Compelling the entire human society to distance itself socially, the Covid-19 pandemic disarrayed the world, and significantly, the education sector which is an intrinsic component of determining the economic future of any country. According to a report by UNESCO, the pandemic has adversely affected more than 90% of the total student population of the world, which was reduced to 67% during June 2020. The pandemic aggravated the already struggling academic situation in India, where about 32 crores of students were distressed about the various restrictions and the nationwide lockdown for Covid-19. The two significant groups of students who were bowled over by the pandemic in India, as per the UNESCO report, were 14 crores of primary students and 13 crores of secondary students.
However, the pandemic gave way to a new era of digital education, leaving behind rigorous classroom teaching. Educational institutions were forced to shut down and choose the online mode. It also gave them a chance to bolster their technical/technological knowledge and infrastructure. Teachers began delivering the lectures online via applications such as Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, and YouTube and assigned work to the students as well. In case of difficulties in the e-medium, special groups of students, guardians, and teachers were also created to ensure effective communication.
The Gordian knot in the digitalization of education is the ‘Digital Divide’. It means that not every student is well-equipped with constant internet connectivity and digital gadgets. Their limited access to modern communication and information technology is the major drawback of the advent of computerized learning environments.
Initiatives By The Indian Government
The Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has taken in its stride a multitude of steps and enacted several arrangements to help the students cope with digital learning. It has been done via creating online portals, and educational platforms. Besides this, the ICT initiative of the MHRD is a new and noteworthy platform that strives to combine a plethora of digital resources for virtual education. The initiatives are as stated below:
Diksha is an e-learning portal that is designed to align with the curriculum. It provides resourceful content to the students, teachers, and parents in the form of video lectures, textbook assessments, worksheets, etc. The application, which can be used even offline, has about 80,000+ eBooks catering to students studying from standard 1st to 12th created by CBSE, NCERT in a wide multitude of languages.
This e-learning application is created by NCERT that houses in itself videos, audios, books, etc. which are specifically aimed at educating students, teachers, etc. This is the NCERT web portal that has deployed about 1886 audios, 2000 videos, 504 flipbooks, 696 e-books in different languages.
Hosting about 1900 courses, Swayam is an online educational platform on a national level that contains content related to both school and higher education. Along with the conventional courses, subjects such as humanities and social sciences, law, engineering, management are integrated to create a unique course.
4. e-PG Pathshala
This online platform is for postgraduate students. They can access this particular educational application and the facilities it provides even without internet connectivity for the entire day. The platform contains study materials, online lectures, and e-books for PG students.
Positive Impact of Covid-19 on Education
The pandemic gave the Indian educational system an opportunity to transform and renovate the traditional kind of education to a new, virtual era. The positive impact of the Covid-19 on education is as follows:
- BLENDED LEARNING – Educational institutions were forced to adopt digital technologies and gradually move towards a blended mode of learning. Inspiring students and teachers to be more techno-savvy and devise new ways of learning in the areas of curriculum development and pedagogy.
- IMPROVES COLLABORATIVE WORK – Digital education has created paths for more comprehensive and collaborative teaching as well as learning. Knowledge takes up different forms, and via virtual education, it benefits people across the world.
- ENRICHES DIGITAL LITERACY – The pandemic created a spurt in virtual meetings, e-conferencing, online lectures, and compelled people to enhance their digital literacy.
Negative Impact of Covid-19 on Education
- EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY INHIBITED – Classes were abruptly suspended, and so were the annual examinations and entrance tests. Subsequently, the admission process was also delayed. The lockdown hampered the study cycle of students for straight three months, which is even deteriorating further.
- EFFECT ON EMPLOYMENT – The recruitment of students into various companies was held back, where the process of onboarding started very late. According to the data presented by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, it is estimated that unemployment in India shot up from 8.4% in mid-March to 23% in early April, with urban unemployment increasing up to 30.9%.
- UNPREPAREDNESS FOR ONLINE EDUCATION – Not every teacher/student was adept in making a swift transformation from a physical mode of teaching/learning to online education. There were many technical issues that were faced when using online platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc.
- GLOBAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY SCALED DOWN – People who were placed internationally lost their jobs and many students could not be employed internationally because of COVID-19. Students even found it very difficult to get suitable employment and join their respective companies due to the lockdown restrictions. There were several withdrawals of jobs from the world of the corporate sector due to travel constraints.
- DIGITAL DIVIDE – Due to the limited internet connectivity and inadequate access to online platforms, many students faced the digital divide which aggravated their already poor condition. Students staying in rural India had less opportunities to keep themselves at par with urban students. The pandemic, therefore, enhanced the gap between rich and poor, the urban and rural.
Also read: Managing Mental Health during COVID-19
Suggestions to Improve the Condition
- Certain strategies must be devised by India to make sure that students from all socio-cultural backgrounds must have equitable access to online education. For an efficacious delivery, special focus must be given to students staying in the remote areas, the ones who belong to the marginalized and minority groups.
- It must be ensured that immediate steps are taken so that the effect of the pandemic on sectors such as employment and education, on job offers and internship programs, as well as research projects are minimized.
- There must be an effective plan that allows the government and the educational institutions to carry on with the educational activities amidst Covid-19 while maintaining social distancing norms.
- In this digital era, the new technologies and virtual education platforms must be made accessible with a good infrastructure to the remote and poor areas of all regions. Public funds must be deployed judiciously to bridge the digital divide between students.
There is an immediate need to realize the importance of online learning. Even if the pandemic is here to stay long, we must be well-equipped with the recent technologies so that no one suffers any sort of academic loss. Rather, they get ready with full vigor to enter into a virtual, digitized space that shall dictate the future of our nation. The Indian policies must include people from different backgrounds so that everyone gets sustainable access to the online practice of teaching and learning.