The question is not whether schools should reopen or not. Rather it is, when they open, how should they be operated? In English, schools cannot remain closed for ever. If they do, the private education sector will die while some of our kids will outgrow the school age.
One lesson from Covid-19 is that it cannot be business as usual in the classroom anymore. Schools will no longer cram students like sardines in tiny classrooms.
This means that classes will have to be split into two or three. One class may have to run late into the evening. For what one teacher was able to manage, the school authorities may need three teachers.
It is difficult in human terms to have one teacher work from morning to late evening teaching the same things to three separate classes; the school has to employ two more teachers.
In economic terms this entails a 67 percent burgeoning of the wage bill. For many schools this may be unstainable position. Basically, that 67 percent must come from somewhere; most probably increase in school fees. With parents already battered by the harsh Covid-19 economic crisis that is a far-fetched dream.
Technology can come in to fill the gaps. It is possible to have one teacher teach more than one class using technology.
Instead of using the chalk board, a smart board is employed. Using internet connectivity and software, the teacher appears on the smart board and starts to deliver his lesson. It is an interactive process, the students can interrupt the teacher and ask questions in real time.
When one student from one class asks a question, the other students from the other classes are able to view the interaction and befit from the same.
Is this not expensive? Initially yes. After the basic equipment is installed, the rest is magic. The teacher teaches so many classes at one time from a resource centre or even from home.
Take this further and imagine a situation where each student has a tablet and affordable internet connection. Students need not travel to school to learn. In the comforts of their living rooms, lessons can be delivered with real time interaction with teachers.
The school of the future may not be a building with buses that ferry students from all over parked outside. The school of the future is a small resource centre where teachers will deliver lesson using technology.
It is like those European football leagues that have been playing matches from empty stadiums. Teachers will also have to learn to teach in empty classrooms. Welcome to technology.