Education In Situation of Lockdown -
Lockdown has taken a toll on adults emotionally & financially but I think the loss for children cannot be even measured.
It looks like we have been living in lockdown mode forever. The loss of possibly half a year – if not the full academic year of 2020-21 – is going to further deteriorate the situation, as students would have difficulty in resuming schooling again after a huge gap. Additionally, the loss of income for a considerable population in India is going to further exacerbate the situation –Research suggests that 112 million people have lost employment in the two weeks of the COVID-19 lockdown. Investment in education is not going to be a priority, amongst disadvantaged households, and we might see a dip in enrolment, when and if, schools are opened.
Someone told me some day in his most wisdom mode, that we need to imagine positive thoughts for positive results. Giving it few moments of mind energy, I started thinking of ‘When will the schools re-open?’ which is not much under our control yet. However the immediate thought was ‘What will the schools look like after lockdown?’ ‘What will be the order of the day in the schools?’ and if not schools ‘How will the education process continue?’
Let’s 1st look at ‘What will the schools look like after lockdown?’
Possible situations and questions to be dealt with:
- No sports and gatherings, Is that the likely new normal schools after lockdown?
- Should there be any social activities for the year 2020-21?
- How to maintain distance between students in school buses, while they are sitting in the classrooms and even when they are using the washroom, because a large number of students use a single washroom in schools?
- How do we stop children from not mingling with each other? Obviously that discipline is much tougher in children than adults.
- Should students come in shifts?
2nd question is ‘How will the education process continue?’ and the immediate answer coming to our minds is ‘E-learning’. Well I would say ‘Yes’ and a ‘No’ at the same time. Why? Let’s look at some facts:
- All India percentage of households having internet facilities stands at 23.8% with rural availability at 15-20% and urban at 45-50% as per study done in 2017-18.
- The percentage of people who were able to use the internet (all-India) stood at 20.1% with rural at 13% and urban at 37.1%.
- These statistics strike at the core rationale of using the internet as a mode to impart education, and highlight how a majority of the country would be left out of the quest to achieve basic education in the months to come if only ‘E-learning’ is the way left.
- To begin with, the districts in the green zone should be allowed to open schools – after analysing them further over the next few days which will likely cover a majority of the school children. Eventually, the yellow zone districts – which may turn to the green zone in the next few days or weeks – should also allow schools to open.
- Social distancing measures should be implemented strictly, and to limit the number of students. Running classes in shifts is another added solution. While this strategy would not result in finishing the full curriculum, this will at least reduce the gap in learning that students are likely to experience if schools continue to remain shut for long. This may also help in addressing the possible increase in drop-outs due to the long shutdown.
- This leaves the government with the rest of the districts which are in red and orange zones. It might not be possible to open schools in these areas any time soon, thus, there is a need to deploy public funds to fix the internet gap and ensure that students continue to learn. Some state government have come up with ideas to address this concern.
- Some of the state authorities had mooted an interesting idea to provide data packages to the students especially class 8+. While this is likely to have certain implementation challenges – particularly the misuse of data for objectives other than learning – smart technology solutions can be found. Use of the internet can be restricted to specific applications prepared by the government.
- Similarly, another interesting idea has been in works in the state of Uttar Pradesh was to use Doordarshan, All India Radio and community radio to promote audio-based learning among students who do not have access to the internet.
- Of course the country has many immediate issues to deal with financially but education as a sector cannot be ignored for it will build a strong base for future. Thus additionally, there is definitely a need to develop a financial stimulus for the education sector primarily targeting low cost private aided and unaided schools – which are likely to witness a reduction in fee collections, due to income losses.
- Wherever relevant, a grant-in-aid could be issued for specific schools on a case-to-case basis to bridge income and expenditure. The powers for the same can be devolved to the district authorities to ensure a more localised approach.
- The formative 12 years of education are crucial for every student and these years of education will support the upward social and economic mobility of disadvantaged classes. A long and unplanned haul is likely to create obstacles in achieving the dreams of many and further harm the country in the long-term with a less-educated workforce. After the lock down depression and times ahead, We will need all the more talented and skilled individuals to get us out of the possible recession that the world is going to face and dropping the ball on education, is not going to help the cause
These are just the guidelines suggested and only right amount of checks and balanced strategy will help to move forward in this difficult times.
The anxiety level among the parents post the Covid19 Lockdown might remain high, till a vaccine is found. Hence schools have to start incorporating changes in their campus and innovate structures which enable them to function with a blended learning education model (school + online+ home), if they wish to retain the trust of parents when it comes to being a safe campus.
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