By Ravi Matah
While coronavirus continues to spread across the globe, many countries have decided to close schools and colleges as part of a social distancing policy in order to slow down transmission of the virus. However, this closure of schools has affected the education of more than 1.7 billion children and youth worldwide due to the pandemic.
UNESCO reports that 192 countries implemented nationwide lockdowns, affecting about 99% world’s students.
Students are under tremendous pressure as Schools and Colleges are shut down because of the pandemic and they are not able to concentrate effectively on their studies as many of them are not accustomed to online education.
Going forward, I believe more emphasis should be laid on computer education in schools, especially in a country like ours which is already a software hub of the world. Technology has kept the world connected, and online education is playing a vital role, and needs more attention than ever before.
This pandemic has brought with it its own set of unwritten laws and the authorities in Education system have adopted a flexible approach in conducting the academic examinations. They have also ensured that all results are declared well in time so that students may appear for their competitive examinations in due course.
The syllabus of classes 9th to 12th has been considerably reduced so as to lessen the burden on the students. This decision to reduce the syllabus of the courses will give some respite to the students for the competitive examinations.
The examination cycle has also been altered due to the spread of Covid-19 in the country. The results of the Board examinations of classes tenth and twelfth have been declared, recently, which were delayed by about a month as compared to last year.
A few examinations which were conducted during April every year were postponed from April 2020 to July 2020. Further, the JEE examinations have been rescheduled to be held from 1st to 6th September, 2020.
Schools and Colleges have been closed since the third week March but the Institutions are charging full tuition fees from April to July 2020, while the parents are coaching the children themselves at home. There is no concession in the tuition fees chargeable by the Schools/ Colleges.
Added to these woes, there are many unsaid problems which have arisen out of the pandemic and the lockdown.
The lockdown has denied young children the opportunity to learn, develop, and grow, as distance learning is not a good enough replacement for actual classes. Young children need to learn social skills and etiquette, which is only possible when they are near other in a proper environment.
The lockdown has also increased the burden on parents, as they are not as well equipped or trained enough to handle the children’s education as the teachers are. This has also added to the woes of parents who are working. Handling children is a full time job, and with the at home, maintaining a work-life balance has become more difficult. This, especially for a parent for whom work from home is not an option!
Another issue is that not all children have access to the same technology or the internet. This adds to the financial burden on parents. Students of rural areas and from low income groups may be missing out on distance learning or rather digital learning altogether. These children just might end up losing a year in their academic life, and it may even add to the drop-out rates.
All recognised boards like ICSE and CBSE have postponed or cancelled their exams. Even IITs and IIMs have all closed their campuses and moved to imparting education online.
University Grants Commission’s guidelines suggest that students appearing for intermediate semester exams may be promoted based on internal assessment or if the university is in a green zone, may conduct exams.
As for terminal semesters/final year students of Universities/institutions, UGC issued fresh guidelines on 6 July. As per the notification, examinations should be completed by end of September 2020 in offline/online/blended (online+offline) mode.
The fate of final year students hangs in limbo as their next step is still uncertain. Their further education or career depends on their final semester results.
The students in this scenario should be in constant touch with their universities for the latest updates, so they don’t lose out when things start moving.
Further, these students should focus on finding their niche to help differentiate themselves from others. They should focus on building their CV in furtherance of their career prospects in a manner best suited to their interests and skills.
As we think of innovative ways to support children, it is encouraging to see that many local initiatives have already begun. These initiatives push us all to consider the new opportunities that this crisis creates for communities to recover better, build stronger systems, and orient these services to reach all students,and ensure that all students, whatever their backgrounds, are able to achieve and accomplish their dreams.