May 27, 2022

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COVID-19 and the Transformation of Education

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I never let school get in the way of my education

Mark Twain. 

The global pandemic which has forced almost every sector of the economy to adjust and find new ways to function, brings Twain’s words to life as we see the education system adapt a completely unconventional approach to studying. 

Along the years, the education system has received its fair share of criticism and backlash along with witnessing the mandate of its continuance. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth various alternatives to the standard approach to knowledge transfer and social conditioning of young minds. Like in every other industry, professionals in this field are constantly on their toes to find the right balance between familiarity and effectivity to give pace to the novel virtual mode of education. 

The economy of our nation is undergoing an unfortunate situation and unlike luxurious activities that can be put on hold, primary tasks must continue. Life must go on. The education and training of a country’s workforce is a major factor in determining how well the country’s economy will perform. 

Thus, this sector which has relied on a physical classroom model for centuries suddenly has to improvise in accordance with the social distancing rules. 

The changed dynamics in education sector with online classes

With a difficult task at hand, considering the population and limited resources like space and finances, the lockdown forced the educational authorities to jump into the tech world. Throughout the world, online classes were resumed as an alternative after the passing of initial shock and confusion caused by this unforeseen situation. 

The virtual world and social media have seen a spike in its user base unlike any other time or industry. Before the pandemic, schools and colleges were a physical space where students would assemble five to six days a week to learn subjects through various classroom routines.

 The schools started with the morning assembly where all the students stood in queues to follow through with their respective school’s morning schedule followed by Classes. Amid the classes, Students sat next to each other on benches while the subject teachers taught their lessons in person. 

Students who fell sick were sent to the nurse’s room and advised to take rest at home for the next couple of days. Children played sports in their physical education classes, studied together at the library and had designated play time with their friends. Similarly, in colleges, before the COVID-19 outbreak shattered all senses of normality, students lived a pretty social life.

 Morning classes, turning in-paper assignments, walking to class with friends, studying together, meeting outside college and so on were just part of the ‘college’ experience. 

It is only now that the students are appreciating regular offline classes. It started off with a burst of excitement amongst the student community as they got to study from the comfort of their own homes. 

At the same time, a lot of chaos took place across the nation as students living in college campuses were as clueless and confused as the authorities were. Decisions had to be based on speculation and there was no preceding global crisis to lead by example. 

The students who studied in the same city as they lived in had a slightly more convenient perspective to make decisions. A few weeks into the pandemic, various institutions began their online classes through online chat platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. These platforms gained popularity due to their friendly user interface, efficient video conference options and other features. Some advantages of this change from offline classes to online classes include student/teacher comfort, financial ease, transportation ease and increase in focus among students due to lack of distractions. It also gives a lot of time for students to be productive and research off topic, thus, enhancing their professional portfolios.

 However, the cons of the situation balance out by contradicting the positives. The biggest one being mental health of all the parties involved. The pandemic has affected all individuals and yet the student-teacher community find their way into making it to the top mentally affected segments of the lot. 

Disturbed mental health of the students with rising uncertainty and changes

Students face loneliness, confusion, depression, anxiety and much more as they witness their prime years of life being hampered by a viral infection. Prospective jobs for students suddenly become rare, even for the future, due to economical recession. Technical issues, lack of resources, internet problems, ineffective communication, altered learning techniques due to unforeseen circumstances are just some of the challenges that teenagers and adolescents have to withstand. The most obvious and fatal problem faced is the threat to be infected.

Hygiene and social distancing is a positive of online education. Students cannot afford to gather and risk each one to be vulnerable to the virus. In all this, teachers and the staff undergo their equal share of stress.  

Getting acquainted with foreign technology and teaching virtually can not only be intimidating but also prove to be ineffective. Students are bound to slack and show signs of de-motivation, hindering a teacher’s duty. Another confused decision had to be made about examinations that were crucial as a dilemma of mass cheating stared back.

Assignments and school work increased in hopes to cope with the syllabus and thus making it more stressful for everyone while they figured out how to deal with the global sense of uncertainty. The degree of solitude that the human race has had to endure is bound to reflect in all fields of life. But like in any other battle, we must look forward and plan our next move and try to predict our best chances. The pandemic has also highlighted some of the root issues in our currently acknowledged way of learning.

It is likely that the education sector will go through a more permanent shift in the flexibility of the learning process. The educational system has time to address its issues and rectify them as the entire planet undergoes a series of changes.

  In conclusion, as traumatic as this unfortunate pandemic has been for most, we must keep our eyes out for the good that can come out of it. The learning and a positive outlook should hold more ground in a person’s attitude than all the negativity the year has brought. All educational institutions and the system must prepare for a shift in the fundamentals of education which will likely affect the entirety of the population. Although, we can only hope for the best.

Author: Manasa Gowda
Assistant Professor
Journalism
Indian Academy Degree College – Autonomous, Bangalore

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