COVID-19: Challenges For Education Sector, How They Can Be Overcome
Mankind has witnessed numerous catastrophies in history, including calamitous outbreak of diseases. However, the enormity of the hazardous impact of coronavirus and the uncertainty of finding an antivirus/preventive, has created havoc among people, administration and the government worldwide.
The rapid spread of the virus has left us with no way out but to seek safety and isolate ourselves in the confines of our respective homes. Educators, administrators, service providers, parents and students around the world are feeling the extraordinary ripple effect of the novel coronavirus as schools shut down amid the public health emergency.
Like every sector, education is suffering at all levels. According to a UNESCO report, as of March 23, over 1.3 billion learners are out of school due to coronavirus. The closure of schools, colleges and universities has disrupted the flow of learning of the students and the existing method of imparting knowledge across the world. Several unforeseen challenges have erupted in the K-12 education, which needs to be addressed in a collaborative manner. The education of nine million children across 37 countries is currently at stake.
Economic and societal consequences
The closing down of schools will not only impact students, teachers and parents, it will also have a far-reaching economic and societal consequence.
As per the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, 11.59 crore children of the country are enrolled in the mid-day meal scheme. This indicates an additional burden on the parents of the children to provide them food.
As these parents are from economically weak backgrounds and most of them may be daily wagers, it will definitely create a very adverse scenario, with parents struggling to provide food for the family.
The uncertainty will have an impact on the delay in fee payment of the students, which will directly impact the revenue generation of respective schools, in turn affecting the financial condition of the educational institutions and impacting the salary flow of teaching and non-teaching staff in the long run.
Reaching out to students
It is indeed a challenge for the educational institutes and the teachers on how to reach out to students and ensure continuity of education through remote learning. There are millions of students from various economic segments of the society and most of them do not have access to computers or the internet. Some of them do not even have access to phones. In the given condition, where isolation is the only remedy to not get affected by the virus, ensuring the education of children has become a real challenge.
Completion of course
Many schools began the new session in March. The schools had to close after a few classes only. This has not only impacted learning but also shaken the education machinery. The curriculum needs to be addressed soon.
Timelines of Board Examinations
Various Boards had to address the crisis. It is still not clear when will the last papers will be conducted all over India.
In many countries around the world and India, schools are switching to the online mode. However, being a new concept, a lot of back and forth experimentation is still on.
Addressing less-privileged students
Children who rely on mid-day meals or free food have no way but to compromise with their nutritional needs.
As for special children, in the given condition, the onus falls on the parents to deal with the situation. If they don't get proper care, they might develop other complications.
Impact of social isolation
Unless an interesting and engaging timetable is charted by the family members, the monotony of this isolation may tend to make them more aggressive, depressive or lethargic in the long run.
Attending to the educational needs of the children at home and dealing with their emotional needs is a daunting task. Parents with limited education find it difficult to facilitate their learning at home. Parents who are not adept with online learning also find it difficult to help their children.
Potential Technological Barriers
The challenges of online education is unequal access to internet, reliable internet connectivity and availability of computer at home. This poses challenges for children of those schools who are providing online education during this time of crisis.
Schools can exploit the ready online platforms for the dissemination of subject material to the students.
Assigning subject mentors for each child
While disseminating the information through online tools the class teacher and the subject teacher can talk to each child to address the child's challenges and queries. Respective class teachers need to be in constant touch with their students on a daily basis.
Parents Counselling Cell
Along with the children, many parents also require counselling to overcome this disastrous situation. The counselling cell can guide interested parents seeking help on how to make productive use of the time and deal with the present situation relating to their child.
Use of videos for better explanation
While designing the subject matter the teachers should keep in mind the learning behaviour of the child; whether the child understands better through text or videos. The teacher can send suggestive video links or make her own video for any special child.
Alternative grading methodology
COVID19 may continue for months now. Students will get a huge set back because of the lockdown. The boards should adopt an alternative marking or grading scheme.
Board examination dates
The Education Boards should either shift the dates of the Board examinations from March to may be in April or later as and when the school re-opens.
Create contingency plan
The Government should be ready with its contingency plans with rigorous academic planning and syllabus prioritization in case of any pandemic in future.
Doordarshan can dedicate a channel for K-12 education focussing more on concepts and hands on experimentation with scheduled time allotted for each class. It can also be replicated in DD regional channels, so that there is no language barrier in the learning process for children. Similarly, radio can act responsibly and educate children through talks.
The government could device new policies to help the education sector to set up technology infrastructure for helping in preparedness during and untoward incidents.
Various other recommendations
The government could introduce Income Tax refunds, repayment of bank loans could be deferred for a year, provide loans to low-fee private schools for ICT and broadband
upgradation, advance tax penalty that was imposed on late payment could be extended without addition load, a short-term loan at lower interests targeting parents for school fee payment is also recommended.
These recommendations give us a glimpse at how education could change in the long term. When these are implemented, a whole new spectrum of the education sector would come to life, which may prevent our children from suffering due to the pandemic.
(The writer is an educationist)