IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON THE EDUCATION SECTOR

The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) drastically effected every aspect of human lives including the education sector. It has created an unparalleled test on education. The school and college premises are closed and the teaching and the learning has been shifted to online as the only mode of education. The working in every field has been slowed down significantly. In India more than thirty crore students stopped to move to schools and colleges and all other educational activities were brought to an end. Despite of all these challenges faced by the Higher Education Institutes took it positively as an opportunity and accomplished to ensure the continuity of teaching-learning, research and service to the society with some tools and techniques during the pandemic. This research paper highpoints the major impact of COVID-19 higher education sector in India. Some measures have been taken by the educational authorities across the nation to provide unified educational facilities during the crisis are discussed. During this pandemic, many new methods of learning, new trends with new outlooks have emerged and are being followed as it may continue as we go ahead to a new tomorrow. Some of the post COVID trends which may allow picturing new ways of teaching and learning in higher education institution are drawn, while some productive ideas are also pointed to achieve educational activities during the pandemic situation.

Introduction-

On March 11, 2020 World Health Organisation (WHO) announced Covid-19 as a pandemic. This pandemic has affected more than 5 million people worldwide according to WHO. In India, the first affected case of Covid-19 was detected on 30 January, 2020 in the state of Kerala and the affected had a travel history from Wuhan, China as according to Wikipedia. In India, the first death was reported on March 12, 2020 and the nation as a whole observed Janata Curfew for one day on March 22, 2020. India yet again observed 14 hours of Janata Curfew on March 24, 2020 to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and evaluate the country’s ability to combat the Coronavirus. Then, the 1st phase of lockdown was announced by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi on March 25, 2020 for 21 days. Monitoring the effects of the virus, the Government of India has been extending the lockdown period in different phases. The educational institutions throughout the nation have never got any easing to restart their educational activities. Thus, the pandemic of Covid-19 impacted pointedly on the education sector all across the world. Governments from all around the world have provisionally closed educational institutions in an attempt to resist the spread of the novel Coronavirus. This worldwide closure has impacted drastically the world’s student population as students had to stay at home which led to dependency on e-learning. As the online lectures were conducted, some students lagged behind due to no physical interaction. There was an increase in stress level among the students due to sitting in front screens to attend online as isolation was affecting their mental health. Governments around the world are making efforts to lessen the instant impact of closure of educational institutions particularly for more vulnerable and underprivileged communities and trying to simplify the endurance of education for all using different digital modes of educating students such as e-learning or blended learning. According to a survey report of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India, that was conducted on higher education, it was detected that there are 993 universities, 39931 Colleges and 10725 separate institutions listed on their portal, which contribute to education (DNS Kumar, 2020). Even if the country has been familiarizing to the new-age learning, but there still lies a hindrance in accomplishing entire achievement as only about 45 crore people of our total population have access to the internet or e-learning. The people residing in country side or backward areas are still very much deprived of the technologies and therefore hindering the cause of online education. The pandemic of COVID-19 taught the entire society on how necessity is the mother of invention by permitting all the educational institutions to adopt online learning and present a virtual learning culture. The pandemic has been directing the education sector forward with technological innovation and advancements. This pandemic has significantly distressed the higher education sector. A large number of Indian students who are registered in many Universities in a foreign country, especially, in the worst affected countries had to leave those countries and if the situation continues, in the long run, there will be a significant deterioration in the demand for international higher education.

Objectives-

This research paper is based on the following objectives:

Research Methodology-

Numerous reports of national and international activities on the pandemic of COVID-19 are searched to gather data for the research paper. As it is not possible to go outside for the collection of data due to lockdown, the information has been composed from different reliable journals, authentic websites and e-contents relating to the influence of Covid-19 pandemic on higher educational system of India.

Impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education-

Pandemic Covid-19 has brutally affected the educational system as a whole in India as well as abroad but some of the most affected areas of higher education of India are as pointed below:

1. Weakened all educational activities: Outbreak of Covid-19 has forced lockdown in every sector including the education sector. The institutions got shut stopping all the educational activities and gave rise to many challenges for the stake holders. So, the various activities like admissions, entrances, examinations, competitive examinations conducted by various boards, schools, colleges and universities were postponed. Most of the entrance tests for higher studies were set aside which created a great challenge in the lives of students of higher education. The main challenge was to continue teaching and learning process when students, faculties and staff members could no longer be physically present on the campuses. The noticeable solution for the educational institutions was to depend on online teaching and learning. However, within a relatively short time, Higher educational Institutions have been able to provide sustenance to the students through online method or mode of education. Covid-19 has enhanced adoption of digital technologies to convey education. It fortified all teachers and students to become more technology practicality. The Higher educational institutions have started steering orientation programmes, counselling classes and induction meetings with the help of different e-conferencing tools such as Google Meet, Skype, YouTube live, Facebook live, etc. in order to provide support services to the students. This initiative has been taken to generate an active virtual environment of teaching and learning, and to foster motivation among students for online activities. The teachers and students improved the use of electronic media for sharing information by making use of WhatsApp, Google drive, Telegram, Twitter, etc. They have been allocating important documents with the group members and creating online local source also. Students are advised to submit the scanned copies of their assignments to the institution through email or google forms. Higher educational Institutions have also started receiving internship reports and projects through emails during the lockdown for Covid-19 pandemic.

