The higher education sector has been significantly disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is ultimately affecting the economic future of a country. Somewhere around in the second week of March, in response to prevent the spread of COVID-19, schools and colleges across the country were being shut down.
It is nearly two months and still there is no certainty as to when they will open up. This is certainly a very critical time for the education sector as several activities such as nursery school admissions, board examinations, competitive examinations and entrance tests of various universities are all being held up because of this coronavirus lockdown.
No known treatment or solution for the COVID-19 outbreak has come out yet, and the closure of schools and colleges is not only having a short term impact, but the lives of more than 285 million students in India are hanging in the middle of nowhere. Such a break-up will also have far-reaching societal and economic consequences.
Change in Teaching Methodology
The first thing that is being affected by this closure is the teaching and assessment methodologies, as well as the structure of learning and schooling. Online teaching methods are something that cannot be adopted by every school in the country. The education activities of many government schools and low-income private schools have stopped completely as they do not have access to e-learning solutions. On the other hand, students are not only facing economic and social stress and the missed opportunities for learning, but many of them do not have access to healthy meals.
The higher education sector is not being left behind as it has also been disrupted significantly. The economic future of the country relies heavily on it. India has the second-largest strength of students, second only to China, who take admission to universities abroad, and all of them have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The fact that no one can leave the country as of now has disrupted the educational plans of thousands of students. In case the situation continues for longer than expected, then a decline in demand for international higher education can also be seen. Something that is worrying everyone is the employment rate that will be affected by the disease. The current situation may result in fewer job offers from the corporate world in the coming time. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy – the unemployment rate has increased from 8.4% in the mid-March to 23% in early April.
Policy Makers need to Craft New Ways
The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the way education is being imparted from the centuries-old chalk-talk teaching method to the one on the internet. The education imparters and policymakers are forced to think about how they can make online learning more engaging and inclusive e-learning solutions can be provided along with removing the digital divide. To keep the Indian education system running smoothly in the long term, there has been a need to come out with a multi-pronged strategy that can deal with the crisis.
First, some quick measures need to be taken to make sure learning in government schools and colleges continues as usual. There is a need to come out with and adopt Open-source digital learning solutions and Learning Management Software so that classes can be taken online by teachers. The DIKSHA platform can reach in all states of India and it can be strengthened further to ensure learning is smooth for students.
Taking Care of the Marginalized Sector
The second step is to come out with inclusive learning solutions that can impart education to the most vulnerable and marginalized. Thanks to the rapid growth of mobile internet users in India which is forecasted to reach 85% households by 2024, it will be possible to provide personalized education and ubiquitous access to the remotest parts of the country. With this, the effectiveness of learning and teaching can be increased and teachers and students will have multiple options to pick from. Some innovative, mobile-based learning models have been initiated by many inspirational districts, something which can be adopted by others as well.
The third important step is to prepare the higher education sector to fulfill the changing demand-supply trend across the globe – this is related to the global mobility of students and the one that will improve the quality of higher studies in India. Plus, some actions need to be taken immediately to remove the ill effects of coronavirus pandemic on job offers, research projects, and internship programs.
In this time of global crisis, there is a need to come out with well-rounded and effective educational practice that will build the capacity of young minds. This will develop their skills that will drive productivity, employability, health, and well-being for many years to come, and ultimately result in the complete progress of India.