Ajeenkya D Y Patil is an Indian educationist and economist. He is the son of D. Y. Patil. He is Chairman of the D Y Patil Group, Chancellor of Ajeenkya D Y Patil University and Pro-chancellor of the Dr. D. Y. Patil University.
India is home to 315 million students, the largest student population in the world. The pandemic-induced lockdown meant that over 1.5 million schools shut their gates with little notice and time for preparation. Educational institutions scrambled to put in place digital infrastructure to their age-old teaching methods; and students had to quickly adapt to a whole new way of learning. While challenges have been plenty – from access to resources to online fatigue, the real challenge has been that of missed opportunities, and that has long-standing implications. Ask the parent of a toddler who’s missed the first milestone of education, dropping their child off to the nursery steps. Or ask the 12th grader who’s had their graduation ceremony and said their goodbyes to the school they started out in, from behind a screen. These little milestones that define and determine personalities on the playground and in the classroom have not been met, which is and will having an impact on the mental and emotional health of students. As the UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay put it “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled”.
At Ajeenkya DY Patil Group’s various educational institutions, we have been committed to providing the right support to our students from Day 1 of the lockdown. From bringing on board two full-time counsellors for 1-2-1 sessions to running regular mental health workshops for students as well as parents. According to our counsellors, the main challenge students are facing these days is a lack of structure, and hence a lack of purpose to drive and motivate them. So what should parents, carers and educational institutions to do ensure students are supported through this time? We’ve listed a few suggestions:
- Help students stay connected to their peers
Given a choice between having students play a sport or scroll through their screens, the choice is an obvious one. But with the continuing pandemic, the unfortunate reality is that staying home is generally the safer choice. Connecting with friends online isn’t a perfect substitute for the real thing, but it is probably the safest option. Limit and monitor screen times but encourage interaction with friends to keep students connected and social stimulated.
- Focus on developmental skills
This can be a good time for students to explore their interests and build self-esteem, without the pressure of having to achieve anything in particular. Promote the development of skills such as Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Storytelling, Conflict management and Decision-making. In a constantly changing Socio-Economic and cultural environment, having the right skills is an essential part of being able to meet the challenges of everyday life. At DY Patil University we have hosted a slew of workshops to allow students to explore these new skills and introduce them to concepts which will help build their emotional intelligence and capabilities.
- Choose what information you want to consume
Treat the information children consume the same way as you would the food they consume. Scrolling on social media and news platforms endlessly puts the publishers in charge of what they are feeding you. Be selective about what, when and how much of information they take in.
- Recognise depression or anxiety disorder
While many students might feel low or upset at times, Depression and Anxiety Disorders are real and need specialist attention. Not everyone understands the experience of these disorders or how to respond when themselves or someone around them is suffering from them. It is okay to seek help and get the guidance you need to come out stronger.
- Embrace the new normal
The future of education will be hybrid, with a blend of both online and offline teaching-learning options. Online platforms, gadgets such as desktops, laptops and tablets are going to be part of the new normal of the education sector. The government, the educational institutions and of course students should do their best to ensure they harness the power and true opportunity of the present situation.