with peers. Making up for the loss is challenging, but moving forward with a positive frame of mind and not looking behind should help us in achieving our goals.
Teachers have been under tremendous stress because of hybrid learning, unprecedented lockdowns, completion of syllabus, etc. As a leader, how have you helped them deal with it?
To help teachers cope with stress, we conducted motivational programmes, workshops, and counselling sessions on a regular basis during the prolonged shutdown of education institutions. We also provided adequate encouragement and scope for our instructors to innovate, and we continue to provide virtual fun events for them to unwind.Eduleader Focus