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Covid-19 pandemic disrupts India’s face-to-face medium of teaching

 

  • Overview of the education sector amidst the global pandemic.
  • Initiatives taken by the Indian government and private bodies to boost online education.
  • Significance of technology and online education portals going forward.

 

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread its wrath globally, the education sector is one amongst the many severely hit. While governments worldwide continue to shut schools and colleges in the attempt to contain the spread of the virus, millions of people are getting affected against getting proper mode of education. As per UNESCO, over one and a half billion school & college students were stuck at home in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, representing close to 90% of the global student population (c. 1.38 bn students) at a point in March 2020. In this scenario, advancement in technology, both computational as well as telecommunication, are enabling schools worldwide to bring remote learning opportunities to students. In this blog we will look at how India - a country which has traditionally followed face-to-face style of teaching, is now adopting innovative modes of imparting education via technology.

India leads the world with 250 million school going students and boasts one of the largest networks of higher education institutions. The Indian education system depicts a very high degree of diversification with over 15 lakh schools and 50 thousand higher education institutions driven by over 320 million young and enthusiastic learners. The Indian education sector was est. at ~US$ 101.1 bn (Source: Care Ratings) in FY 2019 with India being the second largest market for e-learning after the US with expected growth pegged at 38% in the next 2-4 years (Source: IBEF).

 

 

Given the government mandated lockdown, below mentioned are some of the measures undertaken to minimize the impact of the lockdown on its students:

  • Like many institutes around the world, the Ministry of Human Resource Development, India, has launched various digital learning initiatives and platforms to promote learning through digital platforms. One of the renowned digital platforms is Diksha that has more than 80,000 e-Books for classes I to XII created by CBSE, NCERT, States and Union Territory. The platform can also be accessed through the mobile app through which students could access books from any place. Another such platform is E-Pathshala, which boasts of a collection of around 1,886 audios, 2,000 videos, 696 e-Books and over 504 Flip Books for classes I to XII in various languages.

 

  • PM eVidya programme has been scheduled to be launched immediately as part of the Central Governments initiatives to promote online classes wherein each classroom from standard I to XII will have one TV channel.

 

  • Several EdTech companies have witnessed a steep rise in subscribers: for example, in March itself BYJU’s registered 6 mn new students accessing free lessons on its platform. Unacademy, on the other hand, recorded 1.4 bn watch minutes while Toppr witnessed 100% growth in free user engagement in the month. Making the most of this situation, several EdTech start-ups in the country have in fact raised funding. The table below lists few of the start-ups and funds raised by them amidst the pandemic to impart online learning through various platforms.

 

 

  • Several educational institutions have resorted to various social media platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, WhatsApp, e-mail, etc., to provide live and recorded classes to the students. These platforms are facilitating interaction between students and teachers allowing for flow of information between the two parties.

The current period is crucial for the education sector in India as school admissions, board examinations, entrance tests of various universities etc. together with competitive examinations are majorly held between March-Jun. While the sector, as a whole, is still trying to grapple with the disruption, cancellation/postponement of exams and changes in schedule for admission could not only have a short-term consequential impact on learning for large number of students, but also have a detrimental impact on economic and societal aspects. Going forward, the Central and state governments, schools, colleges, and other premier education institutes in India must endeavour to innovatively explore alternative digital and technological ways to bring students and teachers together which would be paramount in deciding the uninterrupted flow of learning. While many of the private schools in India have already transitioned to online teaching methods, the country’s low income private and government schools are still deprived of the access to e-learning rendering, many, incapable of pursuing their studies further. While India has known to be struggling to reform for its education sector thus far, we are yet to see whether Covid-19 will finally result in the paradigm shift in the sector.

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