Impact of COVID-19 on education

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The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented crisis in all areas. Education sector has also been hit-hard leading to near total closure of schools, universities and colleges. Approximately 1,077 billion learners are currently affected due to school closures in response to pandemic. UNESCO is supporting countries in their efforts to mitigate the immediate impact of school closure, besides facilitating the continuity of education through remote learning. In India, around 32 crore learners stopped going to schools, colleges as all educational activities except online classes have halted. School closures caused an impact on students, teachers and families and also have far reaching economic and societal consequences. School closures in response to the pandemic have shed light on various social and economic issues, including student debt, digital learning, food insecurity and homelessness. The impact is more severe for disadvantaged children and their families causing interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, childcare problems and consequent economic cost to families who could not work. The lockdown compelled educational institutions to cancel their classes, examinations etc and to choose online modes. Initially, the educators and students were quite confused and did not understand how to cope up with the situation emerged out of this sudden crisis that compelled closure of educational activities. But later on all have realised that pandemic has taught so many lessons to manage with the emergence of such pandemics. Thus COVID-19 has created many challenges and opportunities for the educational institutes to strengthen their technological knowledge and infrastructure. It has given a ray of hope for teachers and students to continue their educational activities through online classes. The teachers assigned work to students via internet, deliver lecture through live video conferencing using different apps like Zoom, Google meet, Facebook, YouTube, Skype etc. There are Whatsapp groups of guardians, teacher, students and parents for giving instructions to hold classes online. Lack of access to technology or fast, reliable internet prevents students in rural areas and from disadvantaged families attending online classes. School closure also puts a strain on parents and guardians to provide childcare and manage distance learning while children are out of schools. Another challenge that online classes witnessed were a high dropout rate due to lack of atmosphere for studying. Students might tend to get distracted by gaming, social media at home. Schools are also hubs of social activity and human interaction. When schools are closed, many children and youth miss out on social contact, that is essential to learning and development. In the pandemic, distance learning education solutions are possible through combination of efforts made by motivated students and educators, encouraged by recurring families and sustained by Governments who provide programmes and policies with the necessary infrastructure to support them, while our country has adopted these measures as short-term crisis- combating solutions. These new initiatives and a transition to e-learning will address some of our society’s most processing problems and change the nature of our education system in years to come.In our union territory of Jammu and Kashmir, schools are using different kinds of digital modes to connect with students to serve their crucial academic years and continue with studies but due to restricted internet speed, teachers are finding it difficult to take on-line classes as there is only 2G internet speed available in the union territory. We pray to almighty that this dreaded corona virus eliminates from the world and also request the administration to provide adequate internet services so that on-line studies do not suffer. For all we shall hope, this difficult time might be restricted to a year or two, but this is when we get an opportunity to re-strategise and create a blanket learning solution that can be deployed in any crisis. Digital education also has a positive impact. Digital education is fun learning for all cadres and particularly effective for child learning as the innovative audio-video feature boosts cognitive elements in a child’s brain. The infotainment combination involved in digital learning make it more practical, applicable and relatable to our life and surroundings in an interesting manner. Students view this as a flexible option allowing them to study as per their time and pace. Teachers too find it convenient to prepare their learning plans well-aided by technology. Teaching is also effective with a perfect mesh of personalised packages, having a blend of animations, gamification and elaborate audio-visual effects.The scope of e-learning is enormous and can help realise the potential of each student. There lie both opportunities and challenges for the Government and the private sector. The aim should be to ensure equal and adequate access to such platforms as the country continues to globalise and catch up with advanced economies. If the Indian education system aims to transit to online learning in the future, it must emphasize policies that bridge the digital divide and move the country closer to achieving sustainable development goals. In this time of crisis, a well- recorded and effective educational practise is the need of the hour for the capacity building of young minds. It will develop skills that will drive their employability, productivity, health and well-being in the years to come and ensure the overall progress of the country.
By Sunil Vaid

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