Open schools in September
EDITOR: This school year that is ending has been very disruptive and it is time to return to whatever semblance of normalcy we can muster. Too much has been lost in terms of time and learning. We have been accustomed to a certain rhythm and there are periods when learning can take place and times when it is a difficult task to get students to be attentive.
Our situation is dynamic but we must adapt quickly and think on our feet. We have missed our Easter and July Festivals. Perhaps we can have a shortened version of these during the Independence periods. We can set aside two weeks there. Schools can have their internal sports meeting then. If the cultural activities cannot be held in person, then a Virtual Festival can take place. School can end at the end of November to give way for the Nine Mornings Festival. Some schools prefer to have their sports meeting at the end of the term. The first two weeks of December can be used for this also.
It is inevitable that more and more of our external exams will be online. Therefore, more of our internal exams should also be online.
The time has also come when there should be external exams every term. The pandemic, volcanic eruptions, and dengue outbreak adversely affected our end of year external examinations. Having exams every term will enable us to provide certification for our students that would be insulated from the unpredictable forces of nature.
Having working Computer Labs, and Lab Technicians in every school are essential. Everyone having tablets means that we must have the technical support that go with online learning. We however still need to give books and libraries their due attention because we still need them. Libraries in every community are within our reach. We must also train and pay librarians adequately and encourage reading.
We need to make learning more independent so that students and parents can take more responsibility for their own learning utilising the available resources. All students need to learn a skill. Students need to learn how to live and how to make a living. Some students need to do the subjects they are studying every day. They need to revise and be tested everyday also. They need to see the practical application of what they are learning also.
Segregating students by ability is long outmoded, and creative ways must be used to capture the interest of students through one or two skills without compromising the academic focus of the school. This will allow students to succeed in technical and practical areas that will be complemented by theoretical areas.
One example of a program for a student with aptitude for building construction is math, English, physics, chemistry, technical drawing, and building and furniture technology. In a week with 40 periods this student can have six periods per week for each subject and an additional period for math, English, physics, and chemistry. Just like reading, skills in computer science should be common place and it may not be necessary to teach it as a separate subject.
We must do whatever it takes to enable our students to succeed. Daily teaching, revising, testing, and practising with fewer subjects may just be the way for us to go. The focus should be no child left behind. Getting all students to succeed with the five or six essential subjects they need is more important than having a few with double digit subjects. If we move to a system where external testing is done every term, those who want to take more subjects may still have the opportunity to do so. However the emphasis should be how to learn and the skills needed for further studies, rather than the accumulation of knowledge now.