– Dr. Reeta Sonawat
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has changed the course of education for the entire world, bringing it to an astounding halt. In India, all educational institutions are shut since March when the Government of India imposed a nationwide lockdown. The government urged educational institutions to ensure learning continuity by switching to alternate mediums such as online and technology-enabled learning. The biggest challenge in implementing online education was to bridge the socio-economic disparity between students to access the online modes of learning.
The lockdown also gave time for introspection to strengthen the fulcrum of the educational system by embracing technology. The Government of Jammu & Kashmir initiated one such pilot project under Samagra Shiksha with Ampersand Group and conducted a five-day online teacher training in Professional Development Program in Early Childhood Education (ECCE) across 40 schools across 10 locations in the state.
The pilot project in teacher training of selected trainees was implemented in Jammu & Kashmir proved its efficacy in overcoming the barriers of bandwidth connectivity. The programme was designed scientifically by keeping in mind the learning objectives, the trainee characteristics and the contextual constraints so as to ensure the targeted learning.This was a first-of-its kind training for teachers,with the objective to develop professional outlook covered modules such as child development, special needs, safety practices, and curriculum planning, learning environment, schedule and routine, readiness among others, which would help the up skilling of teachers in the pre-primary grades. The programme aided the teachers to realise their potential for online learning in the pre-primary age group. The teachers were also made aware about the importance of ECCE for holistic development for children to achieve their social, emotional, cognitive, and physical growth milestones. It is also necessary to establish a strong mental, emotional, and intellectual foundation of children, which also influences their future success which was part of the programme.
The blended learning format helped the participants to self-study with the material provided to them and completed them within time frame chosen by them. All of them completed the tasks assigned to them during the course of the programme and were pleased with the assessment results.Extremely satisfied and bustling with exuberance, the teachers requested more training sessions to be held with additional modules in ECCE and make it a regular part of their training conducted by the education department across all grades.
The pilot project in Jammu & Kashmir has opened a new paradigm for online teacher training especially for regions that are inaccessible due to geographical conditions or difficult terrain. The usage of Edtech in delivering training to the foundational pillars of the education system was very well received in the state by the teachers. With such specialised training, teachers are set to get a direction for imparting education to pre-primary school students through the online medium, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.
The teachers who were a part of the programme believed that with better bandwidth connectivity, the outreach could be larger and the mere initiation of the project was a boon and a learning curve for them. Armed with the training, teachers with entrepreneurship aspirations can now also set up their own ECCE centres, leading to further growth of pre-primary education.
Teachers’ part of the programme also suggested the government scale up this project across the state in order to strengthen the pre-primary programme, extend the training to all teachers across districts for standardisation and structured ECCE curriculum for the children of the state.
The online teacher training programme proves that technology can be a big enabler in achieving the objective of transcending geographical, social-economical or political barriers to train teachers in ECCE. Several pilot projects, which are also great examples of the success of public-private partnerships have been successfully executed across the country by Ampersand Group through online training thereby aiding the continuous professional development of teachers in ECCE. The Jammu & Kashmir pilot project has created a new paradigm for online teacher training in ECCE, and proven its efficacy in preparing our teachers in different ways of learning continuity for younger children.
Dr Reeta Sonawat is Director, Academic & Training, Ampersand Group and Contributor, National Education Policy Draft 2019, ECCE; Former Dean, Professor and Head Department of Human Development, SNDT women’s University, Mumbai.