Published: 15th June 2020
This is the first time students have said they want to study in their own country: GIIS' Atul Temurnikar on education in a post-COVID world
Atul Temurnikar, co-founder and chairman of the Global Schools Foundation, shares his experience of setting up a classroom following the virus outbreak
Students around the world are struggling to cope with the new reality that COVID-19 has brought us. How will education survive in a world where students are torn away from the classroom? We speak to an expert on the subject, Atul Temurnikar, co-founder and chairman of the Global Schools Foundation, on the preparedness of our educational institutions to embrace the new normal and embrace virtual classrooms. Global Indian International School is a global network of international schools across 20 campuses in India, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand, UAE and Vietnam with over 15,000 students worldwide. Excerpts from the conversation:
As a global educational institution, how do you plan to adapt in the post-COVID world?
I would say that the crisis is, in a way, a boon to the world, especially educators, to help understand what needs to be changed in order to better prepare our young learners for what the future might hold for them. Our job as educators actually comes not just by facilitating this, but also by effectively implementing it. With the way things are going, this could last for even longer than a year and its impact will be around for at least the next three years. We wouldn't be surprised to find that online education has become the most important part of our lives. It will be very dominant and a clear direction for the future. When the crisis first broke out, we were the first school to start taking precautions for our students. We divided them into two groups. At any given point of time, only one group was allowed to be physically present at school while the rest were connected to the classrooms online. All the classrooms were fully COVID-compliant and every classroom was fitted with the facilities of a virtual classroom.
How do we prepare ourselves for a threat of such a large scale going forward?
Even post COVID-19, I think this method that worked really well for us will become the new normal. Most of the cohorts will continue to be divided into teams. Classrooms will be partially occupied and marked for social distancing, and safety will become of paramount importance for as long as the students are in school. The two teams will be rotated and will not meet each other at any given time. Allowing virtual schooling as an option to physical attendance can also be looked into. All this is to basically minimise the stress on students and to give them more time to study and ensure their safety at all times. We think that mobile-based free virtual classrooms and conferencing systems will come to the market soon. I emphasise the word 'free' here because everyone will and should be using them to the maximum extent. With regards to India, the government school education programmes that they have just introduced on Doordarshan are an example of large-scale virtual education which I think can go beyond borders.
ONLINE MOMENT: Classes are rapidly shifting to online platforms
How will exams be conducted going forward? How can one ensure that they will be conducted fairly?
Virtual will play a big role even when it comes to exams. We are implementing on-camera exams where teachers can watch over their students. Soon, it will be common among most institutions. There are going to be multiple ways in which exams will be conducted. We are introducing Integrated Digital Examinations, an assessment system that can conduct exams with military-grade precision. The answer scripts can also be accessed online at the necessary time by both students and teachers. The main challenge will be extracurricular activities which require a lot of in-person participation. We have a solution for that as well: our sports analytic system collects on-field data on indoor and outdoor sports and helps analyse the dynamic on games and encourages participation.
How can we ensure that these platforms are available to children everywhere?
We believe that the scale of impact is going to be felt everywhere, not just in India. The solution is very simple: contact needs to be minimised. Going online is probably the most effective way to do so. We are going to see a massive deployment of online tools, in fact, a lot of private companies are already working within this space. All these products, which were once available only to a select few, will become a common resource. For every child, be it in villages, rural areas or anywhere else, digital mechanisms will grow more accessible. I predict that in a few weeks, there will be announcements from big companies, like Facebook, that we can use their platforms to learn.
What will be the future of higher education in a world where travel will be increasingly restricted?
I live in Singapore where we see a lot of students travel to the US, UK and Australia for their higher studies. The same is true for India as well. This is the first time that I have heard students say that they want to continue studying in their home countries. You are going to see lakhs of students who spend billion of dollars in our own institutions. This will help preserve intellectual and financial resources within the country. More importantly, Indian institutions which were not considered first choice previously will have to scale up. They will see a huge influx of students coming in whether it is for face-to-face or virtual learning. There are very high chances that it will become cheaper as well. In a way, it will benefit the students themselves.