We have been affected by the current Pandemic in all spheres of our lives.
With the closure of educational institutions all over the country, it is challenging for parents to select a “Good “ school during a pandemic. The School they select now will be one they want to continue with even after the situation gets normal. Hence parents need to keep several important things in mind.
Before we talk about school selection criteria, we would like to highlight the two key aspects that need to be considered while finalizing our criteria for a good school.
- Our children: This Generation Z/Alpha children are much smarter and more advanced than those from the previous generation. They have easy access to the internet and technologies like smartphones, tablets, social reach through many social media sites, and access to apps where they can create music, videos, and share them globally. They are growing up at a faster pace with an unlimited amount of information – all available with a click of a button. They have their own mind, way of learning, and are not afraid of saying “No” if a subject (or teacher) doesn’t interest them. Parents need to provide them education that is equally fast-paced, easily accessible, encourage their curious creative mind, and help them collaborate with others internally and globally.
- Real-world skills: Education that will align the children of a new world to develop skills required in our rapidly changing world.
- Ability to deal with failure
- Decision making
- Critical thinking
- Emotional intelligence
- Cognitive flexibility
The new education policy (NEP 2020) recently introduced by the government of India aims to replace rote learning with multiple and progressive methods of learning.
Keeping these two factors in mind, let’s discuss some things that need to be kept in mind while selecting a school for our children.
Our child’s need: Not every school is suitable for every child. This is THE most important criteria “what are my child’s needs, interests, strengths, learning styles and how will the school help him/her achieve those goals”. We need to ask some important questions:
- Is my child creative, likes the free play, or prefers to follow instructions?
- Does my child require individualised/customised attention or will be happy in a larger size ‘instructive’ model of teaching?
- Does my child learn better in a warm and caring environment?
- Does my child have any additional learning or special needs?
Parents know their children the best therefore the school search needs to be child-centric. Some of the following research-based criteria (Visible learning – John Hattie) needs to be carefully considered while selecting a school:
Warmth and emotional bond with the teacher: A good school is driven by great teachers. It’s time we look beyond a Teacher’s educational qualification and work experience and try to dig deeper. Are we ok to entrust our child to qualified teachers who don’t love and bond with children or have an empathetic compassionate teacher with a true passion for learning? Research confirms that our children learn the best when they have a warm connection with their teachers.
- To prepare our children for 21st-century skills we need teachers to serve as guides to mentor their students and not as “I-know-it-all” sages whose job is to just pass on the information. As mentioned before, this generation of children already have access to all kinds of information through technology.
- Teachers who are confident, approachable, positive, proactive, and caring will take an extra step to understand their students.
- We need teachers who are willing to learn and unlearn and relearn so that they can empower children.
- Teachers should be constantly creating ways to make learning more engaging; fulfilled and creative thus they need to be curious, flexible, and forward-thinking.
- Teachers should be updated with the latest technological tools for effective distance learning.
Open classrooms: Are gleaming classrooms and buildings enough? Not anymore! While infrastructure is a crucial part of a school, there is a lot of research (Blueprint for Tomorrow – Nair, Fielding) on how open classrooms foster far more effective learning. Large, open-space multi learning areas are a signature feature of 21st-century school environments. More and more schools are replacing traditional classrooms with open learning spaces, individual quiet zones, and large spaces for immersive learning, and small hubs for individual assistance.
Classrooms were necessary when schools were meant to educate the factory workers. Factory workers were required to receive standardized instructions to carry out standardized tasks inside factories. Such instructions required all students to learn the same thing the same way and at the same pace. This is simply not the case today. We live in the knowledge era where each child learning requires personalization, and needs to work individually and in groups. Children have different learning styles and even learning speeds. These are things that are impossible to achieve in a classroom setting.
Beyond Sports, beyond infrastructure: Infrastructure is not enough when it comes to making great sportspersons. Many of India’s past and current sports stars come from very humble origins. Children of farmers, laborers, and petty shop owners, have seen severe hardships and their families have sacrificed a lot to put them on the path to success. The fact that these sportspersons emerged from difficult conditions where infrastructure was poor, it’s time we ask ourselves what were the conditions that created these great sportspersons. Some of these are:
- Fire in the belly
- Mental and physical toughness
- Time manage
- Zeal to win
Thus we need to look for schools that will create these conditions and skills in their students which will imbibe lifelong love for sports. After all, paying for acres of land for infrastructure but not used for sports, is useless. The important question thus is: does the school focus on developing the above-mentioned skills?
