Education gives us information about our community and our environment and strengthens our skills so that we can change it for the better. Education also helps us to improve our outlook on life, prepare us to have our own ideas and build our own perspectives on various aspects of life. Education today is not a process of gaining knowledge. Only education can train us to interpret various issues and events in our lives. In short, education helps us acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes to make informed decisions, live meaningful lives, and play meaningful roles in today’s society.
Since the beginning of 2020, we have been facing a major catastrophe. The COVID-19 epidemic has been wreaking havoc around the world – including India – disrupting our lives and our lives. Therefore, all students enrolled in Indian schools, colleges, and universities have been unable to attend their institutions for at least a year due to restrictions on testing the spread of the novel coronavirus from mid-March 2020. This has seriously injured students
In the field of education, the current epidemic (already 14 months old) has made it clear three things. Prove without a doubt that we need schools. No matter what country one speaks of, students and parents want schools to be open and functioning with full vigor, with due diligence. Second, it has shown that technology can be useful in education if used thoughtfully. Random Internet surfing can result in the collection of pieces of information that do not include a specific meaning. As Noam Chomsky (2012) states, “You cannot follow any kind of investigation without a clear framework to guide your search and help you choose what is important and what is not.” In addition, there will be no hegemonic techno-management solutions to the linguistic and cultural heterogeneity of students; technology should help us to respect the individual, peer group and community needs and aspirations. Third, the integration of community, community organizations and the private sector will have to happen if we want technology to have a meaningful mediation between school and home, especially among disadvantaged groups.
With millions of young people being urged to stay home as part of their families, and while educational institutions remain closed, online education seems to be one way to ensure the education of these students. However, the question remains as to whether we are prepared to take advantage of these interventions to provide education in our country without compromising the quality of education that will be provided to our students. The short answer to this question – we were not. General online education is still available to many students in our schools, colleges and universities, who have limited or no access to computers and internet connections at home. We currently do not have details on how many students have access to broadband internet, 4G smartphones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers and other much-needed technology in online classes. It was also noted that, in most cases, there is only one 4G smartphone at home for most families, which will need to be shared with leading family members striving to continue their reduced livelihood opportunities and ‘work at home,’ if possible. Children at home, of all ages, are left with only one device in the family. After all, the pressure on families is great. Jobs are lost and money is reduced.
Therefore, the majority of young people in our country have been living at home for months without any form of formal education, let alone high quality education, which is needed to understand problems and achieve a sustainable future, as emphasized in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) adopted by the United Nations on September 25, 2015, for the purpose of establishing a just and sustainable planet. Under such circumstances, there is a high probability that there will be a high rate of dropouts in schools, colleges and universities by 2020-21 and a few years later. Given the patriarchal structure, where boys are still given priority over girls in terms of better and higher education, the rates of students leaving girls during and after the epidemic may be much higher than boys. If this is the case with the COVID-19 epidemic and the subsequent recession and economic downturn, the potential to increase the Gray Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) envisaged by the New Education Policy (NEP) 2020 could be in jeopardy. Education is one of the places in India, where the unequal impact of COVID-19 is most evident. The indefinite closure of schools, colleges and universities could set back years of progress in accessing education in our country.
What can be done?
Under the circumstances, let us divert our attention from these negative opportunities to the things that should be done first. First, we must acknowledge that face-to-face communication between teachers and students and healthy and healthy conversations between peers within and outside the classroom are combined with quality teaching, as envisaged in the SDGs. Online education can go hand in hand with this learning process but cannot replace it. Social and emotional learning – such as empathy, attention, interaction and communication, critical thinking and constructiveness, raising awareness in many ways and developing respect for distinctions – are difficult to in still in students without teaching face to face in class. Second, once we have said this, we must understand that, if, for any reason – be it epidemic or for other unseen reason, learning in the classroom is not possible – online education can be an effective alternative provided:
- Adequate public resources have been allocated to provide access to online educational institutions, in particular, for students in economically disadvantaged backgrounds to overcome common digital divisions.
- Necessary arrangements are being made for stable broadband infrastructure across the country to study high quality and to provide advanced broadcasting technology such as radio and television delivery curriculum.
- Educational institutions, not only in the big cities, but also in small towns and rural areas and remote areas, have ICT-based ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) centers for providing quality online education.
- Teachers are adequately trained in offering online courses using a variety of digital platforms.
- Necessary arrangements were made to teach digital episodes in the indigenous languages of India.
- Appropriate methods of assessing student quality are developed and common among students and teachers.
- Adequate arrangements are made for the transfer of online education to students of different backgrounds.
The fulfilment of the above criteria will be able to create another sustainable way to transfer quality education to make India one of the major educational institutions of the future in Global South and to transform the country’s population into a valuable human resource by providing advanced competing skills in the 21st century. The COVID-19 epidemic is a trial in India. But it also gives us an opportunity to turn this problem into a catalyst for India’s goal of providing quality education for all.