2. Mixed influence on Academic research & Professional Development: Covid-19 has both negative and positive effects on research. If we take the adverse side, the pandemic has made unbearable for researchers to travel and work together with others nationally as well as internationally. Some joint research work or project work are being difficult to complete.

Some scientific laboratory testing and research work could not be steered. If we look at the optimistic side, faculty members got much time to improve their theoretical research work. Academicians got familiar with the technological methods and enhanced their research. Webinars and e-conferences became normal methods for sharing expertise among students and academicians around the globe with similar issues. They could get much time to focus on professional growth by doing research and to improve knowledge by allocating ideas through webinars and e-conferences. They improved their technical skill and could get the possibility for publishing articles in journals, publishing books in this free time.

3. Brutally affected the educational assessment system: Most of the peripheral examinations were suspended and almost all the internal assessments were cancelled but later on conducted. The cancellation of assessments took undesirable influences on students’ learning. Many institutions have been handling the internal assessments through online mode using different digital tools but the postponement of the external assessments, has a direct impact on the educational and occupational future of students’ life. This vagueness created concern among the students as they were stuck in the same semester or class without promotion. Likewise, many students who had appeared in the final or board examinations would suffer a lot as by the time they get their certificates, it might be too late for them to apply for the approaching academic year in colleges in India as well as in other countries due to lockdown.

4. Abridged employment opportunities: Many entrance tests job recruitments got suspended which formed adverse impact with a great challenge in the life of a student of higher education. The Indians who have been doing their jobs overseas became disappointed of their job withdrawal also. In India, there is no employment in the Government sector and fresh graduates are in burden of fearing job offers withdrawals from corporate sectors because of the pandemic state. Many students might have lost their jobs from India and overseas. The pass out students might not get their job outside India due to numerous limitations caused by Covid-19 pandemic. All these facts infer towards rise of unemployment rate due to this pandemic. With growth of unemployment situation, the awareness for education may steadily lessens as people struggle for food rather than education.

Developing tactics of India for Higher Education during Covid-19 pandemic-

COVID-19 has created many challenges for higher education institutes. They have replied optimistically and implemented various strategies to face the catastrophe during the pandemic. The Government of India has also taken number of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of pandemic Covid-19. The MHRD and University Grants Commission (UGC) have made several provisions by lunching of several virtual platforms with online collections, e-books and other online teaching and learning materials, educational channels through Direct to Home TV, Radios for students to endure their knowledge. During lockdown, students are using prevalent social media tools like WhatsApp, Zoom, Google meet, Telegram, YouTube live, Facebook live etc. for online teaching and learning system.

Some other impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic-

The COVID-19 pandemic exaggerated almost every aspect of our lives including the education sector. It reformed the education sector and some changes were brought during the pandemic like:

  • Schools and Universities had to shut down fearing the additional spread of coronavirus. So, to endure the education of students, numerous schools and colleges were shifted to online methods of education. The spread of COVID-19 augmented e-learning due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
  • Even though e-learning is bonus for the education sector, especially, during the pandemic, where there are times with no physical connections with teachers and other students. Some students confronted eye problems and headaches too, because of which some students insulated behind in studies.
  • As children had to stay at home, some students felt isolated and that exaggerated their mental health.
  • The gender discrimination was extended in education during this pandemic time as many lower income groups were affected by the adverse effects of the pandemic, they had to opt for budget-cuts. And as there was low priority on girls’ education in many lower income groups since before, there education was stopped.
  • As the internet and smart phones are not available to all, the education gap widened between the haves and the have-nots. Several children had to stop education and had to go to work because they did not have the access to other benefits of school and they lagged with the resources such as the devices for online education (smartphones, laptop/computer etc). People and the government had to struggle hard to bring numerous children into school.
  • Teachers too were strained as they had to teach the students online and that comes with its own challenges. Teachers couldn’t focus on all students. Moreover, they had to learn many unfamiliar things while opting to teach in online modes of education.

E-learning: Some of its advantages as well as disadvantages:

COVID-19 pandemic caused in the upsurge of e-learning. This condition led to debates on whether e-learning is a good substitute to classroom learning or not.

Pros of e-learning:

  • Due to this situation of COVID-19 pandemic students were not able to attend schools and colleges. Even in this state they didn’t stop learning. This was possible due to the e-learning opportunities.
  • Several girl children as well as differently-abled children are not being able to attend schools and colleges due to lack of amenities, and e-learning was a advantage for them.
  • E-learning gives flexibilities such that even if we miss any class, we can listen to it later.
  • Students can repeat the lectures numerous times if they are not able to understand the concepts.
  • Through e-learning, teachers can clarify the concepts using animations or other technologies, so that students can comprehend the concepts much clearly.

