The chaos of online education during the pandemic era in India


Among the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, one that needs far more attention than it receives is the state of education in post-pandemic India.

COVID-19-induced school closures have negatively impacted about 320 million children from preschool to tertiary level, the education ministry told the Parliamentary Commission for the Empowerment of Women, in its first official admission of the effects of the pandemic. Of the millions of children affected by school closures, 49.37% were girls. Many causes and factors contribute to this situation.

Deepening of the digital divide:

The challenges facing India’s education system were magnified during the pandemic, with public schools particularly struggling to transition from traditional in-person learning to online education. With amenities like even electricity being scarce in many parts of the country, it’s no surprise that a significant portion does not have access to the internet, laptops and smartphones.

According to the School Children’s Online and Offline Learning, or SCHOOL, survey, supervised by a group of economists including Jean Dreze and Reetika Khera, 77% of families in urban areas and 51% in villages have access to smartphones – thanks to the digital revolution underway in India and the data prices achievable. However, only 31% of children in cities and 15% in villages are able to use smartphones for school purposes. The employee’s claim to the telephone clearly outweighs its usefulness as an educational tool.

Young primary school children are particularly affected because they often have the least access to technology, which raises very worrying possibilities. A year and a half of school closures linked to a pandemic have created a four-year learning gap, according to a survey of nearly 1,400 underprivileged schoolchildren in 15 Indian states. A student who was in Grade 3 before COVID-19 is now in Grade 5 and will be entering college soon, but with the reading skills of a Grade 1 student.

Some students are much worse off than others

Students experienced varying impacts on their education depending on their socio-economic strata, gender, and whether they resided in urban or rural areas. Students in private schools and those from households with high socioeconomic status (SES) have more access to digital devices and are more engaged in regular educational activities than their peers in public schools and households with low SES.

The reduction in economic activity due to the pandemic drove families into poverty, who were no longer able to afford their children’s school fees. Several children have had to drop out of school and take jobs to help their struggling families due to loss of income or the death of a family member linked to the pandemic. Almost 1.2 lakh of children have been orphaned in India since the start of COVID-19.

While families with high SES can turn to Edtech market companies like Byjus, Eruditus and even get private lessons for their children, families with low SES fall behind some who do not have textbooks and education. learning material for this school year.

The potential increase in learning poverty could have a devastating impact on the productivity and future incomes of this entire generation of children and youth, their families and global economies, said Jaime Saavedra, Global Director of the World Bank for education to the indian express.

Gender comes into play

After schools close, girls should help with household chores and help parents care for their younger siblings. Worsening economic distress also means malnutrition and early marriages, especially for adolescent girls.

Of the 320 million children affected by school closures, 49.37 percent were girls, the education ministry told the Parliamentary Commission for the Empowerment of Women. “After the pandemic, this can lead to a higher risk of girls dropping out of school permanently and reversing the gains made in recent years. We cannot ignore the fact that there is a gender dimension in digital access to learning. In families who own only one smartphone, it is likely that the sons will be preferred to access the online courses, taken by the daughters, if time permits, ”the ministry told the panel.

Teachers – a crucial part of the equation

The delivery of education was out of balance even before the pandemic, but has been exacerbated by the shift from education to the online ecosystem. Children lack advice from teachers, especially since parents cannot help them with their homework every day. Homework without regular return from teachers has questionable educational value.

Teachers too are struggling to adapt to the digital space, especially teachers in public schools, many of whom do not know English well and are not tech-savvy. In a survey published by the First Journal of the Delhi Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, it was found that 43% of 220 teachers were unhappy with the mode of online education as they felt it hampered their abilities .

UNESCO calls on India to recognize teachers as “front line workers” in the fight against the pandemic and it is indeed up to teachers to help children progress.

Teachers should use targeted instruction and align instruction with students’ level of learning, rather than a supposed starting point or expectation of the program to help the cause.

Why physical classrooms are essential for students

The pandemic has not only disrupted learning but also the socio-emotional well-being of students. Home study and a lack of designated study space can impact children’s learning.

Students are also disadvantaged by the lack of physical activity and the exposure offered by a social environment such as school. The balance in their lives has deteriorated and time spent alone, lack of activities and friendships has led to depression and even loneliness in some children.

Importantly, the provision of the midday meal, a great blessing for many students in India, stopped, resulting in malnutrition of many children.

A rusty silver lining in the midst of chaos

There has been a positive impact, however, amid the devastating effects of COVID-19 on global education. The pandemic has opened the doors to innovative methods of transmitting knowledge around the world. Schools are now employing blended learning and encouraging teachers and students to become tech savvy. Soft technology, online, webinars, virtual classes, teleconferences, digital exams and assessments have become a common phenomenon now. Expenses for travel and the purchase of study materials were reduced, saving money in these difficult times.

Ultimately, immunizing children and teachers is our way out of this predicament. Although some schools have reopened for upper grades with strict COVID-19 protocols, the possibility of a third wave and vaccinations for children aged 12 to 17 still not approved show that some time may elapse. time before the state of education can improve in India.

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