The lockdown due to the COVID-19 situation has presented a whole new set of challenges for schools, with the predicament of teaching being continued so that students are not left in lurch. The schools have re-opened virtually, but the impasse still exists. The teachers have been unexpectedly hard-pressed into the unfamiliar territory of virtual teaching, where they are facing issues like disparity in access. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between face-to-face communication and remote/ online learning since there is no direct connect. Students may not even ask questions during online classes in the fear or shame of their parents being around, which they would have asked during their classroom sessions; or may even have asked their peers.
With the unprecedented circumstance still looming, the need of the hour is to balance the adversity at hand with the ‘new normal’. The anguish and apprehension of the teachers should be mitigated by providing them required knowledge so that teaching process does not get hampered. This is what STEM Learning has been standing for since inception. It believes that the teachers are the main stakeholders and therefore, offers a solution where the emphasis is on the empowerment of teachers, and this is the objective behind organizing Teacher Training Programs. The teachers are empowered with teaching aids, so that they can easily connect with the students. This not only provides the students a simpler way to understand the science or maths concept, but also reduces teaching time and ensures concept clarity among students. STEM Learning believes that teachers are the catalysts of change and such programs can only be successful if they are ready to accept them.
STEM Learning’s innovative program Mini Science Centre (MSC) consists of plug and-play exhibits, which are a prerequisite for teaching science and maths to school children in a simpler way. The exhibits provide a way for the teachers to teach effortlessly during the virtual sessions while demonstrating the concepts to the students, as they will feel ownership over the exhibits. In comparison to this, the teachers may feel helpless or off-guard while teaching with the help of studio-generated content like study-videos, since they have not created the material themselves. While in the case of exhibits, they are taken through the process of making them understand the maximum usage of exhibits, to make them comfortable while teaching. With all the teachers across 1900 schools where MSCs have been installed directly connected with STEM Learning, the teachers are being trained virtually unceasingly as a fulfilment of its assurance of sustainability.
With the help of CSR in education, more than 8000 teachers have been hand-held regarding the usage of these exhibits. It is necessary for them to be comfortable with the exhibits themselves, so that they can make students understand the concepts faster and better, in comparison to theoretical understanding through books. More than a million students have also reaped benefit till now across India as the exhibits form a new approach to assimilate fun and play in lessons, making learning easy.
Considering the COVID-19 situation that has played havoc with the education system, it’s imperative to reach out to students across barriers, thus reducing inequity in education. This includes induction of processes that can facilitate teaching, so that students are neither bored, nor do they lack behind due to communication issues. MSC models defy any of these challenges, as they are the perfect teaching aids which illustrate a concept with visual stimulation, so that the students are engaged and can learn faster. Proper use of teaching aids helps to retain concepts permanently. Also, since the exhibits are self- explanatory, even the minutest language barrier doesn’t become a wall to the learning process. The students can easily comprehend the concept by looking at the working of the exhibit, when the teacher demonstrates it during the online teaching classes.
Ashutosh Pandit, the Founder of STEM Learning, believes that the contingency can only be met by creating a cordial atmosphere for the teachers. “The teachers are being expected to be the guiding light by teaching exactly how they were in normal classroom sessions, by suddenly mastering technology, and involving innovate techniques to keep students interest levels at par. We are forgetting that virtual teaching is a new way for the teachers as well. Therefore, it is important that they are trained to teach for furthering their skills. The collective aim should be that when the pandemic situation is finally over, not just the students, but also the teachers should come out victorious with elevated skills, having mastered the new ways of teaching. This will eventually benefit all the stakeholders- school, teachers, students and their parents.”
With more and more corporates and private school owners working towards effective learning, the result has been an operative one with all round development and capacity building of young minds. However, with conorovirus dampening the hopes and putting the whole education system undergo a litmus test, corporates as well as decision makers of schools need to carry the beacon of hope to ensure continuity of education to mitigate the learning divide, and to resurrect the education system by acting on it now. The MSC can prove to be a solid support to the students as well as teachers, to ensure there is no gap in learning. While the exhibits can be used as visual teaching aids during the virtual sessions, later, after schools re-open, the students can be taught in MSC or in classrooms, where the exhibits can be easily carried for concept clarity.
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