Time is ripe for long-term plans by private and government sectors to upgrade, retrain and rethink pedagogy
The world was not prepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, because it is not possible to prepare for anything of this magnitude. Every aspect of life, be it business, travel, education or social life, got disturbed. When the first wave slowed down and economy gradually started opening, the education sector did not really take off for various reasons. Post lockdown, the major focus was on normalising key economic areas such as businesses, jobs and transport, so that life could return to the right track. The idea of bringing the education sector back to pre-Covid level had few takers. Many people in fact wanted the education sector to remain closed, and were cautious about safety of students. A section of the influential class, including parents, consider education sector as just a means of teaching and training students, which it argues is secondary to safety and can wait. But they fail to realise that the sector is also an important economic wing of the economy. The livelihood of teachers, support staff and other vendors depends on it.
Now that the second wave has hit us and a third wave is being anticipated, the opening of the education sector is out of immediate discussion. This makes it tougher for those who are directly or indirectly dependent on it for their living. The void is widening and damaging the foundation of the existing ecosystem. The education sector needs to take necessary actions to keep itself afloat and relevant for the changing times. Let’s examine what the best way forward for it could be.
Organise online education
Education is one of the sectors that internet has helped survive these tough times. Initially, online classes were seen as a short-term alternative for offline education. Most institutes used it as a means of keeping students in touch with their curricula. However, as it now seems, online might become the primary means of education. When the first Covid-19 lockdown happened, most schools were unprepared for providing online classes. They hurriedly applied whatever means they had, just to adapt to the challenge. Most teachers had no previous experience of providing online education. On the other hand, parents and students also had no clue about how online classes would proceed and what to expect. The ad hoc measures didn’t really serve the purpose.
Now that online appears to be the only mode of education in the long-term, the education sector needs to organise. Institutes need to invest in infrastructure for online training. Teachers need to be trained for online classes. Parents and students need to be convinced that online education is going to be the primary mode for some time and needs to be taken sincerely. Efforts of a single school, college or university won’t be able to do this. The entire sector, along with government authorities, need to combine their efforts to achieve this.
Modify curricula to suit online education
School curricula might also need a few modifications to suit the new reality. Educationists need to brainstorm and devise the best curricula for online classes. India can learn from international experience and adopt best practices from other countries while formulating courses best suited for online courses. Evaluation systems also need to be revisited.
Make preparations for the future
Like every other disruption, the Covid-19 pandemic is also bound to end sooner or later. The education sector should utilise this intervening lean period to prepare for the time when schools, colleges and other institutes reopen for on-premises education and training. They should invest in infrastructure necessary for the shift. This will be instrumental for the system to normalise quickly, once the pandemic eases.
New-age financial solutions for continuous education
While ensuring systems like online education, modification in curricula, enhancing infrastructure, etc., the need of the hour is also to come up with new-age financial solutions for stakeholders in the sector. Till now, education loans are the only solution for financing specialised higher education, but there is no such support for education up to K12. Models like fee financing should be adopted across the sector and awareness about it must be spread, so that every parent can dream of providing quality education to their kids without the burden of any additional cost, as in case of education loans.
Upgrade skills of teachers and training staff
Online teaching requires modern-day setup and technical know-how to operate. While this looks easier for students and young teachers, as they are born in the digital age and are accustomed to such tools, but for teachers and trainers in the twilight of their careers, it can become a challenge. The education industry can’t simply upgrade them overnight, so a bridge programme and mechanism needs to be created for optimum utilisation of their experience to build a robust education ecosystem.
Covid-19 has caused serious disruption in the normal functioning of the education system. Its second wave and the possibility of further waves have indicated that this disturbance is here to stay for some time. The system can’t wait out the pandemic, but needs to reinvent itself instead. Besides, it is also imperative for the survival of millions of people dependent on the sector.
The writer is Founder & CEO, Financepeer
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed are the author's own. Outlook Money does not necessarily subscribe to them. Outlook Money shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.