Not since World War II have so many countries seen educational institutions closed due to a lockdown — around the same time and for the same reasons. According to a UNESCO Covid Monitoring website, approximately 1.72 billion learners have been affected due to closure of educational institutions. Also in a matter of weeks, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed how students are being educated around the world.
Needless to say, the centuries-old, chalk-talk teaching model is being transformed into one that is driven by technology and focuses on skill development. This is resulting in new trends coming up in a post Covid-19 world that will positively impact the higher education domain.
Talking in respect to India, as per National Statistical Office (NSO) survey, the study has pegged the overall literacy rate in the country at about 77.7 per cent which is a 4% increase from 2018 of 74 percent literacy rate. In rural areas, the literacy rate is 73.5 per cent compared to 87.7 per cent in urban areas of the country. Although the numbers are escalating and showing growth but the two factors are crucial to understand in terms of Educational scenario namely Educational Outcomes and Paradigm Shift in Pedagogy as per need and time.
COVID 19 pandemic has been a disaster for the world; continuing taking billion of lives all around the world, but it has also proven to be a blessing in disguise pertaining to the much needed push towards the digitization of Education system pedagogy in India. The Government of India has taken the cognizance of the situation and call of the hour and the inaccessibility to physical classrooms is accelerating even in the revolutionary National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, which has been recently drafted with digital pedagogy at its heart.
This year, International Literacy Day 2020, falling on 8th September, also focuses on “Literacy teaching and learning in the COVID-19 crisis and beyond,” especially on the role of educators and changing pedagogies. The theme suits aptly to the dire need of the hour too. The International Literacy Day 2020 theme mainly focuses on youth and adults highlighting the learning as a lifelong learning perspective.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the existing gap between policy discourse and reality was brought to notice amongst the educators across the globe. This gap was already prevalent in the society pre-COVID-19 era. It negatively affects the learning of youth and adults, who have no or low literacy skills, and therefore, tend to face multiple disadvantages.
The lockdown has accelerated adoption of digital technology. School, educational institutes, analytics, computer, data management methods and online education solutions have been forced to work in tandem and improve in quality and delivery time to handle such situations. This is an ideal time to experiment and deploy new tools to make education delivery meaningful to students who can’t go to campuses.
It’s a chance to be more efficient and productive while developing new and improved professional skills/knowledge through online learning and assessment. It is also a fact that use of technology in education is resulting in different concepts in the system, for instance the move from teacher-centric education to student-centric education.
The new methodology shall be serving mutual interests to both student and the teacher. Not only the virtual classrooms reduce the exorbitant overhead of running a physical school, the recurring costs of buying stationaries, dresses, conveyance etc shall also be reduced for the ward and their parents. The planning to put the systems in place is taking shape slowly and the target to make the virtual classrooms and the engagement between the teacher and students as close to a real is implemented. The solutions to the doubts shall be just a click away.
Going forward, these tools can also make the teachers and parent meetings as well as staff/management meetings more time and cost saving while providing the necessary interactivity. Technology-based education is more transparent and does not make difference in front vs. back benchers or girls vs. boys.
Pedagogy in digital education is an important link between course content, educationists, technology and course-takers. Going forward, the use of technology in teaching or recruitment will lead to a new era wherein the best of faculty will be available from across the globe to students.
Most importantly, once the mandatory infrastructure is ensured, especially at the rural set up, the physical barrier of unavailability of a school, a trained teacher, opportunities to a bright future, transparent assessment, capacity building and cross learning shall be mitigated immediately.
Although everyone is boasting high of the technological revolution in the education system, but we also need to understand the crisis, this sudden shoving of education into digital mode has caused. According to the Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India report, based on the 2017-18 National Sample Survey, less than 15% of rural Indian households have Internet (as opposed to 42% urban Indian households).
A mere 13% of people surveyed (aged above five) in rural areas — just 8.5% of females — could use the Internet. The poorest households cannot afford a smartphone or a computer. Though this shall be beneficial in the longer run as this shall lower down the infrastructural and physical barriers but this was supposed to go slow especially when a large chunk of socio- economically weaker children are enrolled in government schools in cities and villages, who are already in financial crisis due to lockdown and cannot afford requisites of digital learning like smart phones or laptops.
Also in this short span, the schools and educational institutions are also struggling to have an access to the required infrastructure like internet connectivity, telecom infrastructure, affordability of online system, availability of laptop/desktop, software, educational tools, online assessment tools, etc. Teachers at the schools are not well equipped with the gadgets, so the first thing required shall be the capacity building of the teachers.
Government of India is taking every possible step to make this shift as swift as possible, publishing information on various initiatives undertaken by ministries like MHRD, Department of Technical Education, NCERT and others to support and benefit youth/students. Government of India as well state governments, through their various ministries/departments, have created infrastructure to deliver e-education.
These include National Knowledge Network (NKN), National Project on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT), National Academic Depository (NAD), among others. All these enhance ability to connect easily with institutions and enhance access to learning resources.
The NEP 2020 also focuses on digitization as the core of new Teaching Learning Methodology and emphasize of Skill & Outcome based learning than the theoretical mugging of the curriculum. THE NEP has also very briefly described the modus operandi that shall be followed to gain this shift. Along with a cohesion in Public – Private Partnership, we have to take proper remedial measures with a sense of urgency and create better learning environments for rural children so that they are able to participate in nation building process and reap the full potential of our demographic divided.
AROH Foundation, the national level leading NGO, working in the sector of Education for past two decades has been advocating for use of technology in the Education system, believing the one time investment shall curb down various physical, socio-economic barriers for both learners and educators to a large extent. Working in the same line, more than 200 SMART classes, 100 SMART Anganwadis has been set up at 300 government schools in the most interior locations of the country.
This has instantly declined the dropout rates, increased the learning outcomes in the target schools. Adding to the mission, AROH also has been running a fund raiser to distribute pre used digital gadget amongst the underprivileged and has benefited more than 30,000 children by far through its various initiatives towards Digital Education.
Dr Neelam Gupta, President & CEO, AROH Foundation restates, “A key aspect of coping with Covid-19 is to ensure that the learning remains a continuous process virtually. Connecting students and teachers through digital platforms and necessary software through the use of laptop or phones is the latest transition in education trying to eradicate the physical need of teachers or classrooms. This is an ideal time to accept technology and its latest offerings in order to make education delivery to students more efficient and make it more productive through online learning and assessments. All these steps will help strengthen the country’s digital learning infrastructure in the long run. Covid-19 has only accelerated adoption of technologies to deliver education.”
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