04 Sep 2020 19:10 IST

Learning mustn’t stop for teachers too

President Radhakrishnan had lessons for today as educators go through a paradigm shift

India, a country which has the glorious tradition of Guru Purnima, celebrates Teachers Day on September 5 every year, the birth anniversary of the second President of India — Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. This celebration is an apt tribute to him as he was not only a scholar par excellence but also a distinguished Professor at Oxford University. He believed that a life of joy and happiness is possible only on the basis of knowledge.

True teachers are those who help us think for ourselves, Radhakrishnan had said. He believed that the role of a teacher is crucial to the development and growth in many ways, and teachers should be the best minds in the country.

Crisis in education

The pandemic has disrupted education like never before. Schools, colleges and universities remain closed for the last six months forcing them to impart education digitally. Schools have invested in digital technology platforms and teachers are taking efforts to recreate the classroom experience even in digital mode. Parents and students have also slowly readjusted to this new reality.

But six months down the line, we find that there is a dissatisfaction with this digital medium of delivery, making people ponder on the suitability of the online mode. Teachers find teaching dull as the absence of a classroom experience, which ensures instant feedback to the teacher, is absent. Teachers have started to feel the disconnect with their students. Also, the student’s on-screen attention span is lower compared to a classroom, making learning difficult. The health issues arising out of continuous screen exposure is also a worrisome outcome.

The parents seem to be unhappy with the new system, too. The nuclear family set-up with both the parents working does makes it difficult for the parents to be as involved as the digital system demands. Many parents are unable to devote the required amount of time to help their children’s education because of their own work pressures. Many parents from weaker sections have already discontinued their child’s education. This has resulted in demands for fee reduction and fee waiver impacting the viability of the education sector.

NEP’s digital push

The biggest benefit of going digital is the reach that can be achieved. In a country like India, where access to quality education is still an unaffordable dream for many, digital initiatives can be a god-sent solution. The New Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) deliberates digital technology interventions in detail. It aims to establish National Education Technology Forum (NEFT), to provide evidence-based advise on technology-based interventions, build institutional capabilities in education technology, and articulate new directions for research and innovation in this domain.

NEP 2020 emphasises quality teacher training by restructuring teacher education institutions (TEI). It is imperative that the TEI should also focus on developing digital capabilities, which is central in today’s changing education landscape.

Reinventing oneself

Resolving the issues in the digital method of education is key in making quality education more affordable. This means teachers need to reflect on the situation and reinvent themselves and be aware of the changing roles in the modern world. Processes and approaches designed for face-to-face learning may not be suitable anymore. Teachers will need adequate training and skill-building to adapt to the new normal.

This responsibility o lies with three parties — government, schools and teachers. Government should ensure that quality digital infrastructure is in place, facilitating digital access to all students. Special care should be taken by the government to make sure that the students from weaker economical background do not lose out while we transition. Schools should invest in digital systems, teacher training and most importantly, actively participate in revamping the knowledge transfer process to meet the needs of the new digital reforms.

Ultimately, the greatest responsibility lies with the teachers. Teachers should be open to new ideas and be ready to unlearn and relearn. In the words of Dr Radhakrishnan, “when we think we know, we cease to learn.”

(The writer is Professor, TA Pai Management Institute, Manipal.)