Schools in India have been instrumental in providing a holistic learning environment for children from all backgrounds. Meaningful interactions with teachers and peers have been vital in developing interpersonal skills. Children can participate in groups and co-curricular activities like sports, dance and music that cater to both cognitive and non-cognitive growth.
At the same time, traditional instructional environments have been critiqued for ignoring individual differences and needs of the learners and not paying attention to problem-solving and critical thinking of different students.
The pandemic has pushed us to rethink and evolve a more inclusive and resilient education system. Widespread, easy access to online education improves the dissemination of information and creates space for the innovation of new forms of learning. Technology can augment lectures and offer multiple education methods according to the student’s understanding and ability to learn. Online learning is comparatively more flexible and can efficiently override the limitations of classroom lectures.
In other words, technology can make it easier for struggling students to revisit resources like videos and understand them at their own pace. E-Learning has created an equitable learning environment for students who are unable to perform in pressure and are prone to stress-related to the competition. The scope of commenting and live features has removed the drawbacks and virtual classrooms.
In a digital learning platform, students become important stakeholders in determining the learning process for them and providing feedback to administration and teachers. The present scenario has forced educators to reinvent their roles from that of transferring information to enabling learning.
Virtual learning would require a multipronged strategy with particular emphasis on issues related to its accessibility to ensure equitable education outcomes for all children. This includes ensuring the availability and rapid expansion of digital connectivity to the most remote of locations.
It is also imperative to build a curriculum that is conducive to home learning. Online learning has to be restructured into comprehensive and straightforward content. The development of this content can be enabled through a public-private partnership. The material developed for private schools can be extended for public schools as well, free of cost or at nominal rates.
As a society, we have not been able to eliminate the gender gap in education, and home-schooling can further decrease the girl child’s participation. A separate program has to be developed to monitor the continuation of education for girls, even at home. The environment at home should be encouraging, which can be ensured through the parent’s participation. Enhancing digital skills for both teachers and parents will develop confidence in the usage of EdTech for educational purposes.
While children are in charge of their learning, the role of teachers in nurturing the development of students cannot be substituted. Therefore, the visual connection between the teacher and students must be integrated into designing any online education sessions using various video conferencing tools. The government and non-government stakeholders will have to prioritise equitable education for the underserved population of this country.
The pandemic has allowed strengthening the prospects of digital education. Technology and the internet have the potential to expand and improve India’s current education scenario, but it cannot be considered a substitute for the spirit of classroom learning.
The combination of classroom teaching and virtual education is an important institutional reform necessary to ensure continuous and efficient delivery of education. The question of its effectiveness will ultimately depend on the extent to which we prioritise education for our children. This can only be made possible with positive intent and actions from all the stakeholders involved.