Education in the Time of Corona

Education in the Time of Corona, Following fresh Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines issued on the 14th of April, HRD ministry has asked educational institutions to continue online classes in the second phase of the lockdown. While as many as 10 states have imposed certain restrictions on the collection of school fees or asked the institutions to consider waiving them altogether for the lockdown Education  period of March and April, the state of Bihar has allowed schools conducting online classes to take tuition fee. Other states are expected to follow the suit.

With little to no investment required, online classes pose a desirable opportunity for the school administrators as they have to remunerate the school teachers regardless of them taking online classes. The tuition fees thus garnered would facilitate schools to pay the teachers’ salaries with minimal losses. Moreover, online classes make sure that the ginormous syllabus is covered on time. But, does that make it easier for students?

Some people may claim that remote learning through live-online classes can be very effective but we are not dealing with faculty members who want to teach remotely, who have had time to develop courses or have had much experience with it nor are we dealing with students who prefer online Education  courses, who have had time to acquire proper computer equipment or who can ask their peers for assistance. So, the experience of remote education now upon us is likely to be a failure.

On the contrary, teachers should start making video lessons instead of live sessions so that students are able to access them at a convenient time as parents might require the devices while they work from home. About the doubts that may arise, a group/forum could be established where the students could send in their doubts and the teacher can clarify them in another such video. However, care should be taken that everything is accessible on mobile phones since India has a much larger reservoir of mobile phones than computers. Even under such conditions, online education does not offer the same quality of education that face-to-face classes do. David Figlio of Northwestern University, Illinois and Mark Rush and Lu Yin of the University of Florida did an experiment the only difference between the 1,400 students was that one section of students viewed the lectures in person, while the online students viewed the videotaped lectures on the internet. The study concluded that the average test score was lower for the online students.

Even then, how many children have computer devices at home? How many have Wi-Fi? Streaming multiple such videos in a day would require more data than their existing data plans thus burning a hole in their guardians’ pockets. Let’s get our heads out of the cloud of a utopian world where every child has access to the internet. A certain Indian territory — Kashmir — does not even have access to high-speed or 4G internet. Perhaps, if schools are shifting to online classes, then internet is a basic service and everyone should have access. Furthermore, which sibling gets to use it provided parents are not working from home? Not every family has multiple laptops but it is much more realistic to assume that every family has at least one smart-phone and even that is not the case for a country like ours where a sizeable chunk of the population does not even have a roof over their heads.

A survey conducted by LocalCircles for the Economic Times showed that one in four students is unable to connect because they don’t have a laptop, desktop or tablet as parents reported the inability to buy or rent laptops due to the lockdown.

To add to the dilemma, there are hundreds of Education  children who go to government schools and have not still received their books because the country came to stall even before their session commenced. Indeed, the NCERT has made the course textbooks for school students available online but it is worth noting that India has multiple boards of education that do not comply with the NCERT books.

The question still remains: Is education just for the privileged? If many students won’t get a good education in the coming months, it would be better to cancel the first quarter. Rather than pursuing an educational approach that will most likely fail, we should then let schools start new academic sessions whenever classes normally start again. As the summer vacation in schools or colleges usually last from May to July only a month’s worth of education missed could easily be made up for in the coming months, possibly, by doing away with sports or cultural activities.

The coronavirus crisis also imposes great stress on Education  hundreds or thousands, perhaps millions, of students. Some may have to worry about their family members falling ill. It’s also worth remembering that this is an unprecedented time, a challenge we cannot predict or fully understand, and it’s alright for children to take their time feel and to cope with the trauma that might accompany the situation. This is not a holiday; it’s a global pandemic and a national emergency. It should be alright if students are unable to cope with the academic pressure.

Will students suffer from a delay in graduating? No. Education  Contrarily, we are now probably in a recession, and the economy may very likely not recover by the time students graduate. Why subject them to years of lower earnings — a situation that could, in fact, persist for some time if they enter the market during bad economic conditions? Hannes Schwandt and Till von Wachter studied the differential effects of initial economic conditions for labour market entrants in the United States from 1976 to 2015. They found persistent earnings and wage reductions, especially for less-advantaged entrants.

All things considered, there is ample evidence to suggest that students, suffering in so many ways from the coronavirus crisis, would benefit from cancelling the current semester and instead getting an education and graduating during more normal times and the government should help them afford to do that.

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