Face-to-face education is in a quagmire in India

Face-to-face education is in a quagmire due to large-scale outbreaks of global pandemic COVID 19. The education sector in India is worst affected along with health crises across the country. An estimated 184 million school children are out of formal schooling, examinations are in a halt, evaluation work is postponed, new admission process in all educational instructions are in cold storage. As a country of 1.35 billion population, we must think to engage our school going students, which is 20 million much more than students attending colleges and universities.

Teachers who are working from home are facing as many as a problem to reach out to their students and concerned parents. The mental health and anxiety of parents have grown manifolds and schools are not in a position to attend those concerns. This clearly indicates that we as a nation not prepared to face such an unforeseen challenge whose glaring example is our crumbling education system, be it primary, secondary or tertiary education system in our country. How to keep learning on and prevent disruption becomes a major challenge to the education planners, administrators, and policymakers?

Emerging Issues?

  1. What happened to Incheon Declaration-2015 in which India is a signatory?

UNESCO stated in the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action that countries should provide alternative modes of learning and education for children and adolescents who are not in school at both the primary and secondary levels, and put in place equivalency and bridging programmes, recognized and accredited by the state, to ensure flexible learning in both formal and non-formal settings, including in emergency situations.

  1. What the apex bodies in education are doing now?

Bodies like NCERT, NCTE, AICTE, UGC, IGNOU, CBSE, ICSE, IITs, IISERs, IIMs  role is crucial in this context and the nations should come out with a unified plan to tackle the crisis.

  1. Where is collaboration among all open learning universities across our country?

In our country, there are open universities of state and center as well and they should shoulder the responsibility to provide online classes to learners in their network area.

  1. What are private education providers are doing? Be it school education or university education, where are they now?

In India, there are lakhs of Private schools, hundreds of universities and thousands of colleges managed by private players. They should come out with a basket full of offerings for the public cause and give back to the nation at the time of crisis but the number of helping hands is very few.

  1. Where are governments’ efforts to give sufficient publicity to the learning engagement of students?

In the backdrop of the youngest nation and prospective workforce for the world, India needs to take care of those millions of learners’ needs at the moment.

  1. How are we developing /pooling our resources like mobile internet platforms as learning tools?

India is the second-largest country after China in terms of using mobile internet in the world and it should be used for online education now.

  1. Where are MOOCs devoted to the school education sector that is available on the SWAYAM platform?

The govt. of India operated SWAYAM is having a limited number of courses for school level learners. The number of educational channels like DD Gyandarshan and private channels are limited and not equipped to cater to the vast majority demands.

  1. How are we going to optimize teacher competency during the lockdown period?

Though India boasts a sizable number of school teachers amounting to 5,816,673 ( as per the 2011 census) who need constant professional development? Rather they are busy preparing for summer breaks or 2021 census duty?

  1. What about the wellbeing of students and teachers?

Since students are staying with parents 24 hours due to lockdown, there are discomforts owing to adjustment, lifestyle and mobility issues which have caused unforeseen mental health challenges which are gaining ground in most of the metro cities as well as tier-II cities and spreading its tentacles in other strata of life as well.

Therefore, it is the earnest duty of governments (both state and union) to provide alternative modes of learning and education for children who are not in school at both the primary, secondary and senior secondary levels. Also, to evolve a mechanism and put in place equivalent programmes, to ensure flexible learning in a non-formal setting.

At the moment online classes/ virtual classes are the only viable option for all and we need to explore its possibilities and challenges. Also, to evolve a definite strategy to meet the learning needs of our school-going as well as college/university students. Our strategy should be based on the following dimensions.

  • Creating an Online learning infrastructure at all levels i.e at the local school level, monitoring that infrastructure at the district level and state level as well. Otherwise, it will be a programme like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan where quantity preferred over quality.
  • Creating/assembling learning tools such as new soft wares, Open source soft wares/tools.
  • Managing learning resources at Institutional levels such as computers, trained computer teachers, online resource managing committees, online teachers trainers, etc.
  • Evolving appropriate teaching and learning methods by national research institutions for schools so that they can begin with their online journey.
  • Professional development of teachers as may teachers are not proficient in online learning which is a new trend in the 21st-century world.
  • Online services for students i.e students and their parents are not conversant with the online learning methodology, technical know-how, and operational efficiency.
  • Collaboration between schools, affiliating boards, and government, at large for making the online journey even during the time of normalcy which is the need for 21st century learning society.
  • Academic Supervision by individual schools to ensure learning is happening through online learning platforms and materials.
  • Public awareness about virtual classes and online learning is most important so that parents can encourage their wards to go for it.
  • Creating more public-private partnerships in making educational TV Channels like other developed nations (e.g. educational-television-channels K-12 USA it is 31).

At this juncture, we need to come together not only to address the immediate educational consequences of this unprecedented crisis but to build up the longer-term resilience of the  Education System of the country whose time has come. On the other hand govt. should come out with an online learning policy for aided schools and colleges and formulate guidelines for work from home scenarios so that country remains prepared for future uncertainties and crises.

By Dr. Bibhuti Narayan Biswal, Academic Co-ordinator, Reliance Foundation Schools Academic Council (RFSAC)

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of EducationWorld.

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