There are many things in life that go beyond logic and common sense. In India, we have one such event unfolding right now. Schools were shut down in March 2020 as a precautionary measure for COVID-19. Now, though it has become crystal clear that India has a sole distinction, in the entire world, of a single wave of COVID-19, with the peak coming 5 months back, schools continue to remain closed even now. It seems that even without COVID-19, schools may not open in India.
I know that schools will surely open, sometime in future. However, why the schools remain closed, as on date, is beyond me. Even more baffling is the complete silence of all the stake-holders on the continued closure of schools. Everyone is aware that everything is open in India but the schools and THAT is acceptable to all. No discussion, no questions raised, utter conformity.
What could be the reasons for this fact-of-life behaviour?
The Indian Government
Ministry of Education should be renamed Ministry of Examinations. This one statement shows the sole priority of the Indian Government. It has come up with guidelines and guidelines to open schools; and no action when the schools do not open.
The Indian Government seems to think that if anything goes wrong in the case of children, the Indian electorate will be unforgiving. Why take the unnecessary risk of getting into action mode? Anyways, the priority of Indian parents is NEET/JEE, so we shall conduct that, nonetheless. Rest is business as usual, rather no business at all.
The Indian Parents
There is no discussion on whether online education is delivering, the child is learning, all the children are benefiting – why bother? What matters is that our children go on to the next grade at the end of the year. Across the spectrum of Indian economic and social order, this seems to be the only driving factor.
The Private Schools
2020 might, in fact, turn out to be the most profitable year in history. Collect the fees from the parents. Dock the salaries of the teachers. Remove the support staff. Bare minimum establishment costs. Why bother about the Government protocols to open the schools when the charade of online learning has such a huge payback?
At worst, 5-10% of the parents will be unable to pay the fees. Rest all of them will, of course, pay. Which Indian parent can suffer the ignominy of the school admission of his/her child revoked?
The Government Schools
Even before COVID-19, Pratham ASER surveys showed the dismal learning outcomes of the Government schools. Why bother needlessly during the pandemic, or even after? Rather at all.
The Government School Teachers
The salary continues to get paid, regardless. What’s the nuisance going on about student’s learning?
The Private School Teachers
The threat from the school management of dismissal from the job looms large. Better to remain silent, take the salary whatever is getting paid and get on with the job of online teaching. Anyways, distant-teaching is not any different than in-person teaching. It was a monologue then, it is a monologue now, with the extra benefit of no need to check on the student’s attention.
Moreover, some parents have opted for private tuitions, so the net income has increased. Let the school closure continue.
The Indian Media
The headline-hunters work best from the confines of the TV studio/newsrooms. Reporting from the ground-up is long forgotten. The press releases, the politician’s quotes, tweets are the news.
What’s the fuss about school opening or closures? It is not a newsworthy item. Forget it.
The Indian Society
Once the children are enrolled in schools, they are learning, whether it is in school or online. The school report card at the end of the year is the holy truth, rest all is a myth. So, no questions asked.
Actually, when we were in school ourselves, we were taught to toe the line and not ask questions. It holds us in good stead even now. See for yourself.
The Social Scientists/Experts/Researchers
Getting into the cross-hairs of the mighty Indian Government and the equally powerful school lobby is a taboo. Repeat after me, whatever they do is right.
Online learning is no fun. For that matter, even the schools were no fun either. Cannot figure out what is worse. Anyways, let me continue my screen time. It is educational, everybody agrees now.
Why would not schools open?
I know the situation is not bad as I have made it out to be. There are lots of diligent teachers and hard-working students that are trying their level best to ensure the efficacy of online learning. I do not mean any disrespect to them. But, it is a different matter for the other actors mentioned above.
If the opening of schools is such a big pain-point, why not prioritize teachers and the support staff in vaccination? We do not do that also, and will not open schools also. There doesn’t seem to be a perceptible difference with schools closed that warrants urgency/an action plan.
PS: I am a stay-at-home father to six-year-old twin daughters, neither an educationist nor an expert. The above thoughts are an expression of parenting is having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.