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Education in times of COVID-19: A comprehensive analysis of adaptive Education Models

In these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has undergone umpteen challenges. This is not just a health pandemic, but a karmic time of introspection. From financial recession to debilitating state of the poor, COVID-19 has bought with itself unsavory circumstances.

One of the many areas of human life that have been affected by this disease is education. It has led to a mammoth disruption of educational institutions and systems, by affecting nearly 1.9 billion learners in 190 countries. In India alone, 32 crore students are affected by the halting education mechanisms. Not only have schools, colleges, and educational centers been shut, we are seeing many students exit the realms of education altogether (some 23.8 million students may drop out of school, according to a UNESCO report).

Expected Impact of COVID-19 on Education Sector

It has been 6 months since the first lockdown was announced, and we have failed as a society to ensure equitable and inclusive education. After the global shut down of manual lives, artificial intelligence has come to the rescue of mankind. Likewise, the education sector shifted itself to online learning, through the perks of platforms like Zoom, Google Meet, etc.

Where on the one hand, the adoption of AI has stimulated innovation; on the other hand, it has exacerbated the crisis of inequitable education in lower and middle-income countries. With increasing fiscal pressure, the developing world is more inclined in correcting its healthcare blunders, while seeming to ignore the sidelining field of education.

The pre-COVID world was already facing the problem of providing basic education as a human right, now that we are nearing a post-COVID world, the work of decades seems to have been negated. The adjoining figure is a representation of the financial gap of pre and post-COVID education aims.

The story just doesn’t end here, the education sector, for the first time in human history is experiencing a ripple effect. Each and every sector of education has been affected one way or another. Starting with the shutting of schools and colleges, leading to loss of jobs of teachers, administrative and logistics staff, and loss of academic competence among students, fiscal deprivation, shift from standard model of education to a fairly inaccessible, unjust mode.

All of these circumstances and changes can lead to predictable repercussions. Hence, we need sustainable, adaptive education models that may not only mitigate the damaging effects but also help explore technology in the field of education.

The following countries have shown unmatched resilience and sustenance with their unique education models, in spite of strict lockdown impositions.

Scotland: Announced reopening of school from august 2020, following a ‘blended model’, which involves part-time-in-person education at school premises and part-time online education. This also included a reduction in class size with morning and afternoon sessions on alternate days or weeks

South Korea and Taiwan: announced the reopening of schools with proper physical distancing measures in place. Wearing masks has been made compulsory for staff and students. Every classroom has unique plastic desktop dividers to meet the social distancing needs.

New Zealand: schools reopened in May 2020. Parents had the option to make “transition arrangements” with schools, in case they were not willing to send their ward to the campus. Transition arrangements consist of online learning.

Denmark: schools were reopened in May 2020. Children are divided into “micro-groups”, each group arrives at a separate time, eats lunch separately, stays in its own zone in the playground, and is taught by one teacher only. Each group consists of 12 students, that were decided on the basis of the class size, and the number of students that can be accommodated in the classroom at once, with proper physical distancing.

Argentina: since the adoption of the lockdown strategy, Argentina began broadcasting educational content on television and radio, to make it accessible for students deprived of modern technology. Educational videos with a teacher and a conductor (journalist, scientist, and artist) are aired 14 hours on television and 9 hours on the radio each day. The program is supplemented with the dissemination of free learning resources like books and notebooks.

Jamaica: the country has come up with technical support, printed learning kits for students without access to the internet, educational television channels, and rebroadcasts on 25 channels (eg- ‘School’s not OUT’ program of a national channel).

Moreover, even India is not behind in its pursuit of digital initiatives, for primary and secondary education.

1) Diksha portal contains learning content for teachers, students, and parents. It comprises of video lessons, textbooks, and assessments. It has more than 80,000 e-books for classes 1 to 12.

2) The e-pathshala app houses e-books, audios, videos, and assignments for class 1to 12 in multiple languages.

3) Swayam, includes online education for both secondary (9 to 12) and higher education(UG, PG), including all subjects, such as engineering, medicine, social sciences, law, humanities, etc.

4) Swayam Prabha has 32 DTH channels transmitting educational content for class 9 to 12 and UG and PG courses. They can be viewed using the DD Free Dish Set Up box.

India’s response to education during COVID-19 is gearing speed, however an adaptation of a mix of the above-mentioned models, as and how suited to the demography of the country, can help cover the unfair divide of accessibility and availability of education. Regular TV, radio and social media broadcasts can mitigate the anxiety of students who do not have access to the internet. A well planned, school and college reopening strategy can be devised by taking inspiration from the above-mentioned models.

Lastly, education cannot be put to risk. As the hub of the largest youth population in the world, India cannot compromise on the material learning of its youth. A deeply thought and well-planned education system that accommodates the future online mode is the need of the hour.

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