We weep over the investment of money but not on education which has the status of our future investment
Dr. Ashaq Hussain
It will take a while to figure out which areas of life have been affected by the Corona disaster. The fact is that thousands of lives have been lost. They include the big names who were our most valuable assets. The fear of covid deaths inside each region of the world has created an atmosphere that had a negative effect on the nerves. Inflation, unemployment, declining incomes or poor business conditions have affected domestic and family life. Tragic incidents of marital discord and separation increased. Thousands lost their jobs. Wage earners are particularly affected. The economy is in the throes of a catastrophe. The truth is that it will take a long time to cover the countless negative effects of Corona. It is unknown at this time when and what it will do and even after leaving the post.
In an effort to curb its spread, government have moved to suspend face-to-face teaching in schools and other educational hubs, affecting major chunk of student population—the largest disruption to education in history. In this situation, when I look around and think about how badly our children and our young generation are being affected by this epidemic, it is very sad. In fact, by referring to the online education we may be deceiving ourselves and the public that despite the closure of schools, colleges and universities, we have not allowed the educational process to be affected. This self-deception is far from the truth. The experience of online education is brand new to us. Teachers are not aware of its nuances and students do not understand its nuances. Teachers and students did not receive online education training. Then it needs a smart phone, laptop, internet, etc. Putting all these things together, it is possible to estimate how many students online education will be bringing in its circle and what percentage of the total number will be? You leave the quality of education aside. We have come to believe that all students have access to the machining or technical facilities that are available online. Lines are essential for education. No one thinks that not all students are sitting in big cities. Institutions closed, hostels closed and students went to their homes.
Someone is sitting in a town with all required facilities, someone in a village with limited facilities and some others in far flung areas or in the mountain ranges with no online mode. Many teachers also suffer from the same problems. The fact is that even in big cities, internet services are not very good. In remote areas, these facilities are almost non-existent. And even if they are, they are ineffective. A full PhD dissertation can be written on various aspects of online education, its actual results and its impact. Although in the current situation online education is the only available option, it is not a viable alternative to formal classroom education. We can definitely use it and we are using it to our advantage. Now let's move on to school education and to colleges that are located in villages or small towns. An estimated 70% of children are enrolled in these institutions. These institutions are generally run by the government. We are all well aware of their plight. Most of them lack clean drinking water, toilets and even essential components like fences. Ever since the Corona epidemic broke out and educational institutions closed, 70% of these students have lost touch with education. No arrangements for their so called online education are possible, nor are their parents educated enough to keep their children attached to books at home. Seventy percent of these students have no connection with education for two years. Unfortunately, this is not a problem for us. We don't even mention it. We have no problem with that. We weep over the investment of money, but the young generation, which has the status of our future investment, has no special place in our eyes.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that governments should provide primary education for all on the basis of equal opportunity. To weigh the costs of school closures against public health benefits, it is crucial to know whether all students irrespective of the school, region and economic background are learning equally or whether disadvantaged students do so disproportionately. One of the great slogans and promises of the government is the implementation of uniform education system throughout the country. This is a very good proposal and a very attractive slogan. But sadly, this covid shut down of educational institutions has put this slogan or promise into basket. Undoubtedly, this is a difficult task, where five or six parallel streams or classes of education are flowing at the same time, it is not easy to find the main objective of an education system. We are still killing tomcats for a single curriculum then what to think of NEP-2020. The problems of the children studying in the government educational institutions in the villages are also related to the official slogan of uniform education system and new national educational policy. When can't provide equal facilities to urban and rural children in offline mode of education then what to think in this season of epidemic. Large English medium schools in the cities are organizing some kind of online classes for the children. But this facility is no longer provided by government schools in rural areas and even in some city schools. It seems that the Corona epidemic has deepened and deepened the class divisions of our society. There is a day laborer class who needs to go out and earn a living so that the hearth of the house can burn. There is a well-to-do class that believes that a severe lockdown is necessary to avoid an epidemic. We are entangled in the priorities of these two classes. So no one can decide bluntly. The same thing is happening with education. Although the children of the privileged class remained attached to education to some extent, if not online, they have tutors at home. But more than 70 per cent of children remained the same as day laborers.
Even those students who were connected with online education were unable to learn practical work through online learning modalities which is compulsory component of education especially for science and engineering students. Education and skill-development are dependent on each other. It is difficult to imagine students learning physics and chemistry outside of laboratories. Similarly, an engineer cannot simply have the knowledge of combustion engine without the skill to design and operate it. They can only learn and assess knowledge component in online mode. Due to lack of immediate feedback, teachers are unable to assess the student’s understanding during online lecturing. The students also report limited attention span and resource intensive nature of online learning as a limitation.
It is, therefore, important to differentiate between knowledge and skill. While knowledge can be delivered and learned, skill-development needs experiment and experience that may not be feasible online. Online education producing graduates without skills may aggravate the employability issue further. This may lead to a deteriorating human capital and underemployment in the economy. A complete understanding of the long, medium or short term implications of this crisis is still forming. It is premature to predict that when educational institutions will open. Let the dear country get rid of this epidemic by this time and let the educational process be resumed. What will be our future if we do not take steps to close or at least close this gulf? On the one hand, economic blockade and there by the significant budget cuts on educational activities and on the other hand the closure of the educational institutions are proving disastrous to future buds of our country. This adulteration in the education system may have a long gestation period. A large pool of unskilled human capital will come out of the online pedagogy to join the future workforce and face employability challenges. This situation is very worrying. Even after the epidemic, if our attitude towards education remained the same before or during the epidemic, it would be a great misfortune for the nation and the country.
Dr. Ashaq Hussain is Assistant Professor (Selection Grade) at Govt. Degree College Chatroo and can be reached at [email protected]