Covid-19 And The Education System
Covid-19 has created a horrified situation all around the world laying its
dreadful shadow on the entire economy and bringing it to a standstill.
In an attempt to stop the spread of the deadly virus, most of the governments
across the world have temporarily closed educational institutions and sometime
in mid March 2020 premises of the schools, universities and colleges in India
were closed to staffs and students and the traditional black board-chalk
teaching was switched over to the online platforms.
The nationwide closure has impacted over 91% of the world's student population
and the UNESCO estimates that about 32 crore students are affected in India,
including those in the schools and colleges. And therefore, the government came
up with e-learning program to facilitate the continuity of education for all.
Covid-19 has prompted the experts in the education sector to rethink and bring
forth innovative ideas to cope up learning during these days of the pandemic.
But the question which arises is how long could we able to manage the students
through online teaching especially those in the primary classes. No doubt that
the digital education fills the void by facilitating the educators to come up
with customized online teaching platform for the students, but most
significantly it has brought in peripheral issue of e-learning in India to
Virtual Mode Of Learning:Online education is conducted mainly by two methods. Firstly, by the use of
recorded classes dispensed through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and
secondly via live online classes through webinars or zoom sessions. This
requires the students to have high speed internet and computers or mobile phones
to attend sessions and the faculty members to have the required knowledge and
skill to deliver their information on these platforms. There are many such
platforms in India supported by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD),
The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the
department of technical education.
However, only educational institutions in urban areas can provide these
facilities. The questions are raised for the young learners in rural areas, and
their growth. India houses 430 million children in the age group of 0-18years
with a considerable number of students residing in rural settings. Many factors
have to be considered while bringing forth the e-learning techniques in rural
areas like archaic teaching method, shortage of teachers, poor teacher to
student ratio and outdated teaching material. Though digitization of education
makes it feasible for the teacher to deliver information across geographies, the
basic ground realities pose a barrier in the path of complete online teaching.
Poor infrastructure, lack of strong internet connectivity, no electricity, lack
of safety etc. are the other factors which are still needed to be addressed in
remote areas for the convenient access of quality education to all. Even though
there are many initiatives taken by the government to elevate the level of
education in these areas, there is still a long way to go.
Article 21A and E-learning:Under the 86th Amendment, a new Article 21A was added after Article 21 in the
Indian Constitution. According to it the state shall provide free and compulsory
education to all children of the age of 6 to 14 years in such manner as the
State may by law, determine, making the Right to Education a fundamental
right. In 2009, The Right of children To free and compulsory Education (RTE)
Act, was passed by the parliament. It is the duty of the 'appropriate
government' under Section 8 of the Act to provide free and compulsory elementary
education, compulsory admission, attendance and ensure that the child belonging
to weaker sections and disadvantaged groups are not discriminated against and
prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds.
The novel Corona virus pose a challenge to the government in providing the
children of the rural areas with the required electronic equipment for the
virtual learning as physical classroom learning has become unfeasible during
this situation. According to the government's Key Indicators of Household Social
Consumption on Education in India 2018, only 14.8% of rural households have
access to internet facility and combining both rural and urban areas only 23.8%
had internet facility. Access to internet in states such as Karnataka, Odisha
and West Bengal is only 8.3%,5.8%and 7.9% respectively.
Parents find it difficult to provide their children with smartphones where they
themselves struggle to meet ends and e-learning becomes a loaded burden on them.
As a result, there are chances for the withdrawal of their children from the
Section 3(2) of the RTE Act states that no child shall be liable to pay any kind
of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and
completing the elementary education, stands contrary under the present scenario.
In Kerala, the education department has provided the maximum support to the
students amidst the pandemic through online class named 'First Bell' which is
telecasted through 'Victors' channel under the State General Education
Department for classes 1 to 12, which is indeed a good alternative for those
without smartphones to attend sessions without fail.
Impact of the Pandemic on the Student Community:The next group deeply affected are those preparing for State and National level
examinations and the final year students in universities and Higher Education
Institutions (HEI). According to the International Association of Universities (IAU)
Global Survey 2020 on the impact of Covid-19 on universities and other HEI's, a
bit more than half of the HEI's are planning to conduct exams for the semester
as planned, although the majority of them through new measures and only 6% as
usual. 14% plan to carry out only part of the planned exams while others will be
postponed or are on hold at the moment.
More than half of the 11% of HEI's does not discuss strategies for conducting
the examinations for the semester and this is perilous signal because it means
that students are left without the possibility of taking exam and are at risk of
losing time, while no solution is being discussed. There is higher uncertainty
in completing the semester and planning the next academic year. The extent to
find out alternative ways of assessing the students become a big challenge with
no clear answers. Arranging new form of assessment such as calculating internal
marks and marks of previous semesters, giving assignments and projects could be
adopted at this situation in order to assess the students rather than risking
them to lose their time and year.
Another issue to be taken into consideration is the effect of the use of online
platforms on student behavior especially the students with special educational
needs, protecting the students from cyber criminals which may also hack the
institutional system and also the procedure for conducting examinations. Online
assessment cannot be secured against academic misconduct and other forms of
educational fraud since the opportunities for such students to cheat
individually or collectively are enhanced when examinations are conducted
The gender dimensions of the pandemic school closures cannot be neglected. The
education department of the government must be aware of the threat that the
closure of school would pose to girls and women. Without schools and colleges,
which are places considered to be safer for girls, learning from home inside the
four walls may heighten the risk of domestic violence, early or forced marriage
and sexual abuse.
The pandemic has caused tremendous effect on education across globe and it has
worsened situation amongst the vulnerable communities. Schools were a happy
place where they could not only prove themselves but also escape from all the
social evils. In order that girls are to take benefit from online distance
learning, the schedule must be more friendly and flexible so that it could cope
up with the domestic demands that are expected from them. It is also necessary
to ensure that this pandemic does not elevate the number of female drop outs.
Perhaps the online teaching may not be a strong alternative for conventional
education system but it can to a certain extent mitigate and compensate for the
inconvenience caused by this petrifying Covid-19 pandemic to the education
system. Learning is an ever-evolving process and in this time of crisis, a well
rounded and effective educational practice through the use of technology is what
we can count on to adapt to the future, irrespective of its bane.
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