• Project Saathi

Education 2.0: A product of the Pandemic

-Vedika More*

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Education is one of the most vital pillars that uphold our society. Knowledge is a power gained through education and education is the premise of progress in every society. An educated society is enlightened and empowered one and such a society can help make the world a better place.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are impacting almost 70% of the world’s student population. India has the largest youth population in the world—a veritable army of 600 million young people under the age of 25. Teachers and school administrators are trying to conduct virtual lectures on portals like Massive Open Online Courses. However, in the absence of physical classrooms and proper digital infrastructure, both teachers and students are facing unprecedented challenges.

The major challenge faced by India in their journey of digital learning is the lack of connectivity. According to 2017-18’s National Sample Survey report on education, only 24 per cent of Indian households have an internet facility. Only 8 per cent of households with members aged between 5 and 24 have both internet connection and computers. Apart from these, the other problems faced during online education are- many teachers, as well as students, are digitally inept, quality education has undergone a descent in the online mode of learning, lack of proper interaction and discussion between the students and the teachers and many more. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the imbalances not only in our education system but also our digital system. However, the government too has realised these flaws and has come up with a new model of schooling.

This new proposed model caters as a solution to many of the problems faced in the online mode of learning. This model will cut down the in-school learning time to 100 days and 600 hours instead of the previous 220 working days and 1320 hours. There will be an additional 100 days and 600 hours of active learning which will be at home instead of school. This will help students from backward families in staying in the loop of education. 

It is proposed that attendance in schools should not be more than 30 to 50 per cent of the original strength. Students will come to school in accordance to their standards, like students from 6 to 8 will come 2 to 4 times a week, whereas students from 9 to 12 will come 4 to 5 times a week.  A new timetable is to be formed with each class being 30 minutes long instead of the typical 45 minutes one. The Ministry of Human Resource Development is likely to discourage the typical pen and paper assessments and instead pitch for non- stressful assessments which will range from role play, quizzes to presentations in class and project work and portfolios at home. These new ‘non- stressful assessments’ will also help the students in understanding the concepts better instead of just mugging it up. All these steps will ensure the well-being of the students and will reduce their stress.

Provisions to look after the physical, as well as the mental health of the students, have also been made here. Research shows that feelings of helplessness, loneliness and fear of being socially excluded, stigmatised or separated from loved ones are common in any epidemic, while prolonged stress, boredom and social isolation, as well as a lack of outdoor play, can lead to a higher number of mental health conditions in children, such as anxiety and even depression. Children have been one of the biggest victims of this pandemic as it has not only affected their physical well-being but also their psycho-social well-being tremendously. Understanding these problems, the government will ask the schools not only to ensure proper school counselling but also provisions to look after the children’s physical health. Schools will be required to teach students to keep up with their physical health keeping in mind the protocol of physical distancing.

One of the major issues which the government has addressed in the model is the education of migrant children. The centre is preparing all states to ensure the enrolment of the children of returnee migrant workers and anyone else who may have been displaced due to the lockdown. These children will merely need their identity card for admission. Unlike many, education is not a privilege for these students. Ensuring that they get an education even in these difficult times is one of the biggest responsibilities of the government. Ensuring the success of this will be challenging but will also be a major milestone.

Additional steps for the mid-day meal schemes, budgeting of Covid-19 essential in every school, proper steps to be taken by staff and teachers and many more are included in this elaborate model. The world is uncertain about the end of the Covid-19 pandemic and therefore, humans are now learning to live their lives alongside the virus. It is therefore important to resume schools with proper precautions.

This model seems like a good temporary solution for the problems faced in the education sector. However, I do not feel that it can be considered as a good long term fix. As the phrase goes, “ something is better than nothing”, but the government will still have to come up with stronger and more permanent solutions as we do not know when this pandemic will come to an end. 

Education is indeed one of the biggest tools and education must continue to ensure the betterment of society and the world.

*Vedika has graduated from school and is looking forward to her college life. She finds her comfort space in writing. She is a member under the Research Division of Project Saathi. She worked on the recent report on the Impact of COVID-19 on Education and Mental Health of Students published by Project Saathi.

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