Cons or challenges of e-learning:

  • In the classrooms, students will not only study the subject but also interact with other students and thereby making friends. Classroom influences the total personality development of students. With e-learning, students will be neglected of this opportunity.
  • As students have to look at the screens uninterruptedly, it can strain their eyes, thus, increasing stress level in students.
  • With e-learning, teachers may not be able to concentrate on all the students, which is only possible in the classrooms. Teacher may not also comprehend whether students could grasp the perceptions or not.
  • The classroom environment is dynamic in nature, however, sitting in front of computer or smartphones to listen to the classes can be boring for most of the students.
  • Even during this twenty-first century, some students do not have internet facility. So, e-learning excavates the inequality between the rich and the poor.
  • E-learning may not create as much importance as classroom learning. So, students may not be inspired enough to listen to the class.
  • Not all parents are technically educated to help their children in case of any issues.
  • If the device has other apps such as YouTube or other social media applications, the students may become abstracted. Numerous students are already suffering from smartphones addiction. consequently, parents may not feel safe to leave their children unsupervised.

Post Covid-19 Trends of Higher Education-

Change is unavoidable which has been required by the society due to Covid-19. New technologies will undoubtedly challenge the traditional standards such as classroom lectures, methods of learning and modes of assessment. The innovative trends will allow the education sector to visualize new ways of teaching and learning. Some trends may be pointed as below.

1. May inspire personalised learning: Learning may not be restricted to classes or to any specific limitations. Students may be the virtual learners with one teacher leading dozens of students in this new age. The learning components may be improved to suit unalike learning styles and the learning insides may come from different sources to meet the learners’ objectives and needs.

2. National and International student flexibility for higher education may be reduced: Student protection and well-being issues are significant deciding factors for students and their parents for moving to international institutions for higher studies. New means of social distancing will continue for quite some time and may disturb on-campus face to face teaching and learning. Most of the parents will prefer to find practical alternatives closer to their home and may confine for less movement within the country due to this pandemic. The international education has also been affected by the disaster.

3. Educational institutions can run with different shifts per day: The need for social distancing may infer lesser students in each class. So, most of the educational institutions may work in different shifts in a day which may put more burden on the teaching and administrative staff of the institution to achieve.

4. Learning with social distancing may last: Everyone will uphold social distancing and avoid warm handshake, personal greeting, and understanding for a long time. Unseen restrictions may limit the fun and joy of campus life.

5. Assessment system may be altered into a new shape: Artificial Intelligence may benefit teachers to deal with assessment, evaluation, preparing mark-sheets and observing the performance of each student without difficulty. AI may use digital platform widely to decrease burden of examiner in treatment of examination and assessment systems.

6. May increase the gap between privileged and unprivileged students: Students from low-income families and deprived groups are the more likely to suffer as they may not be able to have enough money for high-speed internet connection and essential technical gadgets for online learning.

7. Teaching and learning may run with technology: Students will depend on technology and digital solutions for teaching, learning and involving themselves with the outside world.

8. Student debt crisis might increase: In India, number of students or their parents take education loans for their higher education. If the recruitment market does not pick up, student debt emergencies may rise and generate serious issues.

9. Blended learning may take the principal role: Blended learning combines both face to face and online learning methods. The pandemic has enhanced adoption of digital technologies to deliver education and stimulated the educational institutions to move towards blended mode of education. All teachers and students became more technologically acute. The old-style face to face mode with post Covid-19 technology method will lead the education towards blended mode of teaching and learning and it may convert the structure of our education system.

11. Unemployment rate is likely to be amplified: There is no employment in the government sector and fresh graduates fear removal of their job offers from private sectors because of the pandemic of Covid-19. Several Indians might have returned home after losing their jobs in abroad due to Covid-19. Therefore, the fresh graduates who are probable to enter the job market soon may face trouble in getting appropriate hire.

Suggestions-

1. Teachers/Professors and students should be qualified to utilise online teaching and learning procedure using technology. Policy should be accepted by the Government/educational institutions to deliver free internet and digital gadgets to all the students in order to inspire online education as a consequence of which people would get involved and remain safe during the pandemic.

2. Instant measures are required to decline the effects of the pandemic on internship programs, and research projects as well as job offers.

3. Numerous online educations platforms offer various programmes on the same subjects with changed levels of certifications, methodology and assessment limitations. So, the quality of programmes may fluctuate across different online educating platforms. Academic valuation of the students may be done through online methods or through quizzes and minor projects.

5. Government can support Higher Educational Institutions to fortify their resources to run virtual educational activities. Students also need to be reinforced with better approach to the internet and technology as maximum students are not able to afford the services. During this pandemic, the Higher Educational Institutions must emphasize more on virtual educational activities including television, radio and web-based education.

Conclusion-

This study has charted numerous impacts of Covid-19 pandemic on higher education in India. This pandemic initiated an opportunity for change in educational methods and summary of virtual education in all levels of education. This would comprise advancement of the service platform to allow it to meet the essential bulk of educational demands of learners. All service providers need to be prepared to deliver proper access to the educational service platforms to the underprivileged groups of population also. Virtual education is the most favoured method of education during these days of pandemic due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The post Covid-19 education appears to be a tutoring with broadly recognized online or virtual education which may perchance be a similar system of education.

Author: Aishwarya Awasthi from Indore Institute of Law.

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