Does COVID-19 Call for a Change in Our Education System?

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth a new perspective on our lives. We are going through a crisis that we will certainly remember for the rest of our lives. It has changed the ways by which we define what is normal and what is not, in every possible realm. The education system is one such area where the whole concept of the system will have to be reviewed and reconsidered.

Ever since World War II, we haven’t witnessed such a situation where schools and colleges have been shut in several countries around the same time and for the same reason. As per UNESCO, in March 2020, over 1.5 billion students were stuck at home, which is about 90 percent of the world’s student population. UNESCO estimates that about 320 million school and college students are affected in India.

Is E-Learning the Solution?

Schools and colleges have introduced e-learning programs as an alternative for classroom education, aiming to fill the void for three to four months until classes resume. In the near future, digital education is bound to be integrated into the mainstream education system in India.

Many ed-tech firms that provide online courses have seized this opportunity to improve their market share. Massive open online courses (MOOC) are courses aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the internet. India is the second-largest market of MOOCs in the world after the USA.

How will this global crisis affect the education system in the long run?

Is online learning the answer to the current crisis in the education system?


Is India ready for the digital era of schooling and higher education?



Traditional Learning and E-Learning — A Comparison

E-learning has many advantages when compared to traditional learning. Digital learning is cost-effective and enables the students to learn in the confines of their homes, in their comfort zones. However many aspects of the traditional learning system cannot be achieved from digital learning platforms and online classes conducted by schools and colleges.

Apart from teaching science, mathematics, literature, and poetry, classrooms teach us humanity and empathy. It is within the walls of our classrooms where we learn to make friends and share our stories and passions along with our midday meals. It is in these classrooms where we learn to enrich our lives with social skills and learn to live with our differences and similarities.

E-learning platforms and online classes cannot offer the students the social space that traditional classrooms offered. It cannot provide the students with the opportunity for social interaction or group activities, and the feeling of togetherness that traditional classrooms offered.

Is India Ready for It?

In a country where millions of migrant workers walked hundreds of kilometers from quarantined cities to their hometowns and villages, we still have a long way to go before digital learning is seen as the mainstream of education. Students living in rural parts of India still don’t have proper access to the required infrastructure, nor do they have the financial ability to avail the needed resources like laptops, computers or smartphones.

India is the second largest internet market in the world after China. But even when we have 1.17 billion wireless phone subscribers and 560 million internet subscribers, there are still 900 million people with no direct access to the web. Not to mention the number of households even without a television.

Setting up the required infrastructure for digital education by the government seems difficult at the moment due to lack of budget and the economic crisis brought forth by the pandemic. Even if we have the proper infrastructure, teachers will have to be properly trained to use the digital systems to provide uninterrupted and hassle free education to students. E-learning cannot be implemented if we don’t have reliable power supply and an uninterrupted, robust internet connectivity, which is a long way from reality for Indian villages and remote areas.


Future of the Education System Post COVID-19

The pandemic and the ongoing crisis has made all educational institutions around the world to rethink their norms. In India we have resolved to online learning until schools reopen. But the future demands an integrated system that makes use of both the traditional and modern learning practices.
Digital education cannot be applied equally at all levels of education. 

Learning through digital platforms can be easy for students pursuing higher education whereas it’s a totally different question when it comes to kindergarten or lower primary students. It also calls for new regulations to maintain the authenticity of study materials available through MOOCs and other online learning platforms.

Another disadvantage of digital learning is that periodic exams conducted in schools and colleges cannot be conducted online. This has led to exams being postponed all over the country. But isn’t it high time that we look at alternate ways to evaluate the performance of students? The education system in India should change gears to an outcome-based system.

The present system is based on three levels of— remember, understand and apply. But it is mostly confined to remember and understand when it comes to assessment, where students merely reproduce what they have studied onto answer sheets. 

It is a good opportunity now to shift to open book examination systems and give more focus to detailed studies, reports, experiments, models, project works and self-evaluation. Open book exam of short durations and reports, assignments, experiments and projects requiring longer durations shall be used to assess the learning outcomes.

Conclusion

Learning is a continuous process that is ever evolving. Technology has helped to an extent, in providing an alternative to the conventional education systems that succumbed to its limitations amid the pandemic. Nevertheless, the value of conventional classrooms and traditional education system, and the role they play in helping the students to cultivate social and humanitarian skills cannot be undermined.

In January 2020, the supreme court of India ruled that access to internet is a fundamental right under Article 19 of the constitution. The government should aim at levelling the digital divide and ensure that internet access becomes a basic right. This is vital like the measures undertaken to minimize economical and religious differences among the citizens.

 In a networked society, conventional and digital education systems will have to be integrated in the future. A new curriculum which utilizes the best parts of both conventional and digital education will have to be devised for schools and colleges. While devising and implementing such a system we will have the opportunity to rethink our examination and assessment systems that are currently used in educational institutions throughout the country.


Written by - Rahul Prem


Edited by - Nidhi Verma 

Does COVID-19 Call for a Change in Our Education System? Does COVID-19 Call for a Change in Our Education System? Reviewed by NIDHI on June 23, 2020 Rating: 5

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