Why education should shift to the outside classroom in 2020?

In the last article that I wrote, I put up my case against Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, about her argument to reopen the schools. I pointed out that school could become the epicenter of Covid-19 spread and therefore they should not reopen. However, I couldn’t put my mind away from a few of the pressing issues brought up by her. She pointed out that the children are facing increased exposure to physical, emotional, and sexual violence because of the school lockdown. Coaches across Continent, an organization that works with 86 NGOs through 6 continents, also found out that 96 % of the organization in its network has reported that youth are facing mental health issues. 

So, should we open the school for children’s wellbeing? The more critical question is: are schools equipped with resources to address children’s most pressing issues. Do they understand the importance of mental health? If not, will it be a wise decision to open the schools? Even if schools are opened, it will require reforms, guidelines, and effective monitoring to meet the need of children and social distancing rules. 

The most important reform while reopening the schools should be to move the classroom from an indoor to an outdoor setting as research shows that Covid-19 spreads faster in an indoor setting as compared to outdoors. In a developing country like India, it is very difficult to maintain social distancing in schools. The schools can have 60-70 children in one small class. Even if the number of children is halved, it would be very difficult to maintain social distancing rules. In an outside setting, it will be easier to maintain social distancing rules and control children’s behavior.

The second most important reform required is to change the focus of learning from maths and science to the most urgent issues the children are facing such as mental health. For maths & language, teachers’ roles should shift from teaching to providing guidelines so that children learn on their own at home. More times at schools should be spent on improving the wellbeing of the children (as mentioned in the framework created by UNICEF). This is where play-based learning can be effective.

Play-based learning can be used to address issues such as mental health and exposure of children to violence and abuse. Many organizations all around the globe use sports to build life skills and emotional resilience in children. One such example is the Coaches Across Continent(CAC), which has created a Mental health curriculum in cooperation with the Commonwealth to address these issues. Established in 2009, CAC works with 86 organizations across six continents to address social issues through sports. Monkey Sports, one of the CAC partners in India, conducted a physical and mental health survey and find out that many children are feeling sad, irritated, and angry during the lockdown.

A sports-based organization can layout the framework of play-based learning for schools. Here is a prototype of how a play-based session can look like in school:

✔️Divide each class in smaller numbers with not more than 15 children in one group.

✔️ School time should be reduced to 1-1.5 hours for each group. Eating at school should be avoided.

✔️ During the school hours, the main priority should be on play-based learning. 

✔️ Play-based learning should be used to address social issues and build mental resilience.

✔️ All classes move outside classrooms.

✔️ In subjects such as maths, language, history, the teacher gives guidelines to children what and how to study at home. They can use activities to teach about a topic.

✔️ Use markers and cones to keep social distancing among children.

✔️ Minimum use of equipment’s to share among children.

✔️ Regular sanitization of equipment and handwashing for children. 

For many years, subjects such as maths & language have been the forerunner in schools, and subjects like arts, physical activities have played a secondary role. But the year of 2020, has brought to us a situation, where the most pressing need for children is well being and mental health. Play-based learning is an effective proven way to deal with these issues and education in 2020 should move towards play.


Kushal Agarwal

Mr. Kushal Agarwal is the founder and director of Monkey Sports. Since its inspection in 2018, Monkey Sports has worked with 740 children and 13 clients and generated over a million rupees.

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