All of us should be on survival mode for the near future because we have to make sure we get over this crisis.
– Mohandas Pai
The petrifying and severe impact of COVID-19 has shaken the world to its core. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a major impact on education – both negative and positive. What exactly are the risks and opportunities brought about by Coronavirus?
Unfortunately, most of the countries around the globe have temporarily closed nearly all the educational institutions in an attempt to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic amongst the people of that particular country. In India too, the government as a part of the nationwide lockdown has closed all educational institutions, as a consequence of which students and learners ranging from school going children to doctoral students, are adversely affected.
These nationwide closures are impacting over 91% of the worlds’ student population as per the data stated by the UNESCO. Several other countries have implemented localized closures adversely affecting a huge no of additional learners. India has nearly 300 million kids enrolled in about 1.4 million schools. In India, almost 70% of the schools are run and managed by government bodies. This data alertly indicates that India and its old age education system are in verge of a major crisis. Scholars, leaders, intellectuals, social workers and policy makers should have to take this matter seriously like any other priorities they are tackling with on a war footing basis. In fact, this is the worst nightmare of the 21st century wherein if taken lightly would tremendously affect the progress of a nation for 3 generations. Education is the backbone of a great nation, and if education is affected the quality of human resource automatically gets affected.
We will also have to look at the impact from two lenses – an urban lens and a rural one. In urban centres, I do not foresee a lot of negative impact. Majority of schools have moved to online classes and are continuing as per their academic calendar. Students at home have access to the internet and in some cases their own individual device as well. The only thing expected from them and their parents is self discipline. Which I understand is a lot to ask for. It may therefore lead to some gaps in learning and may have an impact on the academic scores of students this year. But in the longer run, this is not very serious as I am sure these students will more than make up for it.
Once you look at it from the rural lens, the situation is not so good. While urban students have access to online learning from school and so many apps to keep them entertained, the government school kids have no such sources of learning or engagement. When the lockdown was announced, we spoke to a lot of our government school teachers, who sounded really worried. They feared that if students do not come to school, they may get absorbed in unsocial activities which may harm their lives. The girl students would be heavily involved in household chores leaving them with no time to study. And many students they feared may never return to school.
Nevertheless, Covid-19 has prompted experts to rethink the conventional mode of education. Digital education appears to be a viable solution to fill in the void for classroom education for a period of three to four months while minimizing the chances of any infection to students until classes resume, but isn’t a long-term solution. Universities require high-speed internet and education delivery platforms or learning management systems, besides stable IT infrastructure and faculty members who are comfortable teaching online. Students also need high-speed internet and computers/mobiles to attend these sessions or watch pre-recorded classes. l
On the greener side, the situation has also stimulated immediate activation of certain long-pending changes in imparting education in India. Virtual labs/ tutorial videos have entered the curriculum of higher-degree courses and school education and students can better relate with the possibilities of conceptual learning. There has also been a shift in paradigm to focus more on concepts rather than rote-learning and students have also got time to work on their problem-solving skills by practice. Need is the mother of invention and traditional educators who were wary of advanced online teaching courses are now realizing the potential of online resources. Their scepticism about online resources and tools are also wading off and they are embracing the change in teaching methods without losing essence of classical teaching methods. Students are being encouraged to learn with project-based learning methods and instead of getting embroiled in the rat-race of numbers, students are exploring the benefits of the extension of concept-learning through these projects.
Although the sudden emergence of pandemic and emergency measures to restrict assemblies has thwarted the school-educational system, it can also be a potential catalyst for realizing the need to slowly and steadily revamp our educational structure and curriculum for the benefit of students. The present situation might be a good opportunity to concise the school educational curriculum, focus only on the essential concepts, incorporate self-tutoring learning resources and restructure a evaluative curriculum for students so that even students from rural areas bereft of access to online-resources are not adversely affected. These necessary changes will subside anxiety and usher in optimism (even at psychological level) for students struggling to recuperate with the prevalent conditions forced by the pandemic. A more palatable curriculum is the need of the hour.
To conclude, we all know that the pandemic is here to stay for some time. The situation may force educational institutions to come up with innovative ways in which the current challenges of imparting online education can be addressed. Alternatively, India could finally witness a much needed change in its educational system where practical application of concepts is given a higher priority than theoretical “rote learning”.