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Expectations from 2023 in Primary Education

by Vijay Garg
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Following the unprecedented two year school closures thanks to the pandemic, 2022 saw the primary schooling system sputter back to life. After an on-now, off-now mode of the first quarter thanks to the Omicron Wave, we have had schools across the country function more or less consistently since April. Bringing back a dormant system to life, and adopting to the ‘old normal’ has been challenging for Educators, Parents, Administrators and most of all, children themselves. But as is the case with every dark cloud that passes over us, there are always some silver linings that we can learn from and carry it forward into 2023 and beyond.
One, Health and Safety measures in Primary schools are not a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’. The pandemic may have receded, but the lessons learnt on frequent hand washing routines, keeping unwell children (and staff) at home, frequent deep cleaning of school premises, and periodic sampling and testing of food and water served needs to be a standard operating procedure at every primary school, given the lower immunity that very young child may have.
Two, keeping children at home to protect them from the outbreak has had long term repercussions on their emotional and social health. Many western countries opened up their schools far earlier than India; in fact certain Scandinavian schools never closed – India saw its pubs open far before schools did. In the primary years, children learn tremendously through social interactions, and missing that out for two years is showing its impact as children make their way back to school – attention span deficits, increased psychological distress and deficiencies in language skill development are all evident at every primary school across the country. The right approach would have been to devise ways of keeping children in school and safe, rather than closing it out. 
Three, Ed-Tech is a huge benefit to have in the class, but not a substitute for the class, and definitely not at the primary school level. At this level,  the engagement a young child has with learning solely through a screen is at best a compromise. The true benefits of technology would come into play when these are put into enhanced learning methodologies inside (and out of) a classroom, rather than trying to substitute the classroom. The gains made in curriculum delivery and engagement through 2022 via Ed-Tech should and will be seen enhancing the classrooms of the future, where virtual realities and gamifications play a large part in delivering curriculum in the class.
Four, it takes a village to raise a child they say, and there is no time that this has been truer. Teachers, Administrators and Parents will all have to come together and work closer than ever before to see children settling back to what is a completely new routine for them – that of attending school with other children.
And lastly, but by no means the least, the true heroes of our society were defined in the pandemic and in 2022 – and they are our teachers. Not paid the big bucks of corporate lives, these men and women work endlessly and tirelessly towards their passion of educating young minds, and it is definitely time we celebrate them for what they truly represent. Their innovations during the times of the lockdown helped our children continue their education despite all odds, and yet it was this community that saw the largest chunk of laid-off or furloughed employee groups in the country. Perhaps it is time that the Government, the Parents and the School Administrators come together to ensure that more and more young people join this noble profession, and are rewarded with something a little more than just their passion.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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