School and college lives were hurled in the air when the government had instructed to shut down all educational institutions across India in March 2020. Little did we know what the pandemic had in store for us. Joining classes for higher education, starting off the new job post-graduation or taking a gap year to explore one’s options seemed like the rough plan that each of us had in mind. None of us saw what this year would actually turn out to be.
Given how the pandemic has hit the world, apart from the regular economic, political and social facets of life, education has taken the worst hit in decades. Regular face-to-face lectures, interacting with peers during timed breaks, etc. seem like a distant dream. Conducting lectures via online mode is just a temporary fix to the larger issue at hand.
Technology and the “Learning Loss”
Several educational experts have been debating about “learning loss”. It basically refers to how a student loses their touch with learning over the periods of long holidays. But with the pandemic omnipresent (at least for now), the learning loss cap has been prolonged for how long, nobody knows. The pandemic has positioned the educational sector for a real challenge. Long periods of school closures will have a direct impact on the learning capabilities of students.
Conducting lectures via online mode is just a temporary fix to the larger dispute at hand. The rural-urban divide comes into play here. How many students would have access to virtual lectures? The NSO’s Household Social Consumption on Education survey shows that just 4% of rural households had, between June 2017 and June 2018, access to computers, compared with 23% of urban households. And, just 15% of rural households had internet access as compared to 42% of urban households according to an article at the Financial Express.
This is where the government needs to step in at both Central and State levels by ensuring that students who do not have the means to access digital tools are provided with the necessary gizmos that open up their path to learning and keeping up with their peers.
Exacerbation of the fault-lines
According to Rukmini Banerji, CEO of Pratham Education Foundation, students who were already struggling with learning are at the greatest disadvantage. Say, for instance, a student in Class-I would be introduced to the basic concepts of reading, writing, arithmetic, etc. A student who is naturally gifted with intellectual prowess will do fine even amidst the pandemic. But what happens to the students who are slow learners, the ones who would need individual attention from the teachers?
What happens to their basic foundations in learning? How do the teachers plan on tackling the sensitive and larger issues at hand? It becomes all the more abstruse for the students when their family does not lend their hand in times of need.
Even if they do have privileged access, how many students are actually paying attention to their teachers? Several instances of students pranking teachers online have been in the limelight.
The efforts that the teachers take to adapt to the technological shifts are not being acknowledged. Several teachers are technologically handicapped. If they are capable of overcoming the hurdles that they personally face, why aren’t the students taking initiatives to conquer the troubles they face? Is this a time for only an educational reset or an overall mindset retune?
Imminent and Long-Term Impact
Online learning has been the chief mode of education across several parts of the country. For a student or a teacher to be part of the online classes, their devices are heavily reliant on a good internet connection which becomes another concern that needs to be given its due share of attention. No matter how resilient the WiFi speed could possibly be, one instance of heavy rainfall or power shortage can effortlessly disrupt the flow of online classes, irrespective of belonging to a rural or urban area. With the monsoon gushing in several areas of the country, both students and teachers are stifled most of the time due to the unpredictable power cuts. This takes a toll on both the physical and mental health of the people involved in the process.
For a great portion of students, this prolonged closure of schools and colleges is going to have a long-lasting impact that could possibly mould them in a way that leaves them clueless for the best years of their life to come. There is no denying that there are more than a few hitches that need to be solved and it is going to consume a considerable time to adopt the best solution and adapt to the novel changes. But in the meantime, it is up to us students to make use of the resources within our grasp so as to ensure that this time is not wasted. Rather it is fruitfully utilized to shape a better version of ourselves.