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News letter

Monthly Newsletter | July 2020 | Volume 14


Dear readers,

 

I am glad to present before you the School 360 Newsletter for June 2020.

 

Covid-19 has regrettably remained the grand narrative for the past 3 months, and May has not been much of an exception.

 

However, in this edition we have included the ‘tales of combat’ i.e. the efforts being put by the leaders and the teachers of our partner schools to beat the odds. We have published our interactions with the Directors of three of our partner schools. The objective was to help our readers gain insights into the functioning of the schools while they are being run on virtual platforms. All three of these schools are in fact units of three renowned groups of schools of southern India based in Tirupati and Karimnagar and Guntur. In all, around 15000 children are enrolled in these three schools combined.

 

Customarily, we have also included news articles from among the happenings of the month of May. The articles include the introduction of an arts-integrated curriculum by the CBSE, the decision of Maharashtra government regarding the reopening of schools, the inclusion of vocational courses in Himachal’s school curriculum, and the concessions and exemptions being granted by the foreign universities to attract Indian students.

 

I am confident that you will find the transcripts of the interviews informative and insightful, and the news items will also be of interest to you.

 

We are committed to keeping our readers abreast of the developments in the K-12 sector and we will include more interviews and case studies in our future editions.

 

I thank you again for your encouragement and feedback.

 

 

Stay Healthy and Hopeful !

Vinod Kakumanu



Art-integrated curriculum, a new addition to CBSE curriculum with projects on ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’

An art-integrated curriculum will now be offered to the students of class 1 to 10 in CBSE affiliated schools. This will come into effect from the new academic session.

 

According to the reports coming from the HRD ministry, within the scheme of the said curriculum, there would be a minimum of one project pertaining to ‘Ek Bharat Shrestha Bharat’ (united India, supreme India) programme.

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Introduction of Vocational Courses for classes 9 and 11 on the cards in Himachal Pradesh

The state of Himachal Pradesh is set to introduce 15 vocational courses for class 9 students from the 2020-21 academic session. The courses that have been approved amount to 15 in number and they are planned to be taught for 2 years.

 

Pandit Sunder Lal Sharma Central Institute of Vocational Education, Bhopal has been commissioned to develop the syllabi for the subjects.

The courses amount to orientation...

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Maharashtra might see phased reopening of schools from mid-June

While Maharashtra remains at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in the country, the state is revisiting the prospects of resuming activities that were abruptly halted in the wake of COVID. One such activity is schooling. The state government has indicated that June 15 onwards there is a possibility of phased opening of schools.

 

State’s School Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad has clarified that the resumption of the schools in the state will occur

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Enter COVID-19, foreign Universities offer IELTS relaxation and fee-waivers and much more to attract Indian students

Aligning themselves to the demand of the times, foreign universities are coming out with appealing offers and features including fee-waivers, IELTS relaxation etc.

 

Besides fee-waivers, there are online courses, virtual tours, provisional admissions, and an unprecedented option to join on-campus at a time that suits the candidate.

 

It is expected that foreign universities would attract Indian students in the times when the international scenario has changed indefinitely. The Indian nationals make the second-highest influx of international exchange, hence the zealous attempts at luring them for admissions.

 

A recent report by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) suggests that around 48 percent of Indian students with aspirations to study abroad have altered their plans in a significant way in the wake of the COVID -19 crisis. The major factors that are deterring these students include the expenses and the increasingly bleak job opportunities, thanks to the Corona crisis.

At least some of these students are considering the online admission for at least the initial part of their course. It is reported that a majority of the institutes are offering their conventional courses online and they have started the admission process. As far as the on-campus studies are concerned, they can only be expected to resume by 2021.

...
Schools to reopen Zone-wise for classes 8 to12, green zones to take the lead, others would gradually follow

Reopening of schools and strategy thereof is being deliberated intensely by the Centre in coordination with the states and UTs.

 

The point of the strategy of reopening of schools that is unambiguous is that it is going to be phased and zone-wise. This is of course the post-lockdown possible scenario.

