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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 203-205

Opening schools: The road ahead

PGT and HoD English, Mayoor School, Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission01-Oct-2021
Date of Decision03-Oct-2021
Date of Acceptance04-Oct-2021
Date of Web Publication30-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Jyotsna Varma
C 1A, Gulmohar Park, New Delhi - 110 049
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/cmrp.cmrp_99_21

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How to cite this article:
Varma J. Opening schools: The road ahead. Curr Med Res Pract 2021;11:203-5

How to cite this URL:
Varma J. Opening schools: The road ahead. Curr Med Res Pract [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8];11:203-5. Available from: http://www.cmrpjournal.org/text.asp?2021/11/5/203/329711

  Introduction Top

The bustle of a school bus; the happy din of students running around, dragging their feet returning from the playground, engaging in a fun banter in the classroom, practising diligently for performances and competitions… That all these activities intrinsic to the daily routine of a school would soon be consigned to nostalgic memories was inconceivable in our wildest dreams. In the past 1½ years we have hardly stepped onto the school premises. And whenever we have, the silence is overbearing.

The reopening of schools is an ongoing debate. There are numerous aspects and as many perspectives. The guidelines and SOPs issued by government is being followed by schools.[1] WHO guidelines to keep students safe is a ready reckoner for the policy makers, administrators, educators and parents.[2] As a stakeholder representing a prestigious NCR school and handling the senior-most and inflective board classes, my vote goes to restarting physical, in-person classes as soon as possible. We are ready - and fully geared up - to welcome back students.

Of course, the look and feel of school is different now. The moment you enter the gate, a uniformed guard steps up to check your temperature while another guides you to an automatic sanitiser dispensing machine, and all this while your smile is obscured by that omnipresent mask wrapped tightly across your face.

  Online Versus Offline Top

There is nothing better than a physical class. The teaching-learning process is at its best when there is synergy between the teacher and the taught. Although a less impactful substitute, online classes have been the only alternative available in these unprecedented times. But now that the most traumatic and trying times of our lives appear to be tided over, we are looking at returning to normalcy.

The big difference in the offline, face-to-face format is that one look at the child can enable you to gauge whether any learning is taking place or the child is distracted. In the latter case, we immediately draw their attention applying various techniques to bring the pupils back to the page.

  Safety is the Priority Top

How safe is it to call students to school? This is the age group that doesn't have the protection of a vaccine. All surveys and studies are a work in progress. The results declared so far do not guarantee safety although one vaccine does seem to be on the verge of being launched. The flip side is that the dreaded pandemic has largely spared children till now. Yet can scientists and researchers assure us the safety of children?

Once inside the four walls of a classroom, it is next to impossible to keep them apart. We tried with half the strength - only 12–15 inside a classroom - yet the ground reality is that we as social beings thrive in the company of people. Even as we kept a strict vigil, the values of sharing and caring inculcated in the growing up years overpowered the dread of the disease. Thankfully no one has fallen sick after attending school for the past few days. Moreover, once practical classes were over, the number of students coming to school started dwindling. The reason is that students in upmarket private schools have the wherewithal to attend online classes from the comfort of their homes.

  Impact of Reopening Schools Globally Top

Countries across the world have been trying to open schools in the aftermath of the pandemic. Almost 146 countries across the world shut schools as the virus started spreading its tentacles from March 2020. According to a report when Israel reopened schools with full capacity, there was a sudden spurt in the number of cases in the country.[3] Since then many parents refused to send their wards to school. On the other hand, Finland and Denmark opted for the phased opening of schools with strict adherence to COVID guidelines.[4] There is a positive response to reopening if we look at the world scenario. There have been sporadic instances of the outbreak but due to contingency plans in place, the affected countries were able to arrest the spread.

  Challenges of Opening Schools in India Top

Situation in India is very different from the US, UK and Europe, Japan etc. The challenges are unique and not only restricted to academics. Following protocols and maintaining safety and hygiene standards has increased the operating costs by several notches.[5] The private schools are struggling with funds as there is a lot of hesitancy in paying dues from parents side. Enforcing social distancing during classes and teaching with masks on has its own limitations for teaching staff. Parents are also very apprehensive about sending students to school and that has resulted in dismal footfalls across private schools.

  Lurking Fear of Impending Third Wave Top

Leading newspapers are flooded with reports about a possible resurfacing of the deadly COVID-19 in India. But the reassuring part is the assertion of experts that if the third wave does come, it will not be as devastating as the second that had ravaged the country with a tsunami-like force earlier this year.

Speaking to a leading news channel, eminent microbiologist and virologist Dr. Gagandeep Kang has said that she does not see a ferocious third wave coming in the next couple of months with the type of variants circulating in the world. “We are unlikely to witness a major spike in daily cases in the third wave of coronavirus as compared to the second wave,” Kang was quoted as saying.[6]

Moreover, many virologists believe that India is now in the endemic stage. So if the third wave comes, it will be limited to smaller regions. Another virologist is of the opinion that another wave in the near future is possible only if a new variant more transmissible than the deadly delta mutant emerges.

These findings, surveys, opinions abound the moment you start skimming through the pages of dailies. There are too many improbabilities. There is too little solace. Am I ready to take a chance with my young one?

  Relevance Of Reopening School at Various Levels Top

The Class X and XII board classes are the worst hit. Learning is definitely compromised. The digital world is full of memes making fun of students graduating in this pandemic year. There is a lot of truth, though caricatured and exaggerated, in these creatives.

In fact, these are the very classes that have started coming to school even as footfalls vary from government to private schools. For instance, government schools are recording healthy attendance in NCR. By comparison, private schools all over the region are struggling with their attendance volumes and offering hybrid classes to students where an educator takes online and offline classes simultaneously.

In my personal experience, a hybrid class is not the ideal solution as one or the other form (offline or online) is neglected. Online pupils tend to be neglected because the students physically present take your maximum attention.

Middle, primary and pre-primary students should safely remain at home and continue with the online mode till children are either vaccinated or the deadly virus is immobilised. There cannot be any compromise regarding the health of our Gen Next.

The only aspect compromised is the social conditioning of the young ones. Nursery students are advancing to kindergarten and Class I without even once experiencing the physical classroom interaction. For them school is limited to the screen in their living rooms. Yet this is a small price to pay to keep our children safe.

  Conclusion Top

The use of technology has unshackled time-bound, period-based learning and opened the doors wide for accommodating all learners. With facilities such as recorded lessons in the audio-visual format, assisted learning with artificial intelligence and simulating activities for experiential learning, students are allowed to learn at their own pace.

At a time when lives were coming to a standstill, learning continued as we reached the homes of students virtually and kept them gainfully engaged. This rapid transformation has redefined the exchange of teaching-learning processes at all levels.

This will remain an active tool for the future as well, even when our children will be back filling the empty classrooms with their happy chatter. We cannot expose our precious children to any kind of danger. Limitations of time and space have been conquered.

Evolving and adapting for staying relevant is the only way forward. In this ever-advancing and technology-driven world, we must embrace new trends with open arms. The challenge is to create a synergy between old and new, facilitating the upward swing of the learning curve. This is the new world.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Available from: https://www.corecommitments.unicef.org/kp/unicef-final-eng-safe-journeys-25-09-20.pdf. [Last accessed on 2021 Sep 26].  Back to cited text no. 2
Available from: https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/how-countries-are-reopening-schools-during-pandemic. [Last accessed on 2021 Sep 26].  Back to cited text no. 3
Available from: https://citizenmatters.in/school-reopening-concerns-challenges-experiences-21364. [Last accessed on 2021 Sep 26].  Back to cited text no. 5


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