Education in post Covid-19 era: Dos and don'ts
Education is one of the worst affected sectors in India due to Covid-19. Educational sector in the country is already in a miserable condition and critically undergoing a challenging phase
Education is one of the worst affected sectors in India due to Covid-19. Educational sector in the country is already in a miserable condition and critically undergoing a challenging phase. Some of the perpetual challenges that the sector is facing are lack of adequate infrastructural facilities, basic amenities, lack of funds and qualified teachers, etc.
Right from Independence onwards, number of committees and commissions have been appointed which recommended appropriate reforms to establish a systematic educational system in the country. Unfortunately, all the efforts have not been manifested in bringing a systematic educational system in the country.
The point for discussion is how far Covid-19 is responsible for the present educational crisis in the country. Are there any other reasons contributing in aggravating the problem? Or only Covid-19 is the sole responsible for the present crisis situation? The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 in the country resulted in complete lockdown for over two months.
Hence, along with all other public and private organisations, educational institutions were also ordered to close down in the month of March this year. Consequently, the academic year was abruptly discontinued in a crucial (examination) time.
Generally, the academic year begins in the month of June every year, ends in the month of March and April with the yearend / term end semester examinations. In both levels of school and higher education, the students were yet to be attending examinations.
The dates of the examinations have already been announced but postponed for time being. Now the prevailing dilemma is whether the exams should be conducted or not? Is it possible to conduct the exams during this though time of widespread Covid-19 situation in the country? If not, what would be the other options to assess the performance of the students.
At this juncture, there are two options before the government. One is to conduct examinations after the end of Covid-19 effect and the second is to promote all students without examinations, based on their pervious exam performance grade / marks. Before adopting one of the above methods, the government needs to take into consideration the student's career and health.
The decision must be acceptable to the larger student community along with the stakeholders and teachers, parents, institutional authorities and academicians etc. The decision should not lead to psychological stigma in the minds of students that they have not appeared the examination.
And moreover, there is a scope for an underestimation of the student's growth in academic performance if they are promoted without examinations. They may also lose an opportunity to test their academic performance, if they do not appear for examinations.
On the one side, the students are worrying about their exams and career. On the other, the government is unable to give clear directions about the examinations. Because of lack of clear directions from the Central government, several State governments have already taken a decision to promote their students without appearing examinations, whereas other States are following 'wait and see' approach for the virus free situation in the country.
In Telangana State, the Council for Higher Education has announced the dates for Degree and PG final year examinations this month, but the students and parents opposed the decision of the Council due to massive spread of coronavirus cases in the State.
At last, the Council postponed the exams. Subsequently, in the recent meeting of Education Minister with State Higher Education Council along with Chief Secretary, Secretary of Education and Vice Chancellors of all Universities, it was proposed to cancel the Degree and PG exams in the State.
Since it impacts the academic life and career of larger student community, the government must involve academic and administrative stakeholders, senior and retired professors, Vice Chancellors and parent representatives, etc., instead of taking unilateral decision.
Another notable concern is how to restart the academic year and what kind of changes that the educational sector needs to adopt in tackling post-Covid-19 scenario.
In this regard, the school education is still under dilemma, however, the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ICSCE) recently came up with a proposal of asking their 10th and 12th students to choose the option, whether they want to write their pending exams or to be promoted based on their internal and pre-board exams. In Telangana, the State government has decided to promote all 10th students without writing their pending examinations.
While restarting educational institutions, there is a need for comprehensive post-Covid-19 protocol for both school and higher educational institutions in the country. Since the pandemic is spreading constantly, human beings need to learn to coexist with Covid-19 by taking certain precautionary measures.
Such precautionary measures in the educational sector would be at two levels, one is at the institutional level and the second is at the individual level. The institutional measures are to maintain the health record of the students and faculty. Every educational institute must set up full-fledged medical or health department / wing to monitor the health profile of the students and faculty.
In the next level, students and faculty must ensure their own safety to protect themselves from the effect of Covid-19. In this level, the individuals as student and faculty must follow physical distance, wear face mask, maintain personal health and hygiene, balance immunity levels, etc.
During this lockdown situation due to Covid-19 pandemic, online education is one of the most widely used methods in educational sector, not only in India but also across the world. It has been projected as the only solution to continue the learning process even in the lockdown situation.
This has posed several serious challenges to educational institutes, students, faculty, and parents and also to the governments. Online education system involved certain limitations such as technical expertise, infrastructure of recording equipment and studios, etc., at the institutional level.
At the individual level, accessibility is one of the major hurdles in online education system. A large majority of the students in rural areas cannot access computers and laptops. Even though smart phones are available, internet connection would be costly and subject to the availability of power and cell phone signals in remote areas.
However, online education cannot be substituted to the regular mode of learning system, but it can be considered as a supplement and supporting method for learning. Since it involved several limitations, either the government or the educational institutions are not supposed to impose it forcefully.
Finally, in order to bridge the gap created by the Covid-19, the government of India, through MHRD has to play a responsible role in understanding the present crisis in educational sector and need to formulate a comprehensive post-Covid-19 protocol which should be applicable to all educational institutions across the country.
It is also important to resolve the issues prevailing in the present educational sector in the country especially, clarity over conducting examinations and restarting of the academic session.
For which a wide range of consultation process must be initiated by involving academic and administrative stakeholders in policy decision making process, instead of taking unilateral decision at the State levels.
Therefore, the educational institutions, students and faculty may get involved in their respective roles in order to promote the quality education in the country.
(The writers are from the Department of Political Science, Osmania University, Hyderabad)