digitalising-education-and-pandemic

Context: The impact of pandemic COVID-19 is observed in every sector around the world and the education sectors of India as well as world are also badly affected by this.

Impact of Covid on Education

  • Indian education sector and students suffers a lot during pandemic. It is almost one year with public schools being completely shut down. 
  • It has changed the traditional education system to the educational technologies (EdTechs) model, where teaching and assessments are conducted online.
  • Small kids have forgotten what they already read in school and their families, mainly in rural India, have gotten used to having the extra hands at home and will possibly be reluctant to send their kids to school ever again.
  • Only a handful of schools were able to adopt online teaching methods. The low-income private and government school counterparts had completely shut down for not having access to e-learning solutions. 
  • Many students have no longer access to healthy meals during Pandemic and are subject to economic and social stress.

Problems with Education from Home

  • Home environment settings are not suitable for small kids and even younger ones. They faced problems such as;
    • lack of basic facilities
    • external distraction
    • family interruption during teaching and conducting assessments
    • institutional support barriers such as the budget for purchasing advanced technologies
    • a lack of training
    • a lack of technical support 
    • a lack of clarity and direction
  • Difficulties faced by Teachers;
    • lack of technical support
    • lack of technical infrastructure
    • limited awareness of online teaching platforms and security concerns
    • negative attitude
    • course integration with technology 
    • lack of motivation 

A Ray of Hope 

  • India as a country always faced such problems and then always gets find innovative solutions to the mind-boggling problems.
  • There was a time when illiteracy and school enrollment was a big issue but India, with the help of Mid-day Meal concept, manages to overcome this. Today 97 per cent of Indian kids go to school.
  • It’s a time to again find innovative ideas and creative solutions to the mammoth education crisis that we have right now. 

Short Term Measures

  • Focusing on reopening schools: Most of the foreign countries have opened their educational institutions with some modifications. This is the time for India to look towards this creatively. Some of the measures we can take like;
    • use outdoor locations
    • teach in smaller groups in local community centres
    • increase duration of the academic year to give the system more time to make up for the last year
    • begin teacher vaccinations drives first
    • take kids to physical school for few days a week with utmost care
  • Redefine Teacher: This is the time to prove the famous saying ‘home is the first school and parents are the first teachers’. Parents, older children, and volunteers in the community can be roped in to support the traditional teacher and run the continuity of the learning process of the students. 
    • We need to give autonomy to school authorities and create decentralised community-based solutions.
    • Locals in a community should volunteer to create new localised learning solutions. 
  • Focus on innovative ideas to educate our kids by developing free standardised content that can be easily disseminated through existing widespread mediums like television, radio and telephone can be done immediately because bridging the digital divide to enable online learning will take time.
    • New standardised assessments are also needed to ensure the continuity of learning on these platforms.

Solutions to make online education a viable alternative

  • Public financial resources should be allocated for providing access to online educational facilities. Students belonging to the economically weaker sections need this in order to overcome the prevalent digital divide.
  • Necessary arrangements need to make for stable broadband facilities throughout the country. It will ensure quality online learning along with provision of earlier broadcast technologies like radio and television for delivering the curriculum.
  • Educational institutions, both in metropolises and in smaller towns and rural and remote areas, should be equipped with state-of-the-art ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) facilities for imparting quality online education.
  • There is a need of sufficient training for teachers for offering online lessons using digital platforms easily.
  • Required arrangements are necessary for offering lessons in digital platforms in the vernacular languages of India.
  • Proper methods for assessing the quality of the learners should be developed and familiarised among both students and teachers.
  • Necessary arrangements are required for imparting online education to differently-abled students.

Opportunity to solve larger problems

  • Pandemic has given us time to pause and rethink at different level of the issue whether it’s individual, corporate or political level.
  • Issues like lack of good quality education, infrastructure, and teacher training program can be deal during this phase. 
  • There is a need for democratising content by bridging the infrastructure divide. We need to relook at our content with an increased focus on building English literacy. Basic functional English that connects us to the vast learning opportunities on the internet — 90 per cent of the content on the internet is, after all, in English. This is a fantastic opportunity for us to move out of our regional thinking and truly enable our children by giving them limitless opportunities of self-learning available on the internet.
  • Possibilities and benefits of virtual schooling: Virtual schooling has potential to provide new and interactive global content, and access to high-quality global teachers. 

Way Forward

  • There is a need of a long-term outlook of digitalisation of education which will truly democratise education. It would be an opportunity to provide equal access to the best quality of education to all.
    • Having high-quality content in education will be an opportunity to train our teachers online and give them access to high-quality global training. 
    • It would help in creating a truly high-quality hybrid education model that combines the best online learning tools with well-trained face-to-face teachers.
  • The pandemic is here and creating troubles and challenging us on several levels. We have to learn and respond it. 

Digital Initiatives Contribution to the Education

  • SWAYAM: ‘Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds' (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses and covering school (9th to 12th) to Post Graduate Level. 
  • SWAYAM Prabha: SWAYAM Prabha is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on 24X7 basis. It has curriculum-based course content covering diverse disciplines. 
  • National Digital Library (NDL): The National Digital Library of India (NDL) is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. The contents cover almost all major domains of education and all major levels of learners including life-long learners. 
  • E-Yantra: e-Yantra is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and Robotics. Teachers and students got training through workshops where participants are taught basics of embedded systems and programming. 
  • Free and Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE):  It is a project promoting the use of open source software in educational institutions. It does through instructional material, like spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and Internships.