 

According to a suggestion made by the NCERT in its draft guidelines, the schools will call students from class 8 to 12. The children from the junior classes will only attend schools after all the schools, in all the zones have been reopened.

A senior official in the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) said, “We are working on guidelines for reopening of schools after the lockdown and we plan to call only older students because there is a lot of safety risk with younger students. One cannot expect the younger children to maintain physical distance, wear masks, and follow the hygiene rules at all times and we do not want to put them to risk.”

The HRD Ministry will decide upon the reopening of the schools and issue guidelines in connection with it after consultation with ministries of health and home affairs.

It has been emphasized that the guidelines will include a detailed training module laying down the foundations of training that teachers will have to undergo before schools reopen.

...

K. Sreekanth Babu, M.S. (USA), Director
Kennedy Group of Institution

Q. How are parents responding to the changed scenario of schooling and how the learning is happening?


A. The attitudes and responses of parents vary with factors including level of education, economic strata, and digital literacy. While many have welcomed the changes and have adjusted to it well, others have shown some degree of resistance. Those who were not initially impressed with the changing methods, gradually came to terms with it. 

 

Overall, Next Gen’s experience has been a positive one, thanks to the spirit of the teachers and their ability to adapt to the changes.

Q. Which online platforms and resources is your institution using to conduct virtual classrooms?


A. I can say that without reserve that Zoom has come out as the best digital platform among the ones we have tried. We tried Facebook live and others too, but Zoom became our mainstay. It has the features conducive to conduct a virtual classroom, which many other platforms do not have.

 

We have also used Whatsapp and Youtube for uploading lessons and assignments.

Q. Do you find the resources developed and promoted by the CBSE and NCERT useful?


A. They are useful indeed. However, we have our own resources that suit our needs better. We subscribe to advance curriculum solutions like Chrysalis and that ensures that the consistency is not lost when classes are conducted virtually.

Q. Do you see a use for an online learning platform after the schools reopen?


A. Yes, of course, the online platforms will have their uses. Home assignments will gain new dimension and teacher-student interaction will get enhanced.

 

If we could train students well in subjects like online ethics, digital platforms will have inconceivable advantages. However, I am not a votary of the replacement of the conventional classrooms with digital ones. Traditional classrooms will remain the mainstay of school education and they ought to be so.

Q. Are you planning an online assessment program?


A. As you know, it is not the exam season and so we have not yet planned a structured assessment model that would be operationalized digitally. Having said that, we have kept ourselves abreast of the options available and we have also assessed them comparatively. We will take our pick when the need arises. As far as the classroom assessments are concerned, platforms like Whatsapp and Zoom are adequate.

Q. Are you developing any module to guide parents making them proactive in their children's studies, or do you see a need for it?


A. Parents have been intimated about the changes that are expected. We have requested their cooperation in ensuring the adherence to schedules and completion of assignments. And, we are getting appreciable assistance from the parents for which we are thankful.

Q. Is monitoring a challenge in the context of a virtual classroom?


A. In the classes we conduct on Zoom, we typically keep a co-host to monitor the participants. The participation of the children is constantly under observation of the co-host.

K.S.Vasu, B.Com
B.L., Director, Komandur Group of Schools

Q. Which online platforms and resources is your institution using to conduct virtual classrooms?


A. We are primarily using Zoom as the medium to conduct Virtual classrooms. We are aware of the concerns that were raised about this particular application, but if we are vigilant enough and use a validated server, the problems are highly unlikely. We found Zoom to be comparatively better than Google Meet etc.

 

We have also tried Facebook live, but it has its issues like disruptive and irrelevant comments. We have also started our youtube channel to upload lectures. It has garnered tremendous reception and the viewership is soaring by the day. 

 

Students are uploading assignments on WhatsApp also, so I can say that different digital resources are in use and we choose them depending on the need.

Q. Do you find the resources developed and promoted by the CBSE and NCERT useful?


A. Yes, going by the inputs I have received, they are quite useful. Although we subscribe to the Andhra State Board of Education, the e-reading material of NCERT is particularly of importance for teachers in preparing activities for the virtual classes.

