Since March 22, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown, India has been witnessing its first break in normalcy in years altogether. While this lockdown has forced us all to stay indoors, it has also negatively impacted the global economy, which might go further down the hill due to joblessness, pay cuts and lack of available resources.
As schools and colleges are shut, education has shifted from the four walls of a classroom to phone and laptop screens. On the face of it, it has helped institutions to continue with the curriculum even during the lockdown. But online education has also brought to light the widening gaps between class and caste – as many students don’t have access to e-resources (computers, laptops, internet connectivity) to be able to attend classes from home. More so, some students don’t have a healthy environment at home which further causes a hindrance.
In the post-pandemic world, there may be a shift in admission trends, where a lot of parents – due to lack of savings – would prefer government school over private. The government can use this as a good opportunity to improve public education system, and aim to make it more egalitarian.
The Centre and the state governments should start making access to technology more feasible in public education system. As part of their CSR responsibility, they can involve tech-based organisations to make e-resources accessible and available to students, especially in government and low-income private schools.
To make that happen, our institutions would require a more structured teacher-training programme for government school teachers. They need to be well-equipped and trained to be able to handle all kinds of machines and resources.
But that isn’t the case in many government schools.
A lot of teachers are made to do administrative work which often leaves them little or no time to prepare lesson plans and assessments. Besides, post the pandemic, one of the major responsibilities of these teachers would be to drive the census exercise across the country.
Our education system is primarily focused on exams and results and this is the reason why some colleges have proposed to conduct online examination, even during a lockdown. While e-education is a privilege for the students from upper and middle class, it has proved to be a nuisance for students from lower middle and working class.
Regardless, our society and educational institutions continue to focus on grades, and not value-based education – which teaches students a sense of accountability and gratitude towards one and all. We need to teach students how to maintain basic hygiene in schools.
More than that, schools should teach students to be empathetic, to see their classmates as humans and as equals to themselves. During lockdown, we have come across various news reports on discriminatory behaviour against the Northeast Indians; on landlords and neighbours allegedly asking doctors, health workers, and airline staff members to leave their homes; on people violating lockdown rules to buy alcohol and so on. These instances show why we need to seriously focus on making education accessible and available to all.
We need to take lessons from education systems in Japan and South Korea and teach our children to be responsible to oneself and others, to be humble, logical and resilient. There is a need to teach them how, as a country we have to stand together regardless of all the divisive borders.
And only then can we look forward to a pattern of holistic growth of our children.
Ananya Bhardwaj is a post graduation English Literature student at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. She completed her graduation in English Literature at Hindu College, University of Delhi and Neel Duttaroy is a Teach For India Alumnus based out of Ahmedabad.
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