The pandemic caused by the spread of Coronavirus has forced people to remain indoors. It has affected everyone in some way. The cities are shut, people are not permitted to walk on the roads unless it is unavoidable. The COVID-19 crisis has jeopardized all the loopholes in the system. The poor health infrastructure has failed to handle the crisis.
Doctors are not being provided with the proper equipment to combat the spread of the virus. Economies are severely hit and are continuously plummeting. One such sector which has been severely affected by the imposition of nationwide lockdown is the education sector. If observed at the global level, millions of children are not unable to go to their schools, the reason being the closure of schools and colleges.
However, educational institutions are compelled to adopt the online mode to educate the children. Different forms of online education are being used to keep the children academically up to date. Online platforms are being used to either conduct online classes or to record lectures and make it available to the students.
The transition from traditional classrooms to online classrooms has not been smooth at all, at least for India, which has a major remote population. Let us go through to skim all about the transition and the challenges posed by this forced transition.
The imposition of lockdown has given rise to the use of technology in the education sector. Students are being taught online either through online or through recorded classes. India is a developing economy and is steadily hurrying towards a completely digital world. In this time of digitization, online education is not a new concept for most of the population. The concept of absolute reliance on technology to educate children is young to the Indian population. It is no more an option but rather a necessity for the students to be part of a virtual classroom.
Several platforms are being used to conduct classes. Zoom and Google Meet are among the most used. There is a difference in the online classes being conducted now to the live classes that are offered by various platforms like BYJU's- The Learning App, and Vedantu.
From large to gigantic- BYJU's and Vedantu
The surge for Online teaching platforms
The demand for at-home studies has changed the scenario in the past few years. BYJU's has evolved as the leading platform for online studies. It is quite evident too, as whenever we hear about a platform for online education, BYJU's is the first name that appears before us. The main reason, along with so many advertisements, is its quality service.
According to an article published in the World Economic Forum, BYJU's saw a 200% surge in the number of new students using its product and it is now the most highly valued Edtech company in the world. This article was published four months ago when India was into its second phase of lockdown. So we can assume the surge to be even more.
Alongside this, another online platform which has seen some significant increase in its user's numbers is Vedantu. It is an online tutoring platform that was developed to serve the purpose of live coaching classes to its students. It enables personalized learning to be accessed from anywhere and anytime. It offers coaching classes for 6-12th grade students as well as preparation for competitive exams like JEE, IMO, and NTSE. The lockdown period has benefitted Vedantu, and it saw a growth of 220% over the past few months.
So these stats are ample to show the surge in the demand for online education. The other form of online education that has been mentioned above is the new way of classroom teaching.
The new normal for school going students
Schools are now shut for almost half a year. The increasing number of cases have forced the shutdown and the current situation is not favorable at all to resume the regular classes. This means that students have to keep relying on virtual classrooms for their academics. Institutions are taking the help of technology to reach out to their students and making sure that their studies are not affected. The Education Ministry has issued guidelines for the conduction of online classes. But the question is that, are Indian students ready to cope with online teaching? The answer may be yes for some students but the majority of students are not yet ready.
Online classes may be a good alternative for regular classrooms for a short run, but when we think of them as a long-term solution, they fail. Schools and colleges are trying to adopt the online teaching method but it is not easy as it seems, both for the students and teachers.
The benefits of online classes
Getting a service being delivered at home sounds pleasing to the ears. It is, but only when the infrastructure is well prepared to manage the accessibility. Students are attending their lectures from the comfort of their homes and staying indoors is great to curb the spread of COVID-19. Different platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, which facilitate their users to communicate on a larger scale, are proving handy for these institutions.
The role of government and the non-government organization has been also significant in making an effort for a smooth transition. Upskilling and motivating teachers, organizing counseling sessions for stakeholders like students, parents, and teachers are the prominent steps in this direction. The central government launched the PM e-VIDYA platform with twelve new DTH channels, one for each class to facilitate the students from all strata of the society.
“We know that in any crisis, the young and the most vulnerable suffer disproportionately. Schools are closed, parents are out of work and families are under growing strain. An entire generation of children have seen their education and learning interrupted..”
-Yasmin Ali Haque, India Representative, UNICEF
The concerns before the remote population
Statistics as per UNICEF
As mentioned above, the majority of students in India are yet not ready for total online education. These students are from the remote population of the country, which is deprived of technological advancements. Inequalities have prevailed in India for a longer period and have not yet been resolved.
Not every Indian household has many numbers of smartphones or electronic gadgets to access education and even if it is available the connectivity is very poor that a smooth use of the internet is not possible. A recent report by UNICEF exposed the lack of facility among the larger population of India. The report says that just 24 percent of the Indian population has an internet connection to access education.
The report said that students, especially girls from marginalized sections of society do not have easy access to smartphones, and no quality education content is available in vernacular languages. “In India, over 1.5 million (15 lakh) schools have been closed due to the pandemic affecting 286 million (28.6 crore) children from pre-primary to secondary levels, (of which 49 percent girls). This adds to the 6 million (60 lakh) girls and boys who were already out of school before the COVID-19,” the report said.
The other concerns are also there for students. The increased screen time is worrisome for the parents of primary class students. Exposure to screens at such a younger age can prove to be disastrous. The most important thing that these virtual classes lack is the environment. Classrooms have an environment suitable for studying while virtual classrooms bring a lot of distraction.
To conclude, it can be said that better digital infrastructure is needed to cope up with such unprecedented situations. The remote population should be made technology-rich and proper training should be given for the smooth conducting of virtual classes. While the focus should remain on the resumption of regular classrooms. In India, there are no discussions about resuming the regular classes, which is very worrying. Nonetheless, schools should be made suitable and ready to open with the adoption of the new normal.