Will school reopen better or for worse or does it really matter?

Clarity yet to emerge on making up for two years lost

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Photo: Jaikishan Patel on Unsplash

Schools are reopening in India since the central government has delegated all school administration and student education responsibilities to the states. The schools will start on 7 February 2022, in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and other states, but many doubts remain. Are the schools reopening with total capacity or half capacity, because the administrators believe that social distancing is necessary? The schools did not have enough room for youngsters to come and sit in a social setting. And if the school is only half full, the students will have to suffer by attending virtual classes. 

I spoke with some of the families in Noida and Delhi who are keen that schools reopen, and questioned them about the possible challenges. Most families are dealing with similar issues, but none has come up with a solution. According to some, the school shifts should be in the morning and evening. Others believe that all the pupils should be summoned and sanitization procedures need to be carried out. The pupils are ‘sanitized’ and could then sit together. 

However, if any pupils have Covid-19, it will undoubtedly spread to the other students since the children’s immune systems are not as powerful. Other families state that only vaccinated pupils should be called to the school, but that is as yet not a dominant majority.  Basically, no one knows how schools will start, their capacity, or what the government really intends to do about the two years that have been lost.

What should be kept in mind before opening the schools – social distancing, masks, sanitizers, and other precautions and health equipment to protect the students? One expects that teachers may be overburdened with the course of study and may not be able to finish it on time. It is likely that the kids would come to school on alternating days, and the instructor would repeat the lesson for half the students.

Everything came to a halt in the blink of an eye due to the pandemic. Schools are reopening, which bodes well for the education and the textbook and printing industries. Many commercial printers who print school books are either waiting or moving to other segments. From the print industry’s point of view as well, it’s best to reopen the schools so that it can get back on track. 

School going children sometimes suffocate in their homes since they do not see their pals daily. Lack of curriculum activities can make them sluggish, since there is no outdoor mobility, and the children are crammed into a tight area as though they do not want to see the outside world. Critics feel that they’re just turning into lonely frogs in a well.

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Photo Oliver Hale on Unsplash

With a universe solely based on the internet, children are naturally wanting to browse and watch YouTube videos. While one cannot deny some of its educational possibilities, YouTube has a function that allows you to talk and search. It’s a useful function, although it occasionally searches for strange stuff. And if a youngster is looking for some cartoon episodes and doesn’t know how to write, they use voice search, and when the interpretation fails, YouTube opens something else. 

The cell phone is always in the hands of the not-school going youngsters. Whatever task they wish to undertake, they have to carry a cell phone. They are continually chanting the term mobile. The internet and mobile technology seem to have captured all of the children’s brains. The internet and mobile technology have grabbed the entirety of children’s brains and imagination. If they can’t locate the internet, they’ll act like maniacs and weep like whales. Parents must place cell phones in their children’s hands perforce.

Children display their irritation quite well. Without regular tasks, social interaction with their peers, mental challenges, and schedules, there is also the danger of children becoming depressed. This may lead to inattention to teachers while online lessons are merely a fatiguing distraction. The virtual students have new tricks, such as the voice not being audible, internet issues. Having learnt the tricks of muting the audio and video buttons, and notification and pop-ups from social media and other ads lead to new windows that seem more interesting.  These are some of the challenges that may interfere with a child’s ability to learn and study and are a concern, since youngsters focussing on a small screen for extended periods may also accelerate some of their vision challenges. 

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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