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January 2022

Mohammad Anas Wahaj | 05 jan 2022

COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges to the already struggling India's overall education delivery system. The school closures had not only affected the learning process but has led many students to drop out completely citing diverse reasons. Sudden transition from in-school learning to online learning took many by surprise - both teachers and students. This has been the case particularly with government-run and low budget private schools in small towns and rural areas, and students belonging to low socio-economic status (SES) households. Children had been deprived of mid-day meals that they use to get in schools, leading to a further challenge of malnutrition. Even though India has been undergoing digital transformation and evolving as a digital society, but the pandemic disrupted the gradual process. Many students, as well as a large number of teachers, found adapting to the technology-enabled learning difficult to handle efficiently and the process lacked effective learning outcomes. According to the School Children's Online and Offline Learning (SCHOOL) survey overseen by economists such as Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera etc, 77% of families in urban areas and 51% in villages have access to smartphones, a healthy number. But, only 31% of children in cities and 15% in villages are able to make use of smartphones for academic purposes. This shows how challenging it had been for children to use phones as an educational device. The Ministry of Education (Govt. of India) reported to the Parliamentary Committee of Women's Empowerment that about 320 million children got affected due to school closures and out of this 49.37% were girls. The Ministry of Education told the panel, 'Post pandemic, this can lead to a higher risk of girls permanently dropping out of school and reversing the gains made over recent years. One cannot also ignore the fact that there is a gender dimension in digital access to learning. In families which possess a single smartphone, it is likely that sons will be given the preference to access online classes, followed by girls, if time permits.' According to the report 'State of the Global Education Crisis: A Path to Recovery' prepared by World Bank in cooperation with UNESCO and UNICEF (The Indian Express, 13 dec 2021), Jaime Saavedra, World Bank Global Director for Education, says, 'The COVID-19 crisis brought education systems across the world to a halt. Now, 21 months later, schools remain closed for millions of children, and others may never return to school. The loss of learning that many children are experiencing is morally unacceptable. And the potential increase of learning poverty might have a devastating impact on future productivity, earnings, and wellbeing for this generation of children and youth, their families and the world's economies.' The challenges remain as new variants of the COVID-19 like Delta and Omicron keep arising and pushing governments to implement measures like curfews, lock-downs, school closures etc. So, the online education will continue to remain the mode of learning in these times. Governments, nonprofits, technology companies, etc have to make sure that the process is able to provide optimal outcomes as it is a question of the country's and the world's future. Read on...

The Siasat Daily: The chaos of online education in India's pandemic times
Author: Manogna Chandrika Matta



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