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How to improve online education in India

“LEARNING NEVER ENDS”- not even in lockdown! From boards to screens and from pens to keyboards, every student’s academic life changed dramatically. It’s a topic of debate whether online learning is a way forward or there is something else we need? Does our education system call for a different approach? Is the idea of online education feasible for both during and beyond the pandemic?

School at 7, College at 8, Office at 9, Yes! This was our schedule in pre-Covid life. Furthermore, an approximate 7% of our 24 hours are wasted in commuting, i.e. 2 hours doing just the to & fro movement to either school, college or office. But during the lockdown period, we witnessed a drastic change, no school and no college! Surprisingly, we are saving around 2 hours of commute. No need to wake up early in the morning as the timings of online classes are mostly from 9 AM or 10 AM. Apart from this, during 6 hours of school stay OR 8 hours of college stay, we were productive, only 60% of the total time!. But during the lockdown, by just engaging for a maximum of 2 hours we are getting more productive. So on average, a school kid is saving 5 hours and studying without getting tired. So comparing the pre-COVID with the present scenario, we are benefiting more.

Aptly quoted that “There are two sides of the same coin”. It is not at all easy for poor students to get a smartphone and have a fast internet connection. There are still 500 million, alone in India who don’t have access to the internet connection, 16 lakh students studying in government & municipal schools alone in Delhi don’t have access to mobile & internet connection. Only 8% of homes with young members have computers with an internet connection. Isn’t it shocking?

“Iron rusts without use, stagnant water rots or freezes in the cold, and the human mind, withers likewise.”

If there is so much interruption in providing smooth education to students, there is the impending danger of regression to them, for whom online education proved to be a panacea. Online training grew in times when the traditional education system was collapsing, functioning as ventilator support to survive COVID-19. Google classroom so introduced as a part of the network has rationalized studying to a greater extent. Virtual classroom meetings via any online meeting app have helped teachers to have a closure look at the academic development of students throughout the lockdown period. An equal number of efforts have been applied by both students and teachers to recreate structured learning environments. As a result, Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) will soon get established, leading to new and better scenarios. In short, the online education system has shaped a new pathway for a customized study pattern, trying to re-imagine how the learning process should be reconstructed in a manner to be more productive.

Online school education isn’t all ‘la la land’ and has its downsides too. The digital divide that persists in India is one of the significant limitations of online education. According to the 2017-’18 National Sample Survey report on education, only 24% of Indian households have an internet facility. While 66% of India’s population lives in villages, only a little over 15% of rural households have access to internet services. For urban families, the proportion is 42%. Also due to the prolonged lockdown, many people lost their sources of income and hence, online education and its added expenses (such as data packs, smartphones, etc.) sound like a liability to them. The digital divide is evident across class, gender, region or place of residence.

Another issue with online education is that online teaching requires distinct skill sets that are not part of the teachers’ training curriculum. Not only are many of the teachers are digitally incompetent, but a large number of them also have never used an online environment to teach. The increased screen-time for kids is also a big concern for parents as it affects their eyes and their physical activity. Taking an assessment is another big concern as India, at present, isn’t technically developed to conduct online examinations.

Hence, it is still a long way to go with many new policies and changes to be made in the educational, technical and finance sectors.

Many found online education during lockdown more fruitful, as they could devote their rest of the time in learning new skills. But there are many for whom online learning isn’t a serving of cake. They feel like left out from education & probably the situation will arise where they will be neglected as they won’t be able to match the skills of those who used the internet. Practically in terms of skills, they will remain at the same point even after the Covid scenario just where they left before.

Yet, things can be made better for those who were not able to benefit from this online education system. “ We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope”.

Some of the policies that must be adopted immediately are as follows:

There can be made a few implementations like -

  • The government should tie-up with the private Internet Service Provider’s (ISP), to ensure cheap & easy access to the internet for the underprivileged, either by BPL cards or any other more authentic registration system. A change in the way of conducting exams is required. Like other countries, the assessment must be divided into various parameters instead of just one review.

  • NGO’s must come forward and file petitions asking the government to make a separate team that collaborates with networking agencies and provide internet to almost all remote areas. Free educational videos with quality content should also be made available online with ease of access and must be promoted through every medium that reaches the mass population.

  • Providing cheap aid to education gadgets like laptops or school-based computer labs to every municipal & government school.

  • To replace the centuries-old chalk-talk teaching model with a technology-driven education model so that it can reach out to every individual sitting at the remotest of areas at the control of his hands.

  • Introducing Open Courses Certification program & giving it recognition, so it helps both the learner & the recruiter, as he can present his online certification and even the recruiter knows the skillset of the candidate respectively.

  • Platforms like DIKSHA platform that will serve as National Digital Infrastructure for Teachers. All teachers across the nation will be equipped with advanced digital technology, and such platforms should be further strengthened to ensure accessibility of learning to the students.

To all those bravely standing out there, holding yourself tight in this pandemic, never forget we will come out more reliable than any other generation. Just keep yourself for a few more moments.

“Difficulties are an important part of life, as they are necessary to enjoy success.”

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