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National Web Conference on 'Catholic Education in COVID Era & Beyond' by CBCI (Office for Education & Culture) & DBHEI (Don Bosco Higher Education India Network)

By BIS Correspondent
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Chennai, Jul. 17. The COVID-19 and national lockdown have forced the closure of schools, colleges, and universities for 120+ days with a rare chance of reopening before September 2020. It throws unprecedented challenges to the educational leaders, managers, and administrators.

To address this present situation CBCI (Catholic Bishops Conference of India - Office for Education and Culture) in collaboration with DBHEI (Don Bosco Higher Education India Network) is organizing a National Web Conference with the main theme ''Catholic Education in COVID era and beyond - Challenges and Possibilities'' along with Bosco Soft Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and Airmeet (web conference platform) as technology partners and DBICA (Don Bosco Institute of Communication Arts) as media partners. The five days and five themes education web conference has already neared 1000 registrations from across India.
In the background of the COVID-19 health emergency life, as usual, is still uncertain. Therefore, our mission of education needs to adapt to evolving trends and signs of the times. Keeping in mind the future of the lakhs of children and youth under our care and their educational empowerment we are tasked to think differently. To this end the organisers have chosen the theme ''Catholic Education in COVID era and beyond - Challenges and Possibilities''' to bring Catholic education leaders on a digital platform, to probe deeper at the challenges and discover possibilities to surge ahead in pandemic and beyond.

The Conference has a series of sessions organized on five subsequent Fridays between July 17th and the vigil of the Independence Day.

It focuses on five themes, connected and related to Catholic identity and mission. Each theme has two speakers to highlight the challenges and present possibilities to experiment and strategize. Participants can clarify the expounded concepts and contribute through their outlooks and case works.

Theme 1: Digital Transformation
Teachers and students are becoming digital savvy with online learning. The transition from brick-and-mortar classroom to a blended learning model is realized quickly in affordable institutions. And yet, for most of the institutions, the major challenges are low internet bandwidth, lack of access to digital devices, and untrained teachers.

Many families do not have access to digital devices and high-speed internet connectivity. Will it widen the digital divide? Are there ICT integration possibilities for all groups of students, low- or high-income level and offer inclusive education?

The mental strain that teachers and students suffer due to excessive screen time and the struggle of parents to supervise home learning are also to be addressed.

Theme 2: Student Empowerment

The general poor learning outcome of millions of Indian children and youth needs radical reform in pedagogy and delivery. Many children (nearly 56% as per ASER Report 2018) in primary schools do not attain basic skills in literacy and numeracy. New forms of pedagogy with the appropriate adoption of technology is an opportunity for change. Catering to the diversity of students is a possibility with blended personalized learning.

If Covid-19 is to stay, students must adapt themselves to an online style of learning and be provided with the necessary equipment to have nonstop learning.

With social, technical, biological, and political disruptions around, students need to be accompanied to understand their goals in life and attain true happiness in life. Many children from marginalized families may drop out of school. Thousands may enter the child labor force and become vulnerable to trafficking and/or pushed into early marriage.

Life skills to be imparted using a virtual learning environment than academics. eLearning must extend to co-curricular education such as dance, music, arts and crafts, yoga, physical fitness, and sports. Senior students can engage safely in local communities to handle pandemic and thus acquire real experiences in society.

Life-Long learning and the twenty-first-century competencies (Critical Thinking, Communication, and Collaboration) and skills must be universalized by integrating with every course delivery be it at the school or college level.

Theme 3: Teacher Engagement

Getting the teachers accustomed to the new normal of online teaching is a major challenge. Teachers need to apply creative and innovative methods in migrating to an online platform. Adoption to digital technologies, using seamlessly the e-learning resources provided by the government, and handling the diversity of students require the upskilling of teachers.

Teachers must also interact with the parents to enable their children to participate in blended learning from the conventional system.

Theme 4: Governance and Management

Covid-19 has provoked the dire need for digital infrastructure, teacher capacity and curriculum revamp towards the holistic formation. It may not be a reality for our institutions for the disadvantaged and in rural areas. It is attainable with competent and visionary leadership. Better perspective and strategic planning are needed at the national, diocesan/provincial, or institution level.

Catholic Community is blessed with a great pool of committed and passionate faithful. They need progressive and innovative leadership skills. It demands deep training, clear policies and procedures, and well-remunerated faculty.

The Indian private school system is in serious danger of extinction with fund crisis and by fee waivers/deferment directives given by the government. Financial management and fundraising need to be seriously addressed.

We need leadership development programs which will include modules covering administrative practices, building R&D culture, change management, and fundraising. For instance, many alumni are ready and willing to contribute donations to develop their alma matters. If well-managed institutions are short of funds, the leaders are to be blamed.

Theme 5: Apostolic Metanoia

With introspection in every walk of life at this juncture, the Indian Catholic Church shall reexamine her identity as the ambassadors of His Kingdom and disciples of Jesus Christ. The Church is for the poor and for the people of God. How do we respond to the cry of the incomeless teachers, aimless students, and hopeless parents?

The Covid-19 should serve as a period of purification - metanoia. Our education institutions must come out of the pandemic, converted, and revitalized with new paradigms, praxis, and results. The renewed Church will accompany the downtrodden children and young, affirm the competency and contribution of the teachers, account management, and administration with transparency and accredit our purpose of existence with the vision of Our Lord to become true instruments of salvation for all people.

Can we transform our processes of accompaniment, affirmation, accountability, and accreditation of our educational institutions and the entire educative community?

Join the National Conference on Catholic Education in Covid and Beyond.
Click the link below to register:

Participate and become catalysts in the emerging educational revolution due to pandemic. Your participation is valuable  for the Catholic Church in India.


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