As the woman helming one of Indias largest non-governmental organisations focusing on innovative learning and improving the education for all children, Dr Rukmini Banerji has an experienced insight into the Indian education system. After joining Pratham Education Foundation in 1996, Dr Banerji has played a huge role in improving learning outcomes for children in India, especially through constant research and assessment, as well as collaborations with state and central governments. While she has been the CEO of Pratham since 2015, her contributions to the organisation and the Indian education system at large has been immense.So, it was obvious when wesatdown for our chat that our exclusive interview with her would focus on the Indian education system and how it has coped in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the fact that most schools and educational institutions across the nation are now opening up once again makes this conversation even more insightful. Heres what Dr Banerji had to say.Looking Forward To ChangeDr Banerji points out that for any system working in a particular way for decades, the sudden change that the COVID-19 pandemic brought out could be joltingbut one has to adapt to the change to be able to move forward at all. Whats needed, is a fundamental shift in thinking. And in that, I feel at Pratham we've learned a lot. We've learned that families can be very helpful with a little bit of guidance, even if there is not a lot of education. We found a lot of help in neighbourhoods, in mohallas coming from young people who themselves might be in high school or college, she explains.But instead of thinking about returning back to square one after the pandemic, Dr Banerji recommends the way forward can only be charted through more collaboration and by harnessing the potential of all the alternative systems that make education more reachable. A key factor here, she believes, is the now accepted realisation that its not just about academics. So when schools reopen, my strong view is don't rush into trying to complete the syllabus, she insists. What you should spend time doing for the first month is just connecting to each other doing things together, you know, collaboration. I mean, just enjoy the fact that you're back in school or back in a group away from the family and individual excellence can come later, if at all.Going Back To SchoolFrankly, it has been stressful to be at home. But now people have been at home for so long that it may be stressful to get back to work also, Dr Banerji says, further pointing out the things people need to be more attentive about as schools open up.The first is about teachers and professors. At least at the school end and at the primary school end, a lot of teachers are young women, often balancing the demands of home, of their own children and of work, she explains. We need to keep their health and roles in mind while returning to schools, because in many cases, these are first-generation women who are working outside of home. On the second hand, Dr Banerji points out that the pressure to quit school may be high on adolescent girls who werent as good at academics as others before the schools shut. Being vigilant about both these issues can help us rebuild the education system in a better manner, she believes.Another factor she notes is the economic one. We have all become very aware of what economic disruptions can do in the family, she explains. And in some sense, that is an opportunity as well. Say that if we are three adults in the family or three people of working age, all of us having a stake in the labour market is a good idea because we don't know who will be hit if there is some change, she says. And so, equipping children and young adults with more than just a report card and passing certificate is critical. These, she says, are some of the things one has to keep an eye on in the coming months.