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By:  Ramesh Mudgal

It has been a whole year since the COVID-19 crisis first attacked us, and slowly everyone is coming to terms with the new normal. With over half the students already having returned to face-to-face schooling, it is only a matter of time before schools start seeing full attendance again. The number of students attending in person will steadily increase as more students and parents realise that online learning, however advanced it has become, cannot replace the value addition one imbibes while attending school in person. Students, in particular, are missing physical activities and hands-on learning desperately. This sentiment of frustration and longing is also encouraging them to return to school. Another factor driving students to resume physical schooling comes from the fact that one cannot deny the limitations of social interaction and emotional bonding in virtual environments.

The parents and students who have been in doubt and fear, are also slowly beginning to see that schools’ health and safety measures have proven effective by limiting the spread of infection at school. Parents have now realised that the pandemic is not going away anytime soon, and returning their children to the physical method of learning is a much more beneficial option for them. Schools and academic institutions shall continue their strict implementation of health and safety protocols in compliance with authorities’ timely updates. While schools may not return fully to the old normal before the end of 2021, they will continue to upgrade their safety measures and protect the students’ and educators’ health. Wearing masks, social distancing, and sanitisation at every contact point are basics that one can expect to see all schools follow in 2021.

Schools have shown remarkable resilience during the lockdown period by innovating and adapting to changes a lot quicker than most other sectors. To ensure that students do not have to suffer academically, schools had to learn to deliver virtual learning quickly, keeping the quality of lesson delivery, comfort of students, and completing curriculum in consideration. During the lockdown, teachers had to learn to do a lot more within a short period, and they have now learnt to be agile. Educators and students have both learnt how great a saviour technology has become in this unprecedented period. Learning never stops, and the way educators have learnt to adopt transformational teaching methods in this crisis is testament to that fact. The pandemic has taught the education sector that change can be sudden and quite disruptive, but the only way to continue thriving is to build resilience and expand our horizon when it comes to learning how to teach better.

Parents and schools must prepare well and follow certain practices regularly without fail to ensure that students’ health is not compromised upon their return. Regular and continued attention to personal safety must continue to be the top priority of parents and students. Considering the latest advances in vaccination developments, it is likely that effective vaccines will be available in 2021. Along with health workers and front line COVID-19 fighters, students and school staff are expected to be given priority. Schools are continually innovating better-blended learning methods to make in-class learning more accessible and impactful while maintaining stringent adherence to health and safety protocols. Parents can expect to see a rise in the use of personal devices being allowed at school for students to maintain social distancing. A significant benefit of this will be the personalisation of learning that each student will be able to access and enjoy.

Mr Ramesh Mudgal is the principal of Global Indian International School ( GIIS) Dubai. He has over twenty years of experience in teaching, administration, and management of schools As the head of various K-12 international schools, he has led large teams of academic and non-academic staff with excellence.