Most of our children will not become international level sportspersons therefore schools should imbibe a lifelong love for sports and fitness in such a way that students continue with good habits long after leaving school.
Problem-based learning over Rote learning: 0ur country is facing the issue of rote learning which is a memorization technique based on repetition. This technique no doubt inhibits creative learning stagnating learners’ overall growth. Unfortunately, most students continue to be educated in the same way as they were in the past, being taught a standardized curriculum through rote learning and individualized testing, at a one-size-fits-all pace.
No wonder children are disengaged and lack motivation. In order to develop the 21C skills, we need to bring a shift in our Learning Pedagogy to prepare learners for productive functioning in this continually changing and highly demanding environment.
With the NEP 2020, the government mandates that schools start reducing the curriculum and instead focus on progressive teaching and learning models. Parents need to select schools that use research-based progressive methods in place such as Problem-Based learning, Experiential Learning, Inquiry-based learning, Project-based learning.
Alignment with NEP 2020: The New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was approved on 29th July 2020 which will substantially change the curriculum, the method of teaching, and the assessments. The NEP is ambitious and future aligned and needs to verify how the school aligns with the new policy on a variety of parameters. Some essential pillars of NEP are:
- It focuses on combating rote learning and promote experience-based conceptual learning.
- NEP focuses on critical thinking and creativity.
- NEP aims at improving social and emotional skills like Empathy, perseverance, teamwork, communication through community participation.
- Through NEP, we will have assessment reforms with revised learning outcomes (LO’s) whereby the progress of the students will be tracked based on many qualitative (skill-based) and other quantitative (core concept-based) methods.
Hence parents should select schools that are aligned with the New Education Policy 2020. They should dig deep to find out exactly how the schools are meeting the requirements of the NEP 2020.
Counselling and mental well being: In a time when mental health and wellbeing is one of the biggest challenges faced by our young learners, a 21st-century education can give students the skills they need both for now and for the future. Skills like communication, emotional quotient, inclusiveness, go beyond the workplace: they can help people through the most difficult times of their life. Also, our children’s mental health has been vastly affected during this pandemic, which will take time to recover even after they join back to school.
Hence we need to look for schools that vastly invest in counselors, do robust coaching and constant learning, focus on therapeutic intervention, practice mindfulness, collaborate & support parents whose children are going through any kind of stress or anxiety.
Post COVID-19 Safety: In the Post COVID world, safety is the utmost concern for every parent, and rightly so, the school should prioritize the Safety of their children throughout.
Schools should meet key parameters such as:
- Large socially distanced indoor open learning spaces
- Centralized A/C’s with diffusers instead of vents
- Air purification systems to clean the air from viruses and bacteria
- Comply with WHO safety guidelines
Collaboration with Parents: Affective education is a three-way process involving teachers, children, and parents. Schools that are willing to involve Parents through their policy-making, decision making, and children’s growth process are the schools that we need to look at while selecting the best school for our children.
- Some parameters that can be taken into consideration are
- Invite parents for SLC’s and exhibitions displaying work of students
- Parents as volunteers and resources for many school-related activities
- Active parent-teacher associations and councils
- Continuous communication with parents (coffee sessions with parents)
- Involvement of parents in school policies
- Parents feedback and online satisfaction surveys (through emails, texts or apps)
When parents are engaged in their children’s school lives, students have home support, better motivation, and creates a positive learning environment.
A good school will share responsibility with the parents to help the learning meet educational goals.
Use of updated distance learning practices: While virtual learning has substituted the classroom learning techniques during this pandemic, some form of hybrid learning is likely to continue even after schools reopen. The parameters that can be kept in mind while assessing the distance learning programs of schools:
- Focus on activity-based learning
- E-certificates & e-badges
- Real-time communication with learners
- Using Apps & tools to enable learners actively engage in content, uploading assignment and giving access to parents, breakout rooms for collaboration work
- Circle time for taking children’s feedback etc.
- Dynamic and meaningful assessments
- Less use of worksheets