Online Education in India: NEP, EdTech & Implementation
The last decade has seen some major technological advancements which have had a significant impact on our overall lifestyles. However all plans came to a standstill with the on-set of COVID19. This called out for a major acceleration of trends which were forecasted for the coming decade, with mass digitization leading the pack. We are at a cusp of a major change and the world is now committed to creating real and pragmatic solutions for challenges that lie ahead. But is India ready to jump on to the bandwagon of digital transformation?
The year seems to be an unending roller coaster ride as we look ahead to uncertain times. We’ve seen the country struggle through a grave socio-economic crisis while battling a pandemic, which has not only given rise to a gamut of political unrest on a macro level, but also taken a toll on the mental health of individuals. All of this has somehow overshadowed the fundamental issue that a nation should be focusing on, which is – education.
The rising cases of COVID19 and the mandate of social distancing saw a dip in the healthcare and the economic frameworks, but with it also cracked the education system of the country. After a hiatus of a few months, the government introduced the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) in July, which encouraged the EdTech industry. But how successful has the Policy been since its inception and most importantly, how and what are children being taught now with schools being on an indefinite close? The answer to that remains ambiguous.
Bridging the Gap
The introduction of the NEP 2020 stirred quite a bit of dialogue around it. At the core of it, the policy aims to open avenues for children via means of multidisciplinary learning across subjects that were earlier neglected which being a progressive step for the education system, also comes with a list of drawbacks.
Firstly, to fulfil the policy, the government has to start with strategic development of infrastructure in rural areas which has been disproportionately affected in times like these. It also comes with a need to appoint teachers equipped with the knowledge of all the new subjects mentioned in the policy, which will likely be an extremely challenging task in the rural areas.
To come to think of it, the Government was swift enough to announce the NEP proposing sweeping changes in schools and higher education without actually proposing means to implement some of the most crucial pieces of it.
Amidst a global pandemic, where the NEP’s launch should have been a beacon of hope for the youth and educators, it has failed to serve the rural population making itself useful only to a certain percentage of private sector school students who are just the tip of the iceberg.
When the country first went into lockdown, teachers tried to connect with their students through every means possible. But to cater to over 320 million students affected by COVID19, school closures have not only been a frustrating obstacle but one that reminded each one in the ecosystem of India’s immense digital divide. Weak internet connectivity, erratic electricity, inaccessibility of laptops/smartphones are just some of the reasons why EdTech is failing at the grassroot level. In such a scenario, how is one supposed to replicate classroom learning in their homes?
In the words of Neha, a 10th grade student living in a suburban area of the capital Delhi, “I miss going to school. I had a routine and I interacted with my friends. Now, we hardly get to study or have any classes. Everything’s online, but I don’t have internet to watch the YouTube videos that the school advises to do. We get weekly worksheets from school on WhatsApp and that’s about it. I wish to go back soon”
With the fear of contracting COVID and a lack of resources, parents in rural/suburban households now want to engage their children in earning money rather than “wasting their time studying” due to the diminishment of earlier family income because of the pandemic; this gap in-turn has has had a ripple effect in the students’ interest levels.
Lack of Nutrition
Since March, schools have been closed keeping in mind several safety protocols. This has also affected the routine of the mid-day meal care program.
“Most schools run by the government and NGO’s like ours provide mid-day meals as well and due to the closure of schools and online classes being the only mode of education, there’s a considerable drop in the intake of nutrition.”– Roohi Sharma, CEO, Samarpan Foundation
With the loss of basic education came other important side-effects, and the list of collateral damage seems to be getting bigger which the authorities failed to anticipate while pasting the NEP 2020 into the books of law.
Creative Problem Solving
“Classroom teaching is always an advantage because you can connect with your students in person. Shorter attention span amongst students due to no in-person interaction is a huge downfall of online education that we all have to combat creatively together. I try to make my class interactions interactive by taking up a small batch of students at a particular time. I encourage my students to not only keep their video on at all times, but also to dress up for their class as they normally would pre-COVID. This helps them being more attentive and enthusiastic for a lecture.”– Shraddha Gupta, Design Educator
As educators do their bit by coming up with more creative ways of embedding a new kind of learning, it becomes imperative for policy-makers to lay the way for new systems.
We live in a world where education has a direct correlation to one’s social currency but more than 60% of our country’s population doesn’t have access to that currency. This is simply detrimental to our own future. While there can be many probable solutions to tackle these issues, perhaps the first can be – the need to identify the gap between economic development and the education system and ways in which they can join hands in solving basic necessities of the ‘New World’.
Written by Gneev Nagi an experienced Brand and Content Strategist with a demonstrated history of work in the Marketing and Advertising industry since the past 5 years. She finds stories in culture, people and places and ties her understanding of trends in making brands sound more humane. She currently lives in Toronto and volunteers part-time to teach children in suburban areas of India.
Interviews and images shared by Samarpan Foundation – a not-for-profit organization based in New Delhi.