Repurposing large school Infrastructure, in view of the long drawn Pandemic

In Urban India, particularly in the Metro’s and cities, we have always built large Monolithic school structures – typically a large Campus for several thousand students and several hundred classrooms, and all the enabling facilities to support these large numbers. Such campuses require several other parts that are not trivial, to make the school complete for delivering school Education from K-12.

Some of these better schools are not necessarily in the central part of the city.

Children and parents have to go through the rigmarole of getting their children ready, prepare lunch boxes, in case they don’t serve lunch at school.

All key stake holders have to be transported from different locations to the School, and transported back. There are may more complex tasks to make the City’s Big School, a really Good school where real world learning happens and world-class teaching practices, pedagogical approaches, Good and fair Assessment methodologies are implemented.

Clearly the main and foremost responsibility of a School is to deliver best-in-class Education, and develop wholesome personalities who would become World Citizens, and make us all proud.

So, Most parents would aspire for their children to study at this school.

The Cardinal questions to answer are, particularly in the context of an elaborate extended period of the Pandemic, what have we done. We switched to online learning. Not even 50% effective as classroom and peer group, real world learning where it learning is of experiential nature, particularly Grade 4 and later.

When everything was normal, pre-COVID, it was education as usual and this great school with a fantastic edifice and implementing all great teaching-learning, facilities, extra-curricular activities, Innovation Centres are all available.

During the past 18 months and foreseeably another year not much is going to change. The online learning, however well supplemented by Age group appropriate learning kits, it only improves the effectiveness of online learning incrementally. The children do get restless and it is difficult for elders in the family to help children pay attention to the online learning programs. The curriculum is still sacrosanct and the exams are also sacrosanct. The exam grades would eventually enable them to enter the portals of the colleges or Universities of their liking.

My question is, due to the extended pandemic, heavy overheads on running these monolith k-12 classes all in one place. Will it be viable and practical, post the Covid? A longtime.

As we are aware, numerous neighbourhood schools:small school Pre-school to Upper KG schools are closed for more than 18 months. And we know there are numerous such facilities in each neighbourhood.

My proposed model is if the schools with a good brand agree with the facility owners and setup a well equipped facility, but students from the neighbourhood, minimum commute, preferably walking distance from their homes.

The capacity should be about 40 students, and 2 teachers and 2 supporting teachers, if required (could even be parent volunteers – with flexible timings).

The number of people per centre is minimised. The quality of education could be even better as it can be personalised, Parent engagement is higher. The risk should be much lower as the number of people are low in number. The activities and recreation for that age group will generally be available already, if not it can be easily created.

Your Neighbourhood Learning Centre! Imagine clusters of such NLCs getting established near your homes, and all the benefits.

I still strongly believe in the Big School model for 5th Grade and onwards, as integral part to it is social skills development, competition, Access to laboratories, equipments, models, real world learning centres, Innovation Laboratories, Makerspaces, Playgrounds and more.

What happens when the Pandemic is gone, strongly doubt that the children will prefer to go to neighbourhood schools than to a faraway “Good School”.

Th extra space that become available at the Main schools can be used creatively to improve the teaching-learning processes, Teacher-training, More experiential and real world learning, and it can house all modern equipment and lab upgrades.

Competitive Exam Coaching, Counselling, integration more interesting programs in Visual Arts, Humanities, Entrepreneurship and Business Studies, Design Thinking etc.

About the author

D Sudhanva is the founder and CEO at Excelsoft Technologies, a globally renowned eLearning Solutions Company. With a focus on transforming education across the world, Sudhanva has steered Excelsoft to be a thought leader in Education Technology with robust products delivering innovative solutions.

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