In light of the educational, psychosocial, and physical problems confronting 240 million school going children in India amid the ongoing Covid-19 induced school closure, the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) — the largest and most representative association of paediatricians in the country — has drafted scientifically backed and concrete guidelines for dealing with these pressing concerns and support children in their educational development during these testing times.
Drawing from the recommendations put forward by various international agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the IAP guidelines have been formulated specifically for the Indian context.
IAP’s broad guidelines on school reopening and remote learning
Schools should be reopened only when the local epidemiological parameters are favorable, the administration is equipped with adequate infrastructure and health care facilities, and the stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, and support staff) are prepared for the new normal.
In the meanwhile, remote learning (media-based and /or otherwise) should reach to the last student to maintain uninterrupted education.
The curriculum needs to be revised, with focus on revision and core contents. Informal learning of psychosocial empowerment and daily living skills should be encouraged rather than stressful formal learning.
Guidelines for in-person learning
Teacher based learning
- A teacher takes the responsibility of a group of students, like a mentor.
- The teacher selected for such a job should not be a high-risk person and should preferably be staying in the close vicinity of the allotted (10-15) students.
- Community based learning: Mohalla schools
- A motivated willing educated adult should take this responsibility. Qualified youth, or elder students, preferably from the community should be oriented and assigned the job.
- A school like platform should be created and only a handful of students should be engaged for limited days/time in open spaces like parks, playgrounds etc. following all the safety precautions.
- The teaching-learning process could be carried out in person or using common media resources, public address systems, and digital equipment as feasible
- Schools should provide an opportunity for the students to remain in touch with the teachers and promote school connectedness.
- With prior appointments, students/parents should be able to meet the teachers, following physical distancing norms, and sort out their problems.
- Exchange of learning materials/ assignments, library books should be carried over.
Guidelines for remote learning
- The focus should be on developing skill sets such as ‘learning to learn’ and the curriculum should be adapted suitably
- Hybrid and synchronous options should be preferred as far as possible
- Special care should be taken to involve marginalised children in remote learning
- The problems arising out of the new ways of learning should be looked for and dealt with timely
Non-technology based Remote Learning
- This should be mandatorily included in all schools, and for all classes even though the facilities of online classes are available
- Learning material should include books, worksheets, hand-outs and practical activity guides (with kits). They should be student friendly, attractive, and easy to follow
- These materials could be delivered to and (assignments collected) from the students by post, other delivery systems or could be collected and dropped by parents from the school, taking all the precautions of physical distancing. Teachers should similarly convey their feedback and provide further individualised guidance depending on the evaluation
Technology based remote learning
Electronic technology-based learning
- Government should come up with exclusive channels on Radio and Television and with good bandwidth for smooth dissemination till the remotest places. Local cable networking services should be utilised
- Educationists and broadcasters should establish a fair alliance for carrying out the delivery
- All pre-recorded available resources in the form of audio, video lessons should be tapped and aligned to cover the curriculum
- Interactive telephonic calls or SMS should be used for easy communication and feedback
- This mode of learning could be used for a group of students residing in a close community, following all the physical distancing norms
Digital technology-based learning
- Teachers should be trained periodically and evaluated for delivering the academic contents online in an interesting manner
- Students should have access to suitable gadgets, they are supervised and helped in learning digitally. No child should be denied his/her right of education or de-enrolled from the school, even if (s)he is unable to use this mode of learning
- The age-specific norms for duration of use of digital/screen-based media should be followed meticulously Digital technology-based learning should always be blended with various other modalities
- A virtual help desk should be created for students/parents/teachers/school authorities, to enable two-way communication, for smooth implementation of digital learning
- Cyber safety rules should be regularly reinforced.
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