Aashi Sharma, a 4th year student of Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, New Delhi analyzes the impact of the pandemic on education sector.

Introduction

The new normal is living with Coronavirus. It is transforming every sector from the food industry to agriculture to education, etc., hardly any industry is left untouched by the impact of the pandemic. It is wisely said that to cope up with the change, one should learn to adapt as fast as possible. The current situation is asking every sector to transmute at a faster pace.

Highlighting specifically the education sector, it has changed drastically after mid-March affecting it at every level, from kindergarten education to higher education. The education system in India has taken a sudden halt and is moving towards an unprecedented path. Soon after the detection of Coronavirus cases in India, the Law colleges/institutes around the country were shut down. Despite the given circumstances, many students got an opportunity to step out and lean against the conventional ways. Unsurprisingly, some students were unable to avail the opportunities due to varied reasons. The change has proved to be transformative as the whole education system found space on various online portals. 

Transformation

In India, people in the legal fraternity have been deprived of technology whether we talk about the functioning of courts or teaching methods in the classroom. Some are not comfortable; some are unable to use it, and many are unaware of the new technologies. The traditional ways were in the mainstream. Despite all this, technology eventually engulfed the education system making everyone equipped with gadget rapidly after the advent of Coronavirus, which paves a path towards e-learning. Between all this, the condition of students in the rural areas and from poor sections worsened after the lockdown. Lack of proper access to the internet and not possessing required devices adversely impacted their studies.

The Laws in our country are mostly archaic, and so are the ways of acquiring knowledge. Still, the lockdown period turned out to be an opportunity to bridge the gaps in knowledge as the interactions between students and teachers adopted online mediums like Zoom, Google Meet, Webex Meet, Google Classroom etcetera. The education from a particular institute was not just limited to the students of that institute but was available nationwide. Apart from this, the lockdown period also brought an opportunity for the students to grab some valuable information from eminent personalities like Judges of Supreme Court & High Courts, retired Judges, Senior Advocates, CEO of top law firms’ etcetera. Various webinars, MOOCs, etc. were conducted by many colleges, organizations, law firms, etc. which immensely benefited the students. Also, research has majorly moved from the library to online platforms. 

Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had already taken many steps to digitize the education system through the introduction of various portals (mentioning particularly for law students) like Swayam, e-Pathshala, National Digital Library.[1] Soon after the lockdown, the ministry worked towards its improvisation.[2] Students unaware of such platforms were brought an opportunity to learn through unconventional ways. Not just this but various other free courses provided by MOOC platforms like Edx and Coursera enabled students to nurture their legal knowledge. Institutions like Harvard, Yale, Australia University, etc. are providing valuable study material for the law students on these platforms. It, however, is not sufficient to achieve the desired goal of digital learning across the nation. Now, the question arises concerning the students who were unable to access the e-study material and other e-learning facilities. The National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, surveyed from July 2017 -June 2018. The data says that the percentage of households that possess computer (Computer included devices like, desktop computer, laptop computer, notebook, netbook, palmtop, tablet (or similar handheld devices) excluding smartphones) is only 10.7%. Only 23.8% of households have access to the internet (Internet accessed via devices like desktop, laptop, palmtop, notebook, netbook, smartphone, tablets, etc.). Only 16.5% and 20.1% of people aged 5 and above were able to operate the computer and use internet respectively.[3] 

“Reconstruction of study material is required by the higher education institutions. It should be done in a way, which is compatible with e-learning and to achieve the desired objectives”, says Dr Shakila Shamsu (Former Officer on Special Duty (New Education Policy), Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resources Development, GOI).[4]

Apart from all this, there had been a negative impact. Students were affected mentally, psychologically and even physically. One such example is, due to industrial shutdown and economic slowdown, it has been seen that the students in their final year of higher education are adversely affected. The job offers were withdrawn in this sector, and many even lost their jobs. On the other hand, internship opportunities have grown tremendously as people are looking for cheaper labour to circumvent the situation.

Conclusion

Perhaps an opportunity lies in the crisis which may be availed by taking various effective steps in the right direction. Crisis is expected to set the advent of a blended education system in the coming future. The students will be able to have physical interaction combined with the virtual interaction and will not be deprived of digital learning. The continual practise of such digital interactions in future will avail students to bridge the gaps in their knowledge.

If online learning works well in the coming future, then colleges can offer more than just classroom knowledge. Individuals can learn through online platforms. The elite institutions and faculties in the country can accommodate more students through digital platforms, and hence, an increased number of students will be able to enrich their knowledge in the guidance of such experienced people. 

Privatization leading to educational inequality due to which education had taken the form of business where education is being traded, and the students were just the consumers. This destructive factor might gradually deplete with the upcoming digital learning and could let the students avail best of knowledge across the globe at a lesser cost. 

The opportunity is on the plate to promote collaboration through e-conferencing and various other modes at a lower cost. The isolated study culture and closed teaching community in India can open up to collaborative study and research through digitization. 

The stepping stone is needed for the required change, albeit it is not an overnight process. The future is unknown, and we don’t know till when we will have to stay with it. This is the time to avail the opportunity and transmute the system. The changes made today will be seen giving results after a decade or so, but things will change for the better. Let’s get equipped to leave the conventional and to train and adapt to the new normal. 


Aashi Sharma is a fourth year student from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, New Delhi.


Press Information Bureau, Government Of India, Variousinitiativeshavebeentakentopromotedigitallearningunder‘Nationalmissiononeducationthroughinformationandcommunicationtechnology’ (05.06.2019), https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/ru1470.pdf.

Ministry of Human Resource Department, Government of India, Indian National Commission For Cooperation With UNESCO response To COVID 19 (06.06.2020), https://mhrd.gov.in/sites/upload_files/mhrd/files/inccu_0.pdf.

National Sample Survey Office of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Key Indicators of Household Social Consumption on Education in India (July 2017-June 2018), http://mospi.gov.in/sites/default/files/publication_reports/KI_Education_75th_Final.pdf.

Ananya Koppikar Murthy, Online Higher Education in India during the COVID-19 pandemic (26.05.2020), https://www.orfonline.org/research/online-higher-education-in-india-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-66768/.

IMPORTANT – Opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of IJOSLCA.

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