by Dar Shahid Hussain
n the middle of March, the state governments across the country began to shut down all educational institutions temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Nine months passed and there is no certainty of reopening of these institutes in near future. As the days pass by with no immediate solution to stop the outbreak of Covid-19, the closure of these educational institutions will not only have a short-term impact on the learning for more than 285 million young learners in India but also engender far-reaching economic and societal consequences. The structure of schooling and learning was the first to be affected by these closures. At the onset, only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching techniques.
The low-income private and government schools, on the other hand, were not able to have access to these e-learning methods. Initially, the students cherished the lockdown because there was no school going, no homework, and no compulsion on learning, rather they were enjoying all day, playing games, watching movies etc. But this lap of luxury didn’t last long and the culture of online classes started and it went smoothly for quite some time till it felt boring, tedious and a total change of classroom atmosphere. Therefore, the virus proved foreshadow and lackluster to the learners.
A new study suggests that the Coronavirus will undo months of academic gains and will leave many students behind. The study projects that the students will start the new school year with an average of 66 % of the learning gains, so the situation is worsening as only one-third students will make gains, and the others will lose, possibly widening the achievement gap. No doubt, students forget partially what they learn in schools, but there is a big difference between school learning loss and pandemic-learning loss. In the former, formal schooling stops and learning loss happens partially and at the same rate for all the students. But the impact is different in the pandemic, as some students are able to participate fully in online learning while others face obstacles like lack of interest, uneven internet access and so on which hinders their progress.
This digital divide has so far extended across, further separated the wealthy from the underprivileged and tech-savvy from the tech-poor, with millions of children struggling to meet the challenges of online learning. The pandemic blew up educational dreams of several aspirants with ample conditions like to
have a computer or a smart phone, a proper internet connection, and an uninterrupted power supply. The field of education, which didn’t reach the real altitude, is now potholed, vibrant, and bumpy-lumpy as students and the teachers struggle to cope with the demands of the time. Whether the personal life of students or the environment of school and colleges, the pandemic has changed things drastically. Various measures have been taken by the educational boards and government bodies to enable the smooth flow of learning, the latest, among the various is how the results of the board exams were declared. The examination council decided to declare board results based on the performance of students in the school, nullifying the need to conduct the
exam that were left.
COVID-19 lockdown and the dire need to impart the education has certainly benefited the online alternatives to provide the platform such as Zoom or Google classroom as the demand for such things has grown leaps and bounds. Certainly, theoretical material will be imparted on time to students, but the overall development of students will be missing. It would be impossible to inculcate the habit of discipline and decorum among students.
While other critical needs such as health, water and sanitation are being responded to, educational needs cannot be forgotten and these have an equally detrimental impact if left unaddressed. The ‘pile-on effect’ of the coronavirus is that the interruptions to education can have long term implications especially for the most vulnerable. There is a real risk of regression for children whose basic, foundational learning (reading, math, languages, etc.) was not strong to begin with. And millions of children who have already been deprived of their right to education are more exposed to health and well-being risks (both psychosocial and physical) during this COVID-19.
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