Suresh  Chandra Sarangi

Covid-19 pandemic was a black swan that disrupted human progress, disturbed political, social, and economic life in all sections of the society globally and threw enormous challenges for the survival of mankind. One such big challenge was the disruption in the field of education which was sweeping in nature.

Education is one of the most crucial inputs of human progress but it received a major blow due to Covid-19 as it affected human ingenuity that may have a long term effect on our progress. The turbulence created by the three waves of Covid-19 in its different variant form has put a question mark on our future as well.

The world was oscillating between hope and despair due to the onslaught of pandemic and finding out solutions for the same. The intensity with which the Covid virus was spreading looked similar to the growth of hydra-headed monster, forcing all the National Governments in the world to stop classes in school and thus education became a casualty.

The development of Human capital and human resources becomes a critical input in the development of a nation. It was understood by the policymakers that continuation of school would be like allowing the breeding ground of Corona virus and exacerbation of the situation.


So, the decision to stop classes was a wise decision to control the onward march of Corona. Investment in early childhood education was impeded. Education in schools, which provides better learning outcomes, had to find newer solutions during the course of Covid pandemic.

As per World Economic Forum estimates, an average of 1.2 billion students were forced out of education without any future planning. The governments were more disturbed over phase wise Covid infection and several countries were trying out a viable alternative to keep the pursuit of education open.

Thus, remote learning through computers, mobiles, television and radio were used to provide education which changed the contours of school education forever. But, there was a problem, the alternative of continuing educational teaching was not so fool-proof and it had its drawbacks. First of all the pandemic was so sudden with such intensity that it distorted policy planning goals and there was no tested programme like this earlier which made the problem more baffling.

The three critical requirements of online education were round the clock electricity  supply, establishment of an internet system and third was trained teachers with expertise and skill to impart education through digital means. The supply of electricity in India was not continuous, digital infrastructure was inadequate and trained teachers were few in numbers. Students from low income groups suffered the most as there was no digital infrastructure.

The poor parents in India and other low income groups, belonging to unorganised sectors had nil income and they couldn’t afford the digital education. Many children became school dropouts.

Some were engaged by their parents in agriculture. Some were engaged in hazardous work like mines and industry and their dream of education died an early death. Only urban students and students from affluent society could be benefitted leaving a vast section of students deprived of education. Some felt lonely, had increased mental distress and thus the very purpose of education was defeated. This brought the digital divide world over including India thus throwing the concept of education for all into the wind.

Physical education, games and sports was stopped and science experiments etc., remained confined to the laboratory without students. The crisis in education became full blown which raised a question mark on our productivity, as 3 years of education was too big a gap to bridge. Notwithstanding the fact that the long term effect would be disastrous for our economy, society.

The Government of India as well as the state Governments swung back into action with adaptive learning processes as 20 % of children from a share of 1.2 billion children were dropouts from India. The country had no experience on digital learning. The Covid scare had affected the buoyant spirit of the teachers who lacked technical expertise to instill confidence in the students.

Lack of adequate digital infrastructure, continuous power supply and poverty in the families put the optimism on hold. The world however devised strategy and the countries implemented the same by adapting it into country specific problems and finding alternate solutions. Adaptation for some time remained a key issue, both for students and teachers . Of course, this was not full proof as learning suffered, and learning never became a personalised experience and developing customised products took time. Prolonged exposure to computers brought its own quota of problems and those who could not adapt developed neurotic problems.

Seventy percent of the students were enrolled in government school. The Government rolled out some innovative thinking like DIKSHA, which is a national platform for school education, e-learning platform,32 DTH channels were introduced to impart education  through television. Even radio which was available more in numbers was having a profound effect in imparting education.

As per government statistics, 24% have access to the internet in urban areas and 4% in rural areas. So, students in rural areas developed depression due to loneliness, difficulty in understanding etc. Mano Darpan, a social and psychological mechanism was introduced to reduce distress among these children through customised learning.

Every challenge is an opportunity. Behind every dark cloud, there is a silver lining. New education learning is based on profound experience and now it uses the platform to empower the students more particularly the girl children. Government has to invest a lot in stabilising the digital infrastructure.

Now is the time to educate the teaching community to provide skill based learning, track the performance of Teachers and students to enhance the scope of personalised learning through digital learning. It can be again said that Covid has forced us to innovate and thus we came with new alternatives and now the future of learning appears to be promising.

(Suresh Chandra Sarangi is former General Manager, Bank of India, and lives in Bhubaneswar. Views are personal)

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