Schools cannot survive for months on end if school fees are not paid. This is because schools have to be held in limbo. We assume and hope that there is an old normal to which we will revert. We hope, because our children miss their friends, they lose out on social and emotional learning, and good or bad, the learning outcomes were certainly better than the crisis learning that we are working with currently. But can we ever go back to the old normal, or have we already transitioned to the new normal?
This current protest is the start of a grand manthan for schools. We have to make a choice. We need to make a policy choice – both as a government, and as a people. Do we wait for the past to return? Or do we accept the new normal is being designed?
If we want the past to come back, we must pay to keep it in limbo. There is a cost, it must be borne. How governments intervene to save school capacity, how they reduce the burden on parents and how they support schools to survive is the business of the governments and education ministries of the day.
If we want to move ahead to the new normal, and evolve into an unknown but planned future of the education world, we have to invest in it. This again means a cost, but we may allocate our costs elsewhere. If your schools are maintaining continuity for your students, are working towards holding up learning standards (even if it’s not great now, but if they are listening and improving), and if your schools are providing the care and community that you feel you can support – then pay them for it.
Schools have a whole bunch of new expenses to budget for – retraining teachers (it will not remain free for ever), networking sites (they too will start charging soon), upgrades to bandwidth, investments in Virtual Reality and Augmented reality software, remote safety devices and actions, completely new ERPs – and a whole other type of governance architecture. Their physical infrastructure will have to be repurposed, their digital infrastructure will need investment. Choose whether you will stay with them during this journey, and if you will, then pay them to make it happen.
But if you choose to not trust your schools, then you will have to find your own way through this evolution. You can pay other providers, build your own portfolio of learning. Some will be mistakes (you’ll pay), and some will be brilliant (and you’ll still pay).
There are many ways of homeschooling, (though in the grey zone in India due to the RTE Act). As I have said before – you do not need schools. Dance, music, sport, languages – were all being learnt outside school hours for most in India. Most children had some tutors after school hours for academic work. Most worked with professionals for preparation for competitive examinations anyway. With online learning opening up, including MOOCs, certifications, private and organised learning pathways – there are loads of ways for our scholars to learn what they choose and get certified. The downside of course is that no one will be in charge – for as a parent, you are not a trained educator.
The choice is ours – do we support the professionals in the evolution to the next level of education, and help them to achieve greater learning outcomes with our children? Or do we do this alone, each of us working in a fragmented way to help our children move forward?
The choice is ours. Both choices have payments to be made, and costs to be borne.