AMA: Dealing with cancelled exams and online schooling

What are the best options for students, parents and schools now? Meeta Sengupta and Piyul Mukherjee have some advice on this Founding Fuel Clubhouse chat

Founding Fuel

On June 5, we published Centre for Education Strategy founder Meeta Sengupta’s advice to students and parents on how to think about the next steps for higher education. And on June 7, we followed it up with a Ground Realities report by the team at Quipper Research led by Piyul Mukherjee on how students and teachers are faring with online classes.

We followed this up with an AMA with Meeta and Piyul on Clubhouse on June 11. The session was facilitated by Charles Assisi, co-founder, Founding Fuel. 

Here’s a 3-minute read on our top learnings: 

Takeaways from the chat  

Class X and Class XII exams have been cancelled. Students are confused. Parents are lost. What are the best options for a student right now?

  • Marks should not determine the course of your life
  • For Class X students, take cognizance of the new education policy. You no longer need to choose a stream. You should be able to make a choice (of subject) based on your potential. An interest for which you feel you can put in the hard work.
  • For Class XII students, start looking at what potential employers will look for—what more have you done with what you are learning?  
  • The world is looking at more than your simple linear marks-based results.

Multiplicity of boards and different schools adopting different systems is confusing for students

  • Schools are worried about how to select for Class XI if Class X exams don’t happen. Some schools created a system for themselves.
  • Students will and do find these different systems confusing.
  • Ideally, if students share information in a portal, it will help them. Extend your network, and network of networks. So there is better quality shared information, which keeps pace with the changing rules.

How do you know which school/college is best for you?

  • Try to find some seniors from that school and listen to their experience.
  • The curriculum and school ranking remains the same. The only change is in the admission process. Unfortunately, that means, students will need to research 3x more.

Decision between going abroad and staying in India

  • New Indian higher-ed institutions are worth considering. You need not rush abroad.
  • As a parent, while you want to gather your children close in this troubled time, you also need to help these fledgelings find their wings.
  • The US and Canada universities also focus on skills like arguing your point without getting into a fight. Which fosters more mental engagement and application of the knowledge. That is changing in the new Indian institutions—which also have great faculty that provokes the students to develop the same skills of analysing and engaging with the subject.
  • Consider this capability when choosing an institute.  

Online education

  • It’s about digital pedagogy: Have teachers and institutions been able to adapt to online teaching and learning?
  • The question to ask is, how much am I going to be able to engage with my professor? If it’s only going to be an online lecture, then it’s not worth it.

Has the time come to reconsider conventional wisdom about screen time?

  • We are watching a bit of evolution in action. 
    • In our childhood, we had much more physicality. But kids today are not as physically active. And more screen time may be part of that evolution.
    • Nevertheless, excessive screen time has mental health issues. (It is a loss that our kids are unable to run freely and do more physical things.)
    • The kids who are now in Class X and XII were not allowed to be completely integrated with technology (parents imposed limits to screen time). They’ve actually been immersed in this world of screens only in the past 4-5 years. So they are not really digital natives. Therefore, there’s a process and learning involved with engaging more with screens.
    • Therefore, they need support and backup (from parents and teachers) when they engage with a world of screens (for example, how to tell what is safe).     

The school’s challenge in a digital world

  • The schools in India, irrespective of the board, are just trying to push finishing their syllabus, rote learning, etc.
  • Parents are questioning whether they need to send their children to an expensive school, if all of them have this focus. 
  • Every school needs to rethink how to trigger learning—rather than perpetuate the old systems. If schools don’t change, they will miss the bus.
  • There needs to be different pathways for students to get higher education—become, say, doctors by attending community college—rather than only through a system based on marks (joint entrance exams). 
  • While a purely libertarian self-learning approach doesn’t work, pushing for creativity  within a structured system is meaningful. 
  • Teachers ought to be the curators of the information available to students online. (Google is like a museum; and the best museums have good curators.)
  • Teachers need to build space for reflective learning
  • Reading builds the space for reflection, imagination, and exploring possibilities through  multiple visualisations. So, how do teachers and parents build a reading habit?
  • Reading also allows you to snack and discover more fields and what you like and enjoy. And discover different stories (and not just the hero’s story).
  • Schools will also have to balance between how much is too much exposure or too little exposure by being syllabus-driven.
  • Teachers and schools should be responsible for the bottom 50% of students, rather than showcase only the top students. The top students already have the support or the intrinsic ability and drive to seek ways of learning.
  • The job of the teacher is continuous support, inspiration and care for the weaker students. (The divide in education is also a systemic issue that schools select better performing kids—rather, kids with better marks.)  

Where are the ideas in education going to come from? Are we relying too much on legacy institutions like the boards?

  • We are relying too much on the idea of a board as a certifying institution. 
  • The answers will come from a chaotic space like YouTube. 
  • The ones who can bring in multidisciplinary thinking and exploration will be the new institutions.  
  • There is a lot of emphasis on outcomes, and not on the experiences. We need to bring in more “play”. Play here is not sport, but a joyful exploration of what’s possible. 

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