The education sector in India, which was hitherto slow to change, has been witnessing a massive transformation recently with changing job landscape, technological disruptions, demand for quality education and the implementation of National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. The pandemic caused further shocks to the system with schools forced to shut down during the lockdown period, and the transition of students and teachers to online teaching-learning. In India, around 250 million students were affected due to school closures at the onset of lockdown induced by COVID-19. The pandemic posed several challenges in public and private schools which included an expected rise in dropouts, learning losses, and increase in digital divide. The pandemic also called into question the readiness of the systems, including teachers to address such a crisis and sustainability of private schools. However, COVID-19 also acted as a catalyst for digital adoption in school education. With schools reopening in many states, it is important that a careful strategy is built in to smoothen the transition of children back to school after more than 15 months of home-based learning. This transition has to consider the learning losses which had happened over the previous year as well take a futuristic approach to build a resilient system which can withstand any future shocks. NEP 2020, and subsequent government initiatives such as National Digital Education Architecture (NDEAR) and National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy (NIPUN Bharat) are expected to provide a blueprint for this transformation. The paper is a culmination of CII School Summit 2021 which brought together policy makers, industry heads, and service providers together on a platform to deliberate on the road to recovery for schools post the pandemic. It analyses the impact of the pandemic across five themes and maps the various initiatives undertaken by governments and civil society organizations to address the challenges:
- curtailing dropouts during and post pandemic
- decline in learning outcomes and well-being
- integration of digital based learning
- the role and capacity of teachers and
- sustainability of private schools.
It further draws a roadmap to recovery for the school education system across these five themes centered around the vision laid down by NEP 2020 as well as drawing from best practices across the globe in the form of 13 recommendations. The paper unfolds discussions on some important thematic areas of school education in the post pandemic period such as path leading to quality relationship between student and educator, systemic interventions redefining the role of teachers as ‘edupreneurs’, role of digital technology in impacting teaching-learning process, solutions bridging the learning gaps in curriculum, pedagogy and assessments and strategies for ensuring sustainability of private schools. The paper may act as a reference for all concerned stakeholders on post pandemic recovery of the schools with a focus on building an equitable, inclusive, and holistic education system for the country.