Nurturing Education in Times of COVID and Beyond

14 Aug 2020

The post-COVID world will not remain the same. Such has been the disastrous impact of this pandemic that it has disrupted lives and economies. With the rapid spread of COVID-19, governments across the globe started shutting down schools and colleges. Globally, the education of 300 million students was interrupted and the education sector came to an absolute standstill. This cessation had a massive impact on the education of the young Indian minds. 

The impact of closing schools and universities has proven to be multifold. The first and foremost issue is the modus operandi of teaching and structuring the curriculum.

Out of the 1.5 million schools in India, more than 1 million are government-funded schools, and almost 84 percent of schools are in rural areas. Due to the sudden closure, the Indian education system too, like all others across the globe, has become virtual. Unfortunately, there are only a few institutions that can cater to and adopt the pre-requisites of online education. The low-income private and government schools or even the rural ones have no access to e-learning solutions and hence have had to completely shut down. Students of such institutions are not only missing out on their education, but they no longer have access to healthy meals.

For centuries, teaching methods have mostly been the same, lectures and a blackboard— the chalk and talk method. With the pandemic forcing e-learning on us, it is now driven by technology. This disruption of education is encouraging policymakers to come up with inclusive e-learning solutions to solve the digital divide.

With several students enrolling in universities abroad, even the higher education sector has been significantly impacted. If the current situation continues, there would be a decline in demand for international higher education. 

To build a more resilient Indian education system and manage this crisis, a multi-pronged approach involving all stakeholders is vital.

Firstly, to ensure continuity of learning in government schools and universities, open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management software should be adopted so that teachers can conduct teaching online. The DIKSHA platform, a unique initiative by the government, will serve as National Digital Infrastructure for teachers across the nation and equip them with advanced digital technologies which in turn will help teachers train themselves to create resources, assessment aids, etc. 

Secondly, inclusive learning solutions, for the most vulnerable, need to be developed. With a rapid increase of mobile internet users in India, education is being made accessible even in the remotest parts of the country. This can increase the effectiveness of learning and teaching, giving both students and teachers multiple options to choose from. The broadband connectivity and infrastructure need to be strengthened further to aid the online education movement, even in the remotest part of the country.

Thirdly, higher education requires a strategy for the evolving demand-supply trends across the globe especially those related to the mobility of students thereby improving the quality of and demand for higher studies in India. 

Last but not least, Indian education is known for its contribution to scientific innovations to develop sustainable technologies and medicines. Traditional subjects such as yoga, Ayurveda, architecture, hydraulics, ethnobotany, metallurgy, and agriculture should be combined with the current mainstream curriculum to serve humanity.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has initiated high quality platforms to discuss and debate the latest trends in education. To redefine the various doctrines related to education in India, CII has also been organising conferences, and seminars. It recently organised a digital conference on education to highlight the changes in curriculum and tutelage that have been caused by the sudden closure of all the educational institutions. 

As the entire world is reeling under the impact of the pandemic, CII is augmenting its presence in the digital world. The education sector, in particular, finds itself at the forefront of this digitalisation, with virtual classes, internal examinations, and digital submission of projects causing these paradigm changes. 

CII in its education summit “Redefining Education for the Emerging World” put forth the impact of this disruption in conventional education and the impact it will have on the tech ecosystem, academic calendars, and industry recruitments.

The need of the hour at this critical time is an effective educational practice that will develop skills to ensure employability, productivity, health, and well-being thereby ensuring the progress of the nation.