Education in the ‘new normal’

Now that we know that the educational institutions will be reopening on September 15, these institutes would need to implement relevant strategies. The biggest challenge in this regard will be handling primary school students and having them follow the SOPs and social distancing measures. The COVID-19 and the lockdown have changed the very fabric of our lifestyles. Students, in particular primary school children, had to adjust themselves in this new world that was an impossible situation to perceive a month before the lockdown was imposed in March of this year.
The challenges for educational institutions are many as they reopen. The management needs to renovate the campus accordingly as the classrooms have been kept unused for nearly six months. Furthermore, these institutions need to install sanitizers in hallways and keep extra masks for those who misplace them or forget them at home.
Furthermore, the educational institutions need to create a modus operandi on how the classes will be conducted. While the campus of institutes will be open, all students cannot be accommodated at once because of a higher number of students. In this regard, a hybrid model of education is being proposed by some institutes. Under this model, half of the students take classes at the institute while the rest take it online from their homes. This model, at this time, will help institutes to divide their class strength in accordance with the strict SOPs that must be followed.
While the universities have the required Learning Management System (LMS) and associating online mechanisms operational to conduct online classes, the colleges and schools must come at par with such technological advancements. The management of such schools and colleges must enhance the learning of the faculty members when it comes to using the LMS for optimum efficiency. The academic year and the activities associated with it must not be wasted.
It is interesting to note how the lockdown because of COVID-19 has brought the educational institutions at par with international standards when it comes to using digital media and technology to conduct academic activities.
Moreover, the parents must be the pillar and support for their children – especially those studying in primary classes – to adapt to a hybrid model of education. They must know the class schedule and adhere to the rules. The faculty members, in this regard, will also play a major part when it comes to helping students acclimatize with the hybrid model of education.
While education and academic progress will be the mission of the educational institutes, they must also follow the SOPs as defined by the government and the doctors. All students must sit at a distance from each other. They should wear a mask and wash their hands when needed. Sanitizers must be used accordingly.
Moreover, each educational institute should have a doctor on the campus to check students who complain of fever or flu. The entrance of the institutes must have a dedicated resource recording the temperature of the students, faculty, and staff arriving at the institute.
Educational institutes must also relax their attendance policy. In such distressing times when the normal has become the new normal and even the common flu is considered to be a symptom for COVID-19, special care must be taken in this regard. Students should be allowed to take a day off if they have any symptoms signaling towards COVID-19. They should be allowed to take online classes from home. The students must inform their teacher beforehand to avoid any confusion.
The reopening of educational institutes will be a time of great pleasure for students who will meet their friends, colleagues, seniors, and juniors after a gap of almost six months. However, these celebrations and get-togethers in between classes must be done with care and responsibility. Handshakes should be avoided and elbow bumps should be encouraged until the fear of COVID-19 to spread is still evident.
Students must be asked to maintain a distance when standing in a line in the morning assembly or when buying food from the canteen during recess. Institutes must also ensure that students are not sitting too close to each other in school vans. With proper planning and management of resources, the institutes can implement SOPs and follow them. Furthermore, with the hybrid model of education, the classes can also be held without any hassle.

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