The education sector is one that is rife with opportunities, but at the same time, it’s peppered with challenges of every shape and size. Many of these challenges – policy, legal, financial, governance etc are regularly discussed when educators get together for a meeting or a conclave.
While such fora are also great places to discuss trends, technology and the future of education – there is one overarching question that continues to bother many school principals & management heads. This is a question that needs urgent redressal – before the challenges of the future can be answered.
The question of Trust.
How does a school ensure that the parents trust the school to do the best for their children? How does the school ensure that the students trust the teachers? How does the school ensure that the media does not distrust the schools at every step of the way? These are some of the questions that were raised while I was moderating a recent panel discussion with school principals. Interestingly the answers to this particular problem of ‘trust’ has been found by many schools – while others are still to implement these best practices.
Let me explain, with a five-question test. (Give yourself 2 marks for every question you get right!)
Q – How do you develop an attitude that helps develop trust between parents/teachers & the school?
A – Some schools have figured this one out long ago, the answer lies in involving parents and ensuring transparency in key areas like safety board/audit/curricula. When parents themselves see the inner working of a school and how complicated things can be – they will be your biggest supporters in times of crisis. Let parents explain issues to parents before the school has to defend itself from any action.
Q – Why has the trust deficit between parents and schools widened so much of late? Has the media too played a significant role?
A – The media does nothing more than exploit the trust deficit between parents and the school and use it to its advantage. In the case of an unfortunate incident at the school – does the management try to cover it up? Or clarify the matter / involve the parents / take action and look for solutions?
If the school is open for parents to walk in with concerns, if the school has great social media presence with regular updates of what the kids have been doing, if the school can communicate the fact – BEFORE incorrect messages become viral on WhatsApp – then there is no question of trust being dented.
Q – How to convince all stakeholders about the purpose of the school?
A – If there is genuine concern and care of the students then the parents would like to believe that the school is there for their development. The problem is that many say that ‘Child is the centre of Education’ and then remove the child from all planning/decisions regarding that education. Everything is about marks and not what the child wants to learn.
Of course, once we have zeroed in on what our goal is then we need to address the massive gap between teaching and learning.
Q – Not only parents, how do you address the lack of trust between students and teachers?
A – Like students, teachers too can err, in today's age of Social Media that mistake can be amplified. The answer to this is not to deny or brush away an issue – rather admit that there has been a mistake in teaching / involve the parents and making everyone comfortable with the fact that this is a learning process for everyone.
There is no harm asking parents for help in trying to find solutions to problems at school!
Q – Finally, how does a school Principal manage to find so much time to do so much, besides administering the school?
A – If the Principal is running the school on his / her shoulders – then that person needs some lessons too! The Principal needs to set up and monitor the systems that run the school and not do the job directly – otherwise, there never will be time for the core job of quality education.
If you are not scoring an eight or ten out of ten on this basic question of trust – then there needs to be urgent action on your part; because the bigger question of Technology is lurking around the corner that threatens to make Education (as we know it today) absolutely redundant.
The question of Technology.
It is no longer the stuff of fiction that most of the jobs that we know today – that we train our students for today – will vanish in the next twenty years.
We are already seeing automation hit the IT sector and from here Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will take over many more industries and sectors.
How do we then make our kids smarter than machines? – how do we make them ready for jobs that haven’t been invented yet? – how do we give them tools to adapt rapidly, be resilient, able to unlearn and relearn?
These are the questions that will keep educators busy over the next few years – but for technology to be used productively, first human trust has to be a stronger bond than our link to technology.
About the author:
Arunabh Singh is Director, Nehru World School, Ghaziabad.
Opinions expressed are solely those of the author's and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of ScooNews (Edupulse Media Pvt. Ltd.).