Optimal Hybrid Schooling Strategies for Sustaining Skilling

This article is on understanding what solutions may work for tackling the challenges faced by the Indian education system due to the pandemic or any disruption (like viral infection and climate change). The author suggests eight strategies to facilitate parents, teachers, school management, and the community to stay at home and school. Schools can develop an optimisation system to implement the strategy in an emergency or disruption. These strategies keep in mind the pupil–teacher ratio of 15 (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average), classroom size, sick or other leaves by any of the stakeholders, vacations, developing countries, remote access, high population density, first-dose adult vaccination of all family members of the pupil, and teachers, strictly follow sanitize, mask and social distancing (SMS) norms, fines or punishment imposed in relaxing of COVID-19 protocols, and willingness to adopt digital technologies. The strategies also work for those children who opt for vocational school training. Given that the pandemic is here to stay, the Indian school-level education system should consider adopting hybrid solutions. It is crucial to reduce the learning losses due to the pandemic and achieve the various National Education Policy, 2020 goals.

 

The different waves of the pandemic left the country in a bad shape, and there was anticipation of a monkeypox wave and a fourth BF.7 wave in India (Bhaduri 2021; Ghosh 2021; Jha, et al 2022; TNN 2022). Active load cases were rising in the country after five months of low presence (NDTV 2023). Opening schools anywhere was a tough job during the pandemic or disaster—a mystery that will gradually unfold in the upcoming years (Azim Premji University2021; Lau, et al 2020; Vogel and Couzin-Frankel 2020). Climatic disruptions like the recent flash floods in Delhi and its neighbouring hilly states, repeated cyclones in the east and west coast of India, heat waves in the eastern belt, and other climatic disruptions that forced the shutting down of schools are a curse to the education system, especially in terms of its impact on the learning outcomes.  Educational outcomes for children in the United States (US) are in a K-shaped recovery phase. However, school pass outs in the past three years will need more key 21st-century skills (Center On Reinventing Public Education 2022; Lake and Pillow 2022). To cut to the chase, vaccines were and are the silver bullet. Almost 60–70 percent of the Indian population has supposedly attained herd immunity due to mass coverage, but with a disclaimer.

As Agnes Quisumbing, IFPRI Washington DC tweeted, “Our school committee just voted to start with universal masking! (Big sigh of relief). Also very high vaccination rates among those eligible. >90% of school staff are vaxxed. >95% of 16-19 yo at least one dose, >77% of 12-15. Now they need to get shots in arms for <12! The school district will set up vaxx clinics for <12 once approved.”

 

Figure 1:  Going Back to School-cum-Vaccination Sites