Q. Do you see a use for an online learning platform after the schools reopen?


A. I can’t conceive virtual classrooms replacing real classrooms ever. Granted, they will have their niche use.The teaching is not just impersonal transaction of information it is an amalgamation of exchange of emotions and live responses that make up “magical moments”. The old ‘chalk and talk’ is as relevant today as it was centuries earlier and I believe that at least for school-age children real classrooms and their atmosphere is vital for their growth and development. Undergraduate and Higher studies are another story altogether.

Q. Are you planning an online assessment program?


A. For assessment, we are subscribing to edudex which delivers assessments composed of MCQs and it has an inbuilt time limit and other features which serves our purpose quite satisfactorily. The question papers are framed by the provider itself and that is also a useful feature as it enables us to make assessments as frequent as we want them to be. Another advantage of the online assessment is the freedom to adjust the level of difficulty of the question papers for students with diverse potential.

Q. Are you developing any module to guide parents making them proactive in their children's studies, or do you see a need for it?


A. We have had personal interactions with parents to orient them regarding the changing needs and desired responses. We have not organized an event as such, but we will conduct such a program if we find personal interactions inadequate.

Q. Is monitoring a challenge in the context of a virtual classroom?


A. I will not term it as a challenge. It is quite feasible and effective if the lesson plan is sound. The interactive model of teaching-learning ensures the involvement of the children and that ensures that the children are actively participating. And of course, Parents also have a role to play in this regard.

Dr. E. Prasad Rao
Chairman, Paramita Group of Schools

Q. How well have you adapted to the situation generated by the COVID-19 crisis?


A. The entire development had an element of surprise and disbelief to it, despite that we soon came to terms with it and started virtual classrooms with almost 100 percent attendance.

 

And in the process, we have also realized the immense potential that asynchronous learning has.

 

We have always believed that ideal pedagogy is not primarily transactional, it is rather transformational. While conducting virtual classrooms too, we are planning lessons and assignments to instill proactivity in children.

Q. How would you rate parental acceptance vis-à-vis the changed scenario?


A. Parents trust Paramita Group of Institutions and they are well aware of the current situation and its demands. Hence, they are cooperating and are in fact being instrumental as far as completion of assignments and adherence to the class schedule is concerned.

 

Parents are now aligned to the organizational goals in a much meaningful way.

Q. Which online platforms and resources is your institution using to conduct virtual classrooms?


A. We are primarily using Google Meet and Google Classroom for virtual sessions as the features are apt and handy. The teachers have gotten very comfortable with it.

Q. We are primarily using Google Meet and Google Classroom for virtual sessions as the features are apt and handy. The teachers have gotten very comfortable with it.


A. Yes indeed, the online reading material and online platforms are being used by many students and teachers. Resources like DIKSHA, Podcast app ‘CBSE-ShikshaVani’ and other educational materials including explanation videos, experiential content, activities, quizzes, interactive games are proving to be helpful.

Q. Can monitoring be effectively done in virtual classrooms?


A. If preparations are done before the session, and when assignments involve demonstration, presentation, or display, monitoring becomes much more effective.  

A. If preparations are done before the session, and when assignments involve demonstration, presentation, or display, monitoring becomes much more effective.


A. I believe that asynchronous learning has a long way to go and even when the normal schooling resumes, virtual learning will retain its importance. It will expand the dimensions of classroom learning manifold.

Q. Are you developing any module to guide parents making them proactive in their children's studies, or do you see a need for it?


A. We have planned a Webinar to orient the parents concerning the changing facets of schooling and the reversal of roles that the situation warrants.

Q. How are parents responding to the changed scenario of schooling and how learning is happening?


A. Generally speaking, the parents understand the inevitability of the changes that are taking place. There is a specific section of parents with a peculiar problem that relates to the time their children are spending online and they are also concerned regarding the increased rate of children’s mobile phone usage.