INDIAN EDUCATION SYSTEM IN TIMES OF PANDEMIC
Updated: Dec 21, 2021
India has been devastated by COVID-19, making it one of the worst-affected countries.
COVID19 has severely interrupted access to education in India, with 247 million primary and secondary school pupils missing school. While school administrations in India and throughout the globe have undertaken attempts to contact pupils at home through various ways, current estimations of the impact on learning and socio-emotional well-being imply that the poorest children would bear the brunt of the pandemic's school closures.
In India, education is divided into two categories: private and public, with a 5:7 ratio. The poor quality of government education is a major drawback. The government's education system has failed to deliver high-quality education. The amount of education received in government schools is insufficient, in part due to a shortage of teachers and a lack of oversight, particularly in remote areas. As a result, urban areas have an 80 per cent literacy rate, while rural areas have a 59.4 percent literacy rate. Public schools have poor infrastructure and provide insufficient academic attention, which is detrimental to an individual's entire development. Students in the academic, athletic, cultural, media, artistic, music, religious, social, technological, and political domains should be given better resources to assist them to identify their areas of interest. In many of these areas, government schools fall short. Private schools, on the other hand, which provide all of these amenities, are out of reach for lower-income families. Over 37% of the Indian population lives in poverty and cannot afford even rudimentary schooling. People in India, as a country of ethics and values, are still traditional and sceptical of contemporary schooling. As a result, the affluent become richer and the poor get poorer.
Since schools have closed, parents have assumed primary responsibility for their children's education. To ensure continuity of education, they are compelled to take on the duty of homeschooling. While they are already dealing with challenges such as work-from-home, temporary unemployment leading to the financial crisis, and domestic duty management, this adds to their stress. Many parents would lack the time or intellectual abilities to help their children with the homework that had previously been handled by their instructors. This is likely to result in caregiver irritation and exhaustion, as well as a disturbance in children's academic activities, causing stress in both parents and children. Women are generally expected to dedicate more time to home-schooling children and completing domestic tasks, harming their academic careers. Gender discrepancy in the division of household duties during such times of confinement also has to be addressed. Both professors and students are unprepared for online learning in terms of technology management and accessibility difficulties, with the majority of academic activities taking place via Zoom or Google Meet without any specific online learning platform.
While the majority of schools and institutions have moved to online class delivery and evaluation to minimise disruptions in educational services, the digital platform is still unexplored territory for the majority of people in a low-middle income nation like India. Although internet penetration in India is steadily increasing in both urban and rural areas, and 73.3 per cent of the country's population is said to be connected via mobile phones, the use of digital resources, particularly in mainstream education, has remained largely unexplored. Second, disseminating learning through a digital gateway would need students to have access to a laptop or computer, which, given the socioeconomic divide, is out of reach for children from low-income families. According to the National Sample Survey 2017-18, just 8% of all homes with members aged five to 24 have both a computer and an internet connection, and only 24% of all households with members aged five to 24 have both. This gap in access signals academic stress in students who are unable to enrol in online classes or complete homework, causing them to fall behind their colleagues in their studies.
This has resulted in reports of despair, anxiety, and in some cases, suicide attempts in children and adolescents, all of which are driven by scholastic stress and concerns about the future. After being unable to access online lessons from her community, a 15-year-old girl committed suicide. A 50-year-old farmer committed herself after being unable to purchase a smartphone for her daughter's online education. Such events emphasise the psychological consequences of not being able to obtain a basic education due to socioeconomic and geographic limitations. In the absence of adequate social welfare and policy measures at the governmental and institutional levels, this could result in a severe mental health crisis among the young, further eroding their academic prospects and setting in motion a vicious cycle of mental disorders, academic underachievement, and poor socio-occupational functioning.
During a webinar hosted by the Jio International Institute in India, Dr Francisco Marmolejo, adviser to the Qatar Foundation in India, stated that higher education should be re-designed. It should be more adaptable, more inventive, more global yet more locally linked and socially responsible, more collaborative, and less fearful of taking risks.Innovative models should be introduced. Universities/institutes could be online- providing internet-based flexible offerings (open universities); traditional learning with hands-on work; collaboration with other schools. Of course, there are obstacles to overcome in the early phases, such as using technology to provide better and more inclusive education, contributing to the digital economy and society, and reacting to global demand while keeping in mind changing demographics. In this system, faculty perform the most crucial function. Curriculum integration (CI) and active participation by faculty are required for true international engagement. Faculty must be enthusiastic about curriculum integration and take an active role in it. For students, online education does not imply a lack of laboratory experience. Skill development needs laboratories/workshops. There could be centres across the countries to support skill development activities. These centres could be institutes, colleges, universities.
A well-rounded and successful educational practice is required for the capacity-building of young minds in this time of crisis. It will cultivate skills that will boost their employment, productivity, health, and well-being in the next decades, as well as India's general growth.
About the author
Adarsh Tripathi is a first-year BA LLB student at Army Institute of Law, Mohali. Apart from reading and writing he enjoys watching and playing football. He has a great love for movies and has a great interest in world politics.
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