Interview with Mr. Kaushal Sharma, Principal of Ramakidz Pre-school, Vadodara
The COVID-19 pandemic as we all know has affected educational and schooling systems around the globe, leading to the closures of schools, colleges, and universities.
According to UNESCO, nationwide closures are affecting almost 70% of the world’s student population. The past few months have been equally brutal for school administrators, headteachers and principals, who had to transform the practice of running traditional schools to organizing virtual classrooms and suddenly adopt e-learning and online schooling practices for every age group of the student community. And added to that, was the kind of panic that was being felt. They hardly got the time to set it up fairly. Quite a struggle it was indeed.
But the question now being asked by many is, why and with what are our schools struggling so much? The major concern out of many is of course poor or no internet connectivity. Figures show that the urban population of India is only about 35%, whereas more than half the populace emerges from rural backgrounds.
With most schools in India now trying out different teaching strategies like sending lessons over text or Whatsapp (quite feasible for rural schools) and doing online live-streamed classes, it has now begun changing the conventional educational frameworks. Teachers are also being asked to record videos of lessons and devise homework that can be assigned over special learning Apps. It is becoming a crazy hectic ride not only for schools and teachers, but also for not-so-tech-savvy parents.
Pregnancy to Parenthood approached Mr. Kaushal Sharma, Head-Principal of Ramakidz preschool, to understand how they are coping up with the challenging situation that the Covid-19 pandemic has put forth to educational institutes, and why e-learning should be an integral part of traditional schooling.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – Schools all over India have closed due to the pandemic. Has this ever happened in India on such a large scale?
Mr. Sharma – We certainly had school closings in many states and jurisdictions after natural disasters and for other reasons. But never on this scale. There is no information about how we dealt with the Spanish flu when it came to India. So, it’s all very new to all of us.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – Are you relieved with the lockdown being imposed on schools too?
Mr. Sharma – Yes definitely! The safety of our children is of utmost importance. We had many plans for the summer camp. But with this situation, we have decided to host an online summer camp this year.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – Do you think Covid-19 is going to affect the new school session for 2020?
Mr. Sharma – Yes, it’s never going to be normal until the vaccine comes. The government has already asked schools to revise the academic calendar.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – Did the lockdown affect your last academic session? How did your teachers and students cope with e-learning sessions?
Mr. Sharma – Not really. All our books including workbooks, storybooks, and assignment books are smartbooks. In addition to the teachers taking online sessions, parents were able to help their children revise the chapters through our smartbooks. Daily assignments and attendance were managed through our Parent-Teacher communication app.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – Smartbooks, wow! Can you tell us a bit more about how you managed the eLearning sessions using different technologies?
Mr. Sharma – Yes, sure. Every page of our smartbooks has a special Zapper barcode (Zapper app is available on iOs and Android). When a student or parent scans the code from a page, they can watch a video of the teacher explaining the concept and content of that particular page.
Apart from smartbooks, our mobile application for teacher-parent communication has advanced features for the school curriculum. We have set up an online school library, where parents can get offline videos of daily online classes for reference. Kids can submit their homework pictures and videos through our mobile application.
Pregnancy to Parenthood – This is really radical for a pre-school! Integrating e-learning with traditional schooling. When did you decide to introduce smartbooks to the curriculum?
Mr. Sharma – We decided to implement smartbooks in the year 2019. I was really inspired by the education system in metro cities and other developed countries. The Indian education system is changing with the accumulation of new learning apps and kids of today being so tech-savvy. I really think this pandemic is going to bring a new paradigm shift in the Indian education system. A student’s entire school life revolves around books and teachers. Integrating books, teachers and e-learning together can bring more flexibility in the schooling system. Schools can close, but learning can never stop!.
Note – This interview has been edited for better clarity.
About Ramakidz Pre-school
Ramakidz is a Vadodara based pre-school, in the industry for over 7 years now. Their preschool curriculum has been specially developed based on the CBSC curriculum using technology-based learning for the development of cognitive and logical thinking of children across the ages between 2-6 years. They have programs starting from Crèche to Senior KG. They also have daycare facilities with CCTV rights to parents.