Impact of COVID on India's Education
India possesses a diversified system of education covering 799 Universities, 39071 colleges, 11923 standalone institutions, and more than 1,39,539 higher secondary schools. Almost 32 crore learners had to halt their studies since the 25th March 2020. India has almost 15 lakh schools, 50,000 higher educational institutions. Only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching methods. But no solution to avail for low-income schools and government schools too.
More than 285 million young learners surveyed through NCERT, over a quarter of a total of 34,000 students reported intermittent electricity i.e., 28% of the ones who took the survey. At least 27% of students not having access to smartphones and laptops to attend online classes. The survey included Principals from Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodaya Vidyalayas, and CBSE-affiliated schools. Nearly 700 million people in India are still unconnected with internet services. On the other hand, with 19.02 million homes having broadband services the load gets so heavy that during pandemic the online classes and work also faced sluggish network issues. The percentage share of households having internet access in urban and rural areas stood respectively at 42 and 15 percent. In addition to the widespread lack of access to the internet, the cost of internet packs and purchase of gadgets. A college student said, “Very stressful, having to fly back from college thinking we were going back for 1 month, ending up at home for 10 months. Uncertainty of this causing a problem during our placements was a huge stress factor too.”
Underlying issues with online classes
Indian traditional knowledge to also be incorporated through courses such as Indian medicines, agriculture, metallurgy. The issue of assessments for students in grades of 10 and 12. The struggle faced during the start of classes with mediums such as Moodle, Blackboard, Zoom. The amount of internet data required for these applications was not feasible for all households, some not having good internet connectivity. Some households have only one mobile phone for 2 or 3 kids at home, so the distribution of technology lacked for low socio-economic families. Subjects like mathematics and science became subject of concern since it includes questions of aptitude, practicality, which is best translated to the students if they’re in person. The various doubts that could arise in certain theories and chapters. Laboratory experiments needed to be done der the supervision of the teachers. The lack of information on various lessons that could easily have been covered in classes was not so easy for the teachers themselves, since the time constraint and not able to clear off the doubts properly.
The war of the digital divide.
Some teachers were not tech-savvy as a result of the trouble they had to go through in understanding the functioning of phones and laptops and later on the applications too. Reports of students misbehaving with the teachers and trying to disrupt the normal flow of classes. The hurdle with the broadband connections was such that there needs to be a pre-assumption that families who own Wi-Fi portals do have a separate income to spend on it, whereas the same cannot be said for all households in India. Also, the fact that many people are located in areas where getting a decent call connection is too much to ask for, leave alone asking for a good connection for a video call or an online class. Children are taking these classes via video call on mobile or laptop so that they must watch the screen for a long time and their screen time keeps increases with the sharing of recorded videos. Doctors are that long-term exposure of children to mobiles or laptops can have mental and physical effects. “It was a downward slope for me, things kept getting difficult to deal with as the months passed and college just seemed to add to the burden”, a first-year B.Sc. student said.
A 2019 report by the Indian Internet and Mobile Group found that only 33 percent of women use the internet as compared to 67 percent of men in India. For rural India, this disparity got widen to 28 percent of women vis-à-vis 72 percent of men. This shows that the female students will suffer disproportionately in the phase of education in the country and the situation gets worse if a girl student is coming from the village area. “First it was good as got more time to spend time with family. but being a final year student many notices from authority created a mess. Also, sometimes it affected productivity!”, a P.G. M.Sc. student said.
Role of NGO’s
Bengaluru based Parikrma Humanity Foundation which works for the education of children in the city’s informal settlements collected spare smartphones, used them to create virtual schools for approximately 2,000 children, from 87 slums communities. The school began at 8:15 am, halted at 12:30 pm.
Snehadhara Foundation in Bengaluru organized online programs and performances with artists.
Chennai-based charitable trust Mirra where they shared a lesson plan a day ahead to the parents and tasks that could be undertaken within the household. Some initiatives through the government. Open learning management software adopted DIKSHA platform, National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning, Study Web for Active Young Expiring Minds ( SWAYAM), e-Pathshala measures for online learning.
First of all, the challenge remains to the government and us, as a society that there is a deep divide economic divide in the country, clearly reflected at times of pandemic when the privileged lot get to study and the rest don’t or rather couldn’t. The main battle that remains in order to tackle the Education issue remains how to reach online education in every household. The lessening of Internet connectivity rate, providing more of laptops and mobile phones to the students through government initiatives, creating easier websites and web pages for further information for various courses, easier accessible applications that do not breach the privacy of the teachers and students.