The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of every single individual in a multitude of ways. From jobs to education, businesses to schools, and even the regular functioning of every household; every aspect of social interaction has been altered to a certain extent. The ‘learning and earning’ industries (educational and corporate industries) have seen a rapid change, taking on an online medium to keep up with the changing needs of the time.
Of course, education and earning could not be put on hold for too long. Making use of platforms such as Zoom Meetings, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams, the location of most offices and educational institutes changed to the employees’ and students’ homes. Today, we’ll be discussing a little about the ways in which COVID has disrupted the regular, traditional schooling methods.
With the closing of all schools, universities, and educational institutions as a whole, education seemed to take an instant and abrupt halt across the world in early 2020. Exams were first postponed indefinitely, before being cancelled, and ongoing classes faced the same circumstances. There was initially a lot of uncertainty surrounding the status of how soon it could be expected for education to be back in motion. With the rise in number of COVID-positive cases coming up across the globe, it was obvious that the traditional method of education would not be feasible and, therefore, the pause in educational activities would continue for a decent amount of time.
According to a press release from UNICEF, governments were advised to take the opportunity during the summer months to evaluate their plan of action in order to control the rate of infection by COVID, specifically the necessary measures to be taken so that the ultimate closure of institutions could be avoided. However, with constantly rising rates, it was found that one of the most impactful ways to keep the rates of infection from rising was to close all places of mass gathering, including all educational institutions.
The 2020-2021 academic year saw a dire impact as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, with UNESCO reports showing that 44 out of 53 countries in the WHO European Region had shut down their schools in April 2020, which was when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its peak. Some countries had attempted to reopen schools towards the end of summer 2020, but with rising infection rates during the oncoming of winter months, even more rigorous rules and measures were being implemented. As a result, there was so possibility for physical presence in classrooms of schools, colleges, or universities throughout the academic year of 2020-2021.
However, while physical proximity had to be compromised in the educational setting, it was obvious that the academic year couldn’t be put on an indefinite halt. Alternatives were then sought for and the online method of learning seemed to be the most feasible one. Yet even this method had its own shortcomings, mainly surrounding the availability of an active internet connection and necessary electronic devices to the student body.
According to a 2019 government survey in India, only 24% of Indian households had access to the internet, while only 4% had access to it in rural India. The budget set by the education ministry for digital e-learning also saw a massive reduction as compared the academic year prior to 2020-2021.
There have been previously existing factors that have impacted the condition of the education ecosystem in India, such as people dropping out of schools, gender discrimination, a significant lack of infrastructure, absence of teachers, and learning deficiencies. With the COVID-19 pandemic has come another major challenge to the education ecosystem, albeit the comeback made possible by the use of the internet and an online medium of education.
The overall classroom environment has been majorly affected, with attendance varying between 25 to 30 per cent. Additionally, statistics have shown that in India alone, more than 1.5 million schools closed down, impacting around 286 million children ranging from pre-primary to secondary levels. These statistics exclude those people who were already out of school prior to COVID. The most significant impact is found on people from underprivileged backgrounds and those who don’t have access to the technology that is needed to be part of an online classroom.
However, in some cases, different alternatives have also been found and, with the support of the teachers and institutes along with parents, resources have been made available to students as much as possible. Overall, with the emerging importance of a digital medium of education, there have certainly been some problems and drawbacks that have presented themselves along with some new advantages as well. A lot of new techniques of teaching and learning, methods of study and doing project work and assignments have also been made possible to be used in the classroom setting as a result of the adoption of online medium.
A quote may sum up what has been learned by the masses with respect to education and the impact on it of the COVID-19 pandemic:
“If it takes a village to raise a child, we must empower the village to teach the child”.
With the implementation of the National Education Policy, released in July by the Union government of India, it is clear that the incorporation of the online medium and its importance, along with making it available in a widespread manner, is definitely something that has been worked on by the policy makers. More attention is being paid to what is being taught with revisions to the curriculum and syllabi, bringing about necessary changes in the content being taught to the students.
It would be fair, then, to conclude that along with its shortcomings, there have been some much-needed upgrades that have been made to the educational ecosystem. As is true in any case, growth is only seen with certain falls and difficulties being faced. Perhaps these changes may be the stepping stone towards more development and enhanced growth of the educational ecosystem.