Impact of COVID-19 on Education System and best solutions to it.

Introduction

The number of COVID cases across the country are rising exponentially day by day. The longer this crisis continues, the worse it is going to hit the Economy. Until now, it has been estimated that it would make a difference of 8.5 trillion dollars on the world Economy over the next two years due to this Pandemic.

1. Impact of COVID-19 on Education

  • More than 34 million people across the Globe would be pushed into extreme crisis because of this pandemic. Impact of COVID-19 on Education system is of the great concern. Students in our country have been demanding the cancellation of exams. Online classes have commenced in some places and some exams have already been cancelled.
  • Parents are putting on demands that the private schools should not hike their fees. Schools, on the other hand, raising the counters that they do not have money to pay the staffs and teachers. So now, let us analyze how greatly this pandemic is going to affect our Education Sector and what steps are being taken to mitigate it.
  • As of 28th June, 2020, UNESCO has released the data that there have been nationwide closure of schools and colleges in more than 188 countries all across the world which has affected more than 1.5 billion students. There were very few countries in the world where the schools were not shut down.
  • For example, Australia, Sweden and Greenland. In context of India, more than 32 crore students have been affected by this crisis. Some schools stopped teaching entirely, while others switched to online classes.
  • For people like us, online classes is a great solution in the short run. But it also creates a digital divide.
  • It is alright for people like us, who can watch YouTube and can avail the availability of the internet. But what about people who do not have internet accessible to them?
  • Now, you might wonder how many people in India do not have internet. The statistics of NSS will shock you! This graph shows the percentage of internet availability in the rural households across various states in India.

Impact of Covid-19 on education Sector

  • There are only two states in India which have more than 40 percent rural household with internet availability. In the rest of the states, only 10-20% rural households have internet accessibility. So, what would these people do? They cannot attend those online classes.
  • The problem further get worse when you realize that several families out of these ran their daily affairs through day to day earnings. They have lost their livelihoods after the lock down. So many people have been pushed into poverty due to the economic impact of COVID 19. Think about what such families would do.
  • Neither would they have money to send their children to school nor would they want their children to go to school because they would want them to go to work to bring back some money home. The 2017-18 National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data shows that boys in villages drop out of school midway.

The top two reasons behind this are- 

1. Financial constraints in their families and
2. Economic work

  • These two reasons would be applicable here as well in the COVID 19 situation. This means that when the schools reopen, the children in families like ours would go back to school, but the children in families like these will not go back to school. They would be pushed into child labour due to these problems. This is a long term problem that would be created but not a lot of people are talking about it.

2. School Fees hike

  • The second issue is that of school fees hike. Nowadays, the students are already under the stress. Stressful situations for parents are being created as well. Some private schools in our country are not conducting any online classes but they are still charging fees from the parents.
  • Some private schools are only holding online classes and charging same fees as before. And in some places, fees are being hiked which is a huge issue for the parents because you already know what the Economic situation in the entire country is.
  • According to the 2014 NSSO data, for a common family in our country i.e, a husband, a wife and two school going kids, 20% of their entire annual household income is spent on the education of the children

So, you can imagine what importance does the private school fees hold for the family.

  • This is why, several parents have even approached the Supreme court for a moratorium on the fees hike. Some state governments- like that of Delhi, Assam and Maharashtra have already taken action against it. For example, in Maharashtra, it has been declared that no private school can hike fees this year or else they would have to face penalty.
  • In response to this, several private schools say that they need the money to pay their teachers and their  staff. So from where are they going to arrange?
  • According to Ashok Agarwal, The head of All India Parents’ Association, In this worse scenario of lock down when almost every middle class financial grounds are trembling, the solution to this is that the Government should pay the salaries to the teachers out of the 20 lack crore package that Hon’ble Prime Minister had given.
  • If not the 100% then at least a genuine percentage of their salary structure. And the parents should be totally relieved until the schools Re open. There needs to be a serious intervention. The problem is that the children who go to private schools do so out of helplessness as the government schools do not function properly.

3. Stress for Students

  • From the perspective of the students, the last few months have been extremely stressful. Repeated postponement and cancellation of exams as well as the reigning uncertainty. No clarity about the cancellation of exams or when the exams would be held instead. What grading system would be used and whether it would be beneficial for the students or not.
  • Constant online classes for 5-6 days prolonged exposure to the screens with headphones on is not an ideal scenario. It is extremely stressful and leads to increase in anxiety and depression. And in some extreme cases, students have also committed suicide. There was also the case of class 9 student who did not have access to either a smartphone or a TV. So she was unable to attend online classes due to which she committed suicide.
  • Furthermore, the absence of any kind of physical education and exercise exerts a very negative impact on the health of the student. Eating habits and sleep cycles deteriorated and the constant online classes require them to sit all the time. As regular exercise is extremely essential for both mental and physical health.
  • Online classes are not even a short time solution for the primary school kids because social emotional bonding and contact with people and teachers is necessary for such young children for the development of the child.
  • Due to these negative impacts, several countries took the decision of re opening their schools. For example, schools in Denmark were reopened with precautions of maintaining physical distancing. This is something that is needed to be evaluated in India in the coming months.

4. Exams Cancellations

  • Several universities across the world took the decision of holding open book exams in which you can use the internet or any book while writing the exam. And this is a good step in my opinion because the questions in open book exams, basically, force the students to think critically. It would cause them to think and answer. The questions are not that simple that you can copy and paste their answers.
  • Some exams in India have been cancelled completely- like the CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education) board exams of Class 10th and 12th. The students had been demanding the cancellation or the postponement of these exams since a long time. This has finally been done. But it has created some new problems.
  • The students alleged that the evaluation criteria is unfair. Similarly, the Joint Entrance Exam JEE (Joint Entrance Examination) and NEET(National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) have also been postponed. JEE will now be held between September 1st to 6th and NEET  will be held on September 13th, 2020.

My understanding says that under the prevailing circumstances, it is no problem to declare the entire year as a “Zero Academic Year”. Not doing so shall lead to the tensions all around. Promote all the children in all our schools. Either who failed or those who have pending exams. This will lead to boost the morale of the students and the parents and this is of more importance.

5. Teacher’s grievances

The news isn’t great from the perspective of the teachers either. Reports are coming in from places that the teachers have been fired from their jobs in private schools. The teachers are complaining that online classes are increasing inequality between the students, which isn’t good and some teachers are not even being paid their regular salaries from the school either.

Solution

There is a very clear cut solution of this issue. It is very important for the government to regulate the fees hike of the private schools. Till date, 15 states have made legislation on paper to regulate the fees hike of the private schools.

But parents are involved in the school boards only in 4 states in India where the fees hike can be regulated. It is important to make a parent teachers association and grant them decision making powers so that they can regulate the fees hike.

If it is in the hands of the parents, then it can be controlled and implemented better. The rest of the states should also follow this lead. If you all have any such suggestion please do comment below and till then,

Keep Learning and BE safe

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