Young learners globally are at an impasse. They are sandwiched between aspiring to learn and unable to learn. If anybody thinks COVID-19 has only impacted jobs and health, they are far from the truth. This colossal pandemic has caused schools to shut globally. Millions of children are out of school, and education has changed everywhere. Teaching has become virtual, so has learning. The thirst students have for knowledge, is not being quenched by online education.
Originally expected to be a short-term impact, covid has now turned into a year-long one. An article by the World Economic Forum says globally more than a billion learners are affected. At least 285 million learners in India have been affected according to theeconomictimes.
Schools had to suddenly change their teaching and evaluation methods. While private schools in urban areas could do this quickly, due to the availability of funds and infrastructure, government and rural schools have been deeply affected. Most of these schools are closed and the students missing their learning opportunities. There is an expectancy of significant increase in school dropouts in the rural areas. Losing one year of school education could have drastic impact on their future
A UN Report says in 2020’s 2nd quarter, 86% of children are still out of school in under- developed countries. 40 million children worldwide have missed pre-school. It gravely points out millions of dollars of educational finance gap worldwide, as not everyone is equipped for remote education.
Is Online education affordable?
While online education is the only practical choice right now, we need to think about the number of households that could afford this. In low-income and middle counties like India and Middle Africa, when many families do not even have full time electricity, how would they have uninterrupted network?
According to a published article by Protiva Kundu from the Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability, Mission Antyodya was a survey of villages conducted in 2017-18 and it showed that 16% of Indian households received only 1 to 8 hours of electricity per day. Just imagine what their children would do now. Only 11% of Indians hold laptop or desktop and 24% Indians hold smartphone or internet facility.
Overall, only 8% of houses with small children have both computer and internet.
Some of the students are adopting e-learning platforms like Byju’s app, but few could access such content or understand it on their own. Most of these families have low socio-economic background and poor uneducated parents.
We can clearly say that this pandemic has exposed the imbalance between rural and urban, poor, and rich in India.
Is Online education effective?
Let us look at the pros and cons of the online education happening right now. Schools and teachers are putting a lot of effort into creating and teaching online content, and students will have to sit in-front of laptops and mobile phones throughout the day.
This could affect their mental and physical well-being: there could be an increase in stress in the young minds and their families. Lack of physical activity and social interaction has gone down tremendously, group studies and team projects that used to enhance the learners’ social skills, are non-existent now.
Most students use mobile phones and mobile data, and how they could do extensive research and reports on a phone is beyond imagination. At least laptop could be better but not everyone could afford it. Moreover, they may not have a quiet room to listen to teachers in rural and poor homes.
Unlike a classroom where teachers can discipline students, online study requires self-discipline and constant monitoring by parents. Students have the additional risk of being exposed to undesirable ads and sites that pop up online.
Online education does have its own advantages, The same article by World economic forum says that students retain 25% to 60% more knowledge from online education if they listen attentively. They can leisurely study from home and take breaks, and recorded content is available for them to refer. So, looking at visual images and presentations is easier for them to grasp the concepts. E-learning requires around 40% less time to learn, as students can re-read or accelerate through concepts. Some schools take recreational activities like dance & crafts also which is commendable.
What is needed?
Responsibility of every Citizen
Every individual must handle this situation responsibly. People should understand the stress of children and support them. Parents can make space and time to help them study at home. Relatives and neighbours can be more accommodating, for example, keeping TV volumes low or not wasting internet bandwidth. The same is applicable for teachers’ homes as well. Adults could spare some time and effort to educate nearby poor children, for example, even the children of their own maids. Supporting the society is a must in this pandemic. Those who can afford, can donate money for educational charities. There are many who have lost their jobs like hotel workers, salesmen who need moral and financial support. The government and charities should focus on helping such people and providing daily needs to them.
Public and private organizations along with the government should enable and supply subsidized, if not free data packs and computers for students. In rural areas, community centres with social distancing could be arranged for students to attend classes. We cannot forget that schools and teachers also are to be enabled to provide distance learning, especially in rural areas.
Remote learning must be enhanced further to reach everyone and be made simple and effective.
There should be affordable all-in-one platforms for the education community to use. Even if such platforms exist, they should be made available to all, and public awareness must be increased. Government funds should be appropriately used for these.
How can we face this in future?
If we look at covid survivors, it is closely tied with healthy lifestyle and better immune system which is what Indian government is promoting too. Why adopt healthy food and exercise only when there is a disease? It should be the regular lifestyle and the best solution to any future virus threats, be it natural or man-made. Asian food especially Indian, with its herbs like turmeric, ginger and pepper is said to be therapeutic. When combined with regular exercise, yoga, and pranayama, it would definitely reduce the impact of such medical emergencies. Governments, Homes, Schools, colleges, and workplaces should promote this in their regular schedules. Cultivating this healthy way of living is most important for the growing younger generation.
We must understand that this was not caused by a lone virus, but also the greed and enmity between powerful people across the world. Even when this was spreading across India, we could see bigots pointing fingers at certain groups of people. Such violent thoughts should be avoided, and constructive measures should be encouraged.
Most of the countries failed to take immediate action, thinking of it like a common flu. This will not work in future; everyone has to be prepared to face such situations. Be it a common man or a powerful authority, they should follow common precautions like social distancing and saving for such unexpected situations and not wasting money on lavish items. Parents should ensure this minimalistic mentality is sowed in their children’s mindset.
Overall, there is a need to improve lifestyle & healthcare, widen public awareness and enhance education methodologies globally and make it available in the nooks and corners of the world. Every student has the basic right to continue his/her education without any fear about the future. Every citizen must live without fear of sustaining life. Only then we can be prepared to face any unnatural threat.