During the COVID-19 pandemic, India enforced among the strictest, most generalised and continuous school and university closures creating in the process the largest education emergency in the world.
GS-II: Social Justice (Government Interventions and Policies, Issues arising out of the design and implementation of Government Policies)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What gave rise to the Education Emergency?
- Contrasting Schooling strategies in Other Countries during Covid-19
- Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns
- Major Initiatives under NMEICT
What gave rise to the Education Emergency?
- In contrast, most generalised and continuous school and university closures were imposed in India.
- All States, irrespective of the pattern of evolution of the novel coronavirus disease, followed a uniform policy, with fewer variations.
- There is growing evidence of the harm caused to children and young adolescents in terms of learning losses as well as socio-emotional stress caused by prolonged school closures and of the ineffectiveness and inequalities of remote learning, even in technologically sophisticated environments.
- A significant majority of the days between March 2020 and July 2021 were characterised as being at the most severe policy response requiring the closure of all types of educational institutions, according to the school closure indicator as tracked by the Global Stringency Index.
- As a result, about 265 million schoolchildren have been taught exclusively through remote learning. This is the largest number in any country for the longest period of time.
- During these hundreds of days of almost continuous lockout, the youngest and the poorest among Indian children, the Dalits, tribals and others, and lacking devices and electricity have struggled with online classes.
- Studies and reports from the field by NGOs and individuals engaged with the National Coalition on the Education Emergency indicate that teachers, unprepared for remote teaching, forward social media links to their hapless students.
- This approach contrasted with the response in many other countries. Within a few months of the first lockdown of schools, Europe began resuming in-person schooling for certain groups of children or certain localities.
Contrasting Schooling strategies in Other Countries during Covid-19
By March 2021, 51 countries had resumed in-person education.
- In 90 other countries, including many in Africa, multiple modalities, rotation of children for in-person classes and part remote/part in-person options were being offered.
- In the hybrid schooling models (combination of in-person and remote teaching), countries prioritised children of younger ages, of essential workers and those with special needs, for in-person learning.
- But in India, even as relaxations were made for public gatherings at festivals and elections, prior to the second wave, strategies for schooling were not systematically applied.
- When the school closure policy was relaxed in a few Indian States in 2021, only high schools were allowed to function to conduct public exams.
- The fear that the second wave generated has created apprehensions about schools becoming the epicentre of the next wave.
- Therefore, India is less prepared for school re-openings than many other countries.
Steps taken to ensure access to education during the COVID Lockdowns
- Some states have launched innovative mobile apps and portals as means to facilitate remote learning.
- Many states have had to be creative with low tech forms of teaching and instruction delivery with low or nil requirements of the internet. For instance- In Arunachal Pradesh, primary class students are receiving interesting Radio talks in their mother tongue through All India Radio.
- Andhra Pradesh has started Toll Free Call Centre and Toll-Free Video call centre for students for understanding critical topics and clearing their doubts.
- Due to poor mobile connectivity and unavailability of internet services, Chhattisgarh has started Motor iskool.
- Some of the major digital initiatives by State Governments are SMILE (Social Media Interface for Learning Engagement) in Rajasthan, Project Home Classes in Jammu, Padhai Tunhar duvaar (Education at your doorstep) in Chhattisgarh, Unnayan Initiatives in Bihar through portal and mobile application, Mission Buniyaad in NCT of Delhi, Kerala’s own educational TV channel (Hi-Tech school programme), E-scholar portal as well as free online courses for teachers in Meghalaya.
Major Initiatives under National Mission on Education through Information and Communication Technology (NMEICT)
- SWAYAM: The Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses, covering school (9th to 12th) to Postgraduate Level. The online courses are being used not only by the students but also by the teachers and non-student learners, in the form of lifelong learning.
- SWAYAM Prabha: It is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on a 24X7 basis.
- National Digital Library of India (NDL): It is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility. Presently, there are more than 3 crore digital resources available through the NDL.
- Spoken Tutorial: They are 10-minute long, audio-video tutorial, on open-source software, to improve employment potential of students. It is created for self-learning, audio dubbed into 22 languages and with the availability of online version.
- Free and Open-Source Software for Education (FOSSEE): It is a project promoting the use of open-source software in educational institutions. It does that through instructional material, such as spoken tutorials, documentation, such as textbook companions, awareness programmes, such as conferences, training workshops, and internships.
- Virtual Lab: This is a project to develop a fully interactive simulation environment to perform experiments, collect data, and answer questions to assess the understanding of the knowledge acquired. There are about 225 such labs operational, with more than 1800 experiments that benefitted more than 15 lakhs students.
- E-Yantra: It is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and robotics. More than 275 colleges across India have benefited with this initiative.
-Source: The Hindu