Primary Education Opportunities & Challenges
TOPIC: General Studies 2
- Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Education
In News: In the second week of March, state governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. It’s close to two months and there is no certainty when they will reopen. This is a crucial time for the education sector.
As the days pass by with no immediate solution to stop the outbreak of Covid-19, school closures will not only have a short-term impact on the continuity of learning but will also have far-reaching consequences.
- The structure of schooling and learning, including teaching and assessment methodologies, was the first to be affected by these closures.
- Only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching methods. Their low-income private and government school counterparts, on the other hand, have completely shut down for not having access to e-learning solutions.
The 2017-18 National Sample Survey reported only 23.8 percent of Indian households had internet access. In rural households (66 percent of the population), only 14.9 percent had access, and in urban households only 42 percent had access. And males are the primary users: 16 percent of women had access to mobile internet, compared to 36 percent of men. Young people’s access is even less: A recent news report stated only 12.5 percent of students had access to smartphones. Furthermore, most teachers are ill-equipped for online teaching.
According to data collected by the National Sample Survey as a part of the Survey on Education (2014), only 27% of households in India have some member with access to internet. Access to internet does not necessarily mean that a household actually has internet at home. In fact, only half of the households (47%) that have any access to internet own a computing device (including a smartphone). While direct estimates on how many households have internet access at home are hard to get, one can make a rough estimate by assuming that those who have internet at home report some internet access in general, and report possession of a device that can be used to go on the web.
Using this definition, only 12.5% of the households of students in India have internet access at home. There is an urban-rural divide: 27% have access in urban areas and only 5% in rural areas.
So what are the lessons learnt?
A multi-pronged strategy is necessary to manage the crisis and build a resilient Indian education system in the long term. The disruption to education systems worldwide offers valuable lessons and provides a unique opportunity to reimagine education, the curriculum, and pedagogy.
- Address the digital divide – inclusive e-learning solutions:Technology has the potential to achieve universal quality education and improve learning outcomes. But in order to unleash its potential, the digital divide (and its embedded gender divide) must be addressed. Digital capabilities, the required infrastructure, and connectivity must reach the remotest and poorest communities. Access to technology and the internet is an urgent requirement and should no longer be a luxury.
- Reorient the curriculum.While teachers are struggling to learn digital ways of communicating with their students, it is clear that we need to pay close attention to what we teach. This crisis is teaching us that curricula must be grounded in students’ realities, cultivating critical, creative, and flexible thinking, resilience, and empathy in students. Developing a symbiotic relationship with our environment has taken on a new urgency, and teachers must help students think about their relationship with the universe and everyone and everything in it.
- Empower a wider cadre of teachers.This crisis is forcing teachers to reinvent their roles from that of transferring information to enabling learning. The shift to distance learning has afforded many opportunities to teach differently, encouraging self-learning, providing opportunities to learn from diverse resources, and allowing customized learning for diverse needs through high-tech and low-tech sources. Improving the education system requires a decentralized, democratic community-based approach, where community ownership of education is cultivated. Important for this is the hiring of local teachers (with adequate Dalit and female representation), which increases teachers’ accountability to children’s families and their ability to empathize with students’ lives.
- Establish quality assurance mechanisms and quality benchmark for online learning: Many e-learning players offer multiple courses on the same subjects with different levels of certifications, methodology and assessment parameters. So, the quality of courses may differ across different e-learning platforms.
Connecting the Dots:
- If it takes a village to raise a child, we must empower the village to teach the child. Will this be possible? Discuss.
- Coronavirus crisis’ impact on rural India exposes inequality and pitfalls in access to education. Discuss.
- Essay: No Child Left Behind – A Distant Reality?