Online learning: Unorganised & Unfair solution to the Educational Crisis
As the pandemic began to rise across the world, baffling the best of the world's doctors and scientists working in the search of its cure, the only directives suggested for common people were to keep washing hands and maintain social distance. In March, a nationwide lockdown was ordered to contain the spread of the virus, limiting the movement of the entire population of India. As a result, all the schools and educational institutions were also closed, exams were postponed and schools were advised to switch to remote learning for the time being.
It has been seven months since then, and education, as a result, has largely moved online. Students all over the world have adopted different video conferencing platforms, podcasts, radio, and online learning software to compensate for their classroom education. India too is experiencing a similar boom in online learning methods, classes on zoom calls, WhatsApp calls, etc., sitting in front of laptops and computers through half of the day and spending the other half completing the assignments. Although, this is only the case with secondary education, where students are more dedicated towards their education and their relative independence in learning and possible self-discipline. The beginners in the lower primary can get nothing at all from this mode of teaching, or probably a little conversation with the teachers and then it’s the absolute responsibility of the parents/guardians to make sure that their little ones are learning something on a regular basis.
The online mode of education, whatever merits or demerits it may have if it’s available, does not exist for every student in the country. As soon as the lockdown started, private schools shifted to online teaching methods as most of its students had laptops or at least smartphones with stable internet connections whereas the students studying in Government Schools were still clueless about their education, about when would the schools reopen, and even if they did, would the students be able to go back to their schools?
Our education system was never very efficient even in the best of times. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the inequalities, exposing the system to be extremely biased and faulty. Initially, the system announced online learning to be the new revolution, without making sure the availability of the required resources to all its students. Most of the students studying in Govt Primary Schools of underdeveloped states like Uttar Pradesh do not even have a basic smartphone in their house. And if they had one, the unplanned lockdown left their parents unemployed and unsure about where they would get money for the next meal, so getting an internet connection was not even on their list.
Later, in August, new directives were issued for the students who do not have online access, suggesting illiterate or semi-literate parents and community to be involved in the education of their children and help them cope with year-long syllabus. Teachers are working to contact the parents and convey the idea to them, but anyone who has actually worked on the field will note that this set of directives is imaginary.
Despite the lack of quality in online education, or its unavailability altogether, the major drawback of such a mode of learning is the absence of institutional environment. The online mode of teaching has also paused experiential learning and curriculums like Arts Education, arts or sports integrated learning, depriving the students of interactions and conversations with each other, and opportunities of learning by doing.
In conclusion, online learning is not a sustainable solution to India's unsettled education system. It has deepened the pre-existing social disparity, and has dropped the people out of the loop who are underprivileged and the neediest. Those who have the resources to be a part of this educational revolution, the quality of education being imparted to them is still under question.