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  • Writer's pictureChild Rights Centre, CNLU

Education: From necessity to Luxury

By Manvee Sharma, a 2nd Year, B.A., LL.B. (Hons.) student at RGNUL, Punjab

 

A big concern among the COVID 19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown is education in the country, which has come to a standstill. Whether it is school, or colleges, placements or entrance examinations, everything has come to a halt. Recently, UNESCO published a report which says 157 crore students across the world have been impacted due to the enclosure of education institutions. In India, more than 32 crore students have been affected. It shows that 40% of the poorest nations have failed to help vulnerable learners during the COVID-19 crisis and less than 10% of countries have laws that may help them to achieve full inclusion in education.


Most schools all over the world have shut their doors due to the deadly coronavirus pandemic. The rushed closures and the instant switch to distant learning have allowed little time for planning the risks and opportunities. Thus, whatever steps were taken to switch to the new normal (virtual classrooms) were taken in a hurry, the consequences of which are still suffered by most of us as they are not accessible to all. Definitely, India was not ready for such a transition.


In a country, where people attend schools for mid-day meals, how can virtual classrooms sustain? While the transition for online learning is smooth for private schools and colleges, it is not so for public schools. The biggest issue is the affordability of the necessary devices. Not everyone has enough money to afford mobile devices and good internet connections. Even if some of them manage to do so, there is an issue with the internet speed.


The covid 19 Pandemic has created or has kind of exacerbated inequality that already exists in education. The decision that whether the schools should open or not is itself threatening because if schools don’t reopen then the most vulnerable children will fall behind. On the other hand, if we open schools our most vulnerable population might be more affected by the increase in the COVID 19 in the community. Thus, however, we do it, we always have to keep equity at the forefront of our minds because otherwise, it’s just going to exacerbate the inequalities that already exist.




According to the public-school teachers, the most difficult problem is motivating students to attend online classes. Though teachers have been conducting classes on regular basis still, the strength of the class never reaches its half and most of them remain absent. This is because these people are so poor that getting a meal every day is a luxury for them; and even if somehow, they arrange it by borrowing money, the network has been a major difficulty.

The virus has basically widened the educational gap between public and private school students. Reports suggest that this gap has occurred due to the lack of digital infrastructure in government schools. Teachers are unable to connect with students and access to online education has become a luxury for the students of government schools. The major reason behind this is that those who study in government schools are those whose parents are poor or earn enough that they could get two meals a day. Thus, for these parents providing a smartphone with an internet connection for their child is out of their reach.


Conclusion

Thus, online learning or digital courses are good as an add on, they cannot replace the primary mode of learning. The pandemic has forced us to find a way where we can mainstream online education because physical schooling is not possible. However, that creates a lot of questions- there is a lack of infrastructure, facilities, and accessibility. Not every home has a good internet connection, people don’t have laptops or computers. In some families, there is only one mobile phone which could be used for skype or zoom and the deserving outnumber the facilities. To be very crude and honest, this entire digital mode of education can never replace the traditional classrooms. This is an elitist concept, it may be good for private schools or the developed countries but for those in lower strata or public schools, this is a distinct dream. Even when we are allowing these young minds to access mobile phones to log in to their online classes, there is a risk of over-exposure due to a lack of understanding of technology. Even if the government gives free laptops or mobile phones to the needy across the country, still there would be a challenge. Online mode is good as long as the student is more than 15 years of age when he understands and is mature enough to use the technology prudently.


Therefore, everything that glitters is not Gold. There is a lot of problem with online education, it may be appealing for quite some time but ultimately, it has a lot of cons. Teachers face difficulty in properly assessing the students or whether they have understood the concept or not. Talking about the unfortunate lot who has to help their parents to earn a living in these tough times, they have been missing the most important years of their life. Had this new normal won’t have replaced the traditional schools, even this unfortunate lot could have managed to attend some classes and shape their future in a better manner.



 

(Disclaimer- The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Child Rights Centre.)

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