Covid-19 and Education Fallout

KO File Photo: Abid Bhat

By Ikhlas Wani

THE outbreak of Coronavirus has adversely affected education all over the world. This is because most educational sectors were closed down to combat the spread of coronavirus. Not only has it jeopardized people’s academic and career plans but has also impacted those working in various sectors as well.

Most countries around the world closed down educational institutions, whether public or private; primary or secondary; collegiate or research institutes. According to UNESCO, this disruption has affected over half of the student’s population across the globe.

The affects of disruption of education are likely going to be seen in schools. This is especially because schools are formative in the overall development of a person’s academic or emotional aptitude. With the discipline and ways of schools gone; students are likely going to find it difficult to learn as much as they would under normal circumstances. This is more likely going to get reflected in underprivileged groups who do not have the social, economic or academic capital to compensate for the loss of school days.

It is much easier for student’s from privileged backgrounds to find remedial ways to keep up with good academic growth. Even if some find it difficult to cope up, their economic capital will create a decent protection valve for them. This is not going to be the case for students from disadvantaged groups. Not only will many have to drop out of schools or colleges; those who continue might not be able to do as well as the privileged counterparts.

Students from underprivileged backgrounds don’t even have the privilege of having access to better resources. Some wouldn’t even have adequate space to take advantage of remote classes adequately. In this schema, economic disparity is only going to increase and the poor are at the risk of going further down on the ladder of economic growth.

UNESCO Director-General, Andrey Azoulayals warned that, “the global scale and speed of the educational disruption due to coronavirus is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education”.

There’s hardly a replacement for face-to-face teaching. Direct face-to-face interactions were beneficial for students who needed extra care. Now, with remote learning, this has become difficult. Some students with less resources might even lag behind.

According to UNESCO, some of the harmful effects of school closures for coronavirus are,

Interrupted learning: School provides essential learning and when they are closed, students are deprived of opportunities for growth and development.

Nutrition: Many youngsters rely on free or discounted meals provided at schools for food and healthy nutrition. This is compromised as a result of school closures for coronavirus.

Unequal Access to digital learning portals: lack of access to technology or good internet connectivity for continued learning during school closures.

Increased pressure on schools and school system that remain open; Localized school closures place burdens on schools as parents tend redirect their children to open schools.

Social Isolation: Considering the fact that educational institutions are hubs for social activity and human interactions, school closures can deprive youth and children of some social communications and socializations that are essential to learning, development and creativity.

The use of technology for teaching and learning or digital learning, has introduced many pedagogical advantages as well as challenges. It has helped integrating audio-visual teaching aids and reading materials and has also opened up the scope for application based knowledge. Those who are adept at the use of internet can now make use of open source websites to learn new skills. Many can even participate in classes or courses online and increase their knowledge base.

However, this again comes with its own limitations especially with respect to access, to a good internet connection, digital tools, digital devices, digital skills, physical space and much more.

As countries continue to grapple with coronavirus, many have to some extent adapted to the new reality. This must now be coupled up with a robust system to improve issues of access. Governments, NGOs, civil society groups and academic eco systems should work in tandem to devise ways through which education can be easily and effectively available to students especially those from economically underprivileged backgrounds, from conflict zones, from remote areas, girls, and for persons with disability.

  • The author is a student

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