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The pandemic imposes a steep learning curve

Topics Covered: Issues related to education.

The pandemic imposes a steep learning curve

Context:

Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Most instruction has moved online.
  • Higher education has gone digital where possible.

Efforts by Indian government:

Online higher education using MOOCs, or massive open online classrooms, has been encouraged by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for some time now via the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) and SWAYAM platforms. 

But in India’s case, educationists and policy makers advise caution on Online education. Why?

  • Because of contrast in rural versus urban infrastructure, the variable quality of staff, and the diverse types of subjects that are taught.
  • Courses that traditionally need a laboratory or practical component are an obvious example where online classes cannot offer an alternative.
  • The adoption or integration of technology in education also depends on the specific institution and its location: there is a huge digital divide in the country in terms of bandwidth and reliable connectivity, as well as very unequal access to funding.
  • There can been a serious impact on academic research in all disciplines. There is need for close personal interaction and discussion in research supervision.
  • Not all students have equal access to the Internet, and more than half in any class in any institution are simply not able to attend lectures in real time for want of the required combination of hardware and electrical connectivity in their homes.
  • Many online classes are poorly executed video versions of regular classroom lectures. Across the board, teachers recognise this as unsatisfactory.

How can it be improved?

  • This is a chance to re-imagine higher education in India. For long this has been elitist and exclusionary; education has been less about learning and more about acquiring degrees. The pandemic can change that if we let it. Some ways include:
  • Gandhiji’s “Nai Talim” put a high premium on self study and experiential learning, for instance.
  • Digital tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) can be adapted to deliver personalised instruction based on the learning needs for each student.
  • Pedagogic material must be made available in our other national languages; this will extend access, and can help overcome staff shortages that plague remote institutions.
  • The state will have to bear much of the responsibility, both to improve digital infrastructure and to ensure that every needy student has access to a laptop or smartphone.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. About NPTEL.
  2. SWAYAM Portal.
  3. What Nai Taleem means?

Mains Link:

Across the world, education has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most instruction has moved online. Discuss issues associated with online learning.

Sources: the Hindu.