With Prime Minister Narendra Modi issuing a directive for a complete lockdown to prevent the widespread of Covid-19 from March 26, 2020 this has raised uncertainty among students who were expecting the resumption of services within a fortnight. However, this seems to be a far call for now.
The extended lockdown has increased concern among students as clarity is sought on the opening of these educational institutions. Most of them have cancelled classes and examinations while some them have been postponed indefinitely.
At this time, e-learning is the saving grace with schools and colleges all over the world doing their best to shift studies online.
But before we can take this opportunity to bring e-learning into mainstream, we need a strong policy to bring ed-tech platforms and online certification and online course websites under one umbrella.
1. E-learning needs a policy boost from government
Schools are struck by the halt in the academic year due to the outbreak and are scouting for alternatives to complete their yearly curriculum.These alternatives cannot be introduced without the consent of the concerned boards and the government.Introducing and integrating these solutions will certainly be a challenge for India, it is hence imperative that the Government of India, in consultation with all state governments and stakeholders immediately roll out a comprehensive policy which lays down the fundamentals of e-Learning and online classrooms which can complement the existing system of education.This policy will enable tackling the temporary closure and make sure that students don’t lose on valuable time.
2. Adopt policies of different countries for e-learning
Parents concerned about the break in education and there are growing calls to take a cue from countries that have formalised the usage of online education amidst lockdown due to the Covid-19 scare.
What is uncertain is the longevity of the lockdown and the measures to be initiated post May 3 as the central government continues to revise the ground situation. Hence, creating a robust set up of online and offline educational institutions are the need of the hour.
3. To formally allow schools to tie-up with ed-tech companies for e-learning
Whilst there are restrictions in place, there is also a need to maintain continuity in our education system and making sure learning isn’t halted due to the Covid-19 pandemic or any future eventuality.
A few schools have come forward and tied up with e-learning applications to help the students and these companies are also advocating the free use of their products to aid students in times of distress.
Although this is a positive outreach by these companies, the schools are not in a position to formally advocate these e-learning solutions.
4. Taskforce needed to frame guidelines to formalise approach
The policy makers rolling out these guidelines should comprise of government agencies, ed-tech solutions providers, school management services, academicians, education boards and edupreneurs.
By engaging with the private sector, India can showcase our preparedness in such extremities and jointly derive solutions for the same.
While the ed-tech can focus to rollout the content to be taught online, government bodies can streamline their efforts by focussing on certification of curriculums.
India can also then export these solutions across the world after its successful rollout and will have an outreach of over 300 million students.
5. Integrated Public-Private Partnership approach aided by telecom sector
India’s vast IT corridor and technological prowess will enable the public and private sector to jointly roll out e-learning solutions and quicken the entire process through its deep networks of telecom services which will help students in bridging the gap and time lost due to the outbreak.
This should be done under the Public-Private Partnership model as the government can provide the platform whereas the private sector can share solutions.
This integrated approach of the public and private sector would also mean that there will have to be significant changes keeping a separate provision for teacher training.
Moreover, these measures would help the country understand its capabilities better and aid students from remote locations who have returned to their natives amidst panic.
They can fearlessly continue their academics and not get dithered by the paucity of resources due to geographic disparity. An adversity like COVID 19 has only brought the country closer; however, through modifications in the education sector, we can open the window of opportunities to our students.