From all the packs of reminiscing stories of our lives, days of play and school can be thought of being the best days. The experiences, the external environment and the nature of the epoch, all are very influencing characteristics in someone’s life. Pandemic 2020 similarly is a turning phase for most of us, and a significantly impressionable period for the school going children has transformed majorly with children staying all at home for more than half a year. Though, an important step, yet there is much on the plate which needs to be examined.
The precautionary lockdown in India was imposed on 22nd March and then months of it followed. Ever since educational platforms have been shut and the opening of the same still looks dilemmatic. India which has accounted for 1.4 million schools4 and over 320 million school-going children5, the education sector can be seen as having a vast cover of the population which has come to a halt. The initial days of the lockdown were an enjoyable holiday-like phase for the children experiencing an unprecedented exciting break. But with increasing irritability amongst children and losing engagement with homebound activities, rethinking about school driven models of education became the need of the hour and eventually private schools, who could afford it, started with online education. For a blanket understanding, e-education has been the most momentous deliberation which has been used to regain the relationship between children, teachers and education. But like the unfortunate differences our country bears, e-education is also not as accessible as it sounds. Here we would put the stakeholders in school education, especially children and the nature of their engagement in three categories.
1. A section of privileged children who have been able to shift to online education set up with less inconvenience in terms of resources. This covers under 11% of households2 which can be scanned under the category of bearing both smart devices and a supporting internet facility. This division also covers that small section of children who are enrolled in schools where video conferencing classes are being facilitated in an organised manner. However, the struggles can be felt in terms of having a limited number of devices in a household with more than one child, increased screen time for the toddler’s eyes, lack of concentration in long hours of desk learning, etc.
2. Another category is of the students who cannot be put in the absolute privileged class of society, but consist of a mixed class of affordability and fortune. These are also majorly the ones from around 5 million children enrolled in government schools4. Affordability refers to the ones under 24% of the population who own a smartphone2. Fortune factor has worked for those owners of smartphones whose children are learning through social media groups, mainly Whatsapp, as facilitated by the respective schools. In a way, this section can be seen under ‘something is better than nothing’ category. Nevertheless, there is a very hectic engagement at such a platform for both the teacher and the students. The teachers are faced with the challenges of making relevant videos and recordings to explain the chapters, conduct tests, check inputs and mark the students with the help of a new medium of learning. On the other hand, e-education has converted the discourse of learning into a monologue where the child is deprived of posing impromptu questions, experience peer learning and a sense of healthy competition. More so, with the differentiation of literacy of elder members in the house, the need for external tuitions has arisen, again requiring e-learning tools.
3. The last category is of those school-going children (mostly enrolled in government schools) who have been totally disconnected with any kind of educational engagement. Reasons can be sighted under in-affordability of a device, lacking access to the internet, or no provision of online learning made from the school’s end. The apprehensive part of this situation is that this section was probably inclusive of those children for whom the school was an escape from child labour and access to mid-day meals. With an elongated period of disengagement, child labour is purported to rise.
The three broad categories drawn, very much reflect the picture of Indian education system even before the lockdown, but the evaluative part brings to our notice the fact that the three board categories are bound to become more stringent, hardcore on class differences and a whole lot of gaps would grow even sharper. This prediction is mainly from the fact that even though the country has been living with mass differences in various domains, but concerning almost 32 crore children in India1, the school was indeed a hopeful platform in providing opportunities for somewhat equitable learning. Moreover, along with child labour, school (regardless of class) is a safe space from domestic child abuse. This is regarding those limited but wide sections of people and civil societies who are constantly engaged in attempting to contribute the smallest bits towards making this pandemic not so horrifying for the little hearts.
1. Kasrekar, D & Tapaswi, G.W (2020) ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Education System in India’, Articles, Latest Law, 16th May. Accessed on 8th September https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/impact-of-covid-19-on-education-system-in-india/
2. Kundu, P (2020) ‘Indian education can’t go online – only 8% of homes with young members have computer with net link’, Scroll.in, 5th May. Accessed on 10th September https://scroll.in/article/960939/indian-education-cant-go-online-only-8-of-homes-with-school-children-have-computer-with-net-link
3. Li, C & Lalani, F (2020) ‘The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education forever. This is how’, Agenda, World Economic Forum, 29th April. Accessed on 9th September https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-education-global-covid19-online-digital-learning/
4. Sharma, A (2020) ‘COVID-19 Lockdown Lessons and the Need to Reconsider Draft New Education Policy’, Opinion, The Wire, 10th June. Accessed on 8th September https://thewire.in/education/covid-19-lockdown-lessons-and-the-need-to-reconsider-draft-new-education-policy
Sudevan, P (2020) ‘Why e-learning isn’t a sustainable solution to the COVID-19 education crisis in India’, Sci-Fi, The Hindu, May 11th. Accessed on 8th September https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/why-elearning-is-not-a-sustainable-solution-to-the-covid19-education-crisis-in-india/article31560007.ece Image Courtesy-pixy.org