With a staggering 99.9% of students not attending schools worldwide, the economic costs are deemed high, but the social costs are going to be even higher. And digital learning in schools can come to aid.
According to UNESCO’s response on educational disruption due to the COVID-19 situation, ‘Even when school closures are temporary, it carries high social and economic costs. The disruptions they cause affect people across communities, but their impact is more severe for disadvantaged children and their families…’
Education, among other services, is fundamental to society. But ironically, it falls short of getting enlisted as an essential service, and rightly so. But the suspension of all the education-related formal activities isn’t ironic but tragic. As the economic costs sore high, schools and other higher education institutions are also worried about the psychological effects the social distancing is having on minds in isolation.
Formal education is a shared experience.
Would the students come back? What about the regulations that can be applied on the ones who seem reluctant to come back? or what about those whose parents are thinking of putting of the shared experience of school for a prolonged period of time?
Can learning stay suspended for so long?
While in India, schools also provide a large number of students with nutrition through schemes like, Midday meal, a prolonged suspension would prove detrimental not just to the psychological but also physical well-being of the younglings. Interrupted learning in primary school years can leave students with less than required constant exposure to inculcate in them the discipline to learn.
Needless to say, the bigger the system the bigger the loses if such blips are to occur in time. So NO! the learning like other essential acitvities, even if it may not be considered as one, can not stop, that too for such long periods of time. Now, we can’t stop pandemics, that’s why they are called pandemics. But we can prepare to get around them.
There are solutions, we just have to look up.
Digital Learning in Schools
According to UNESCO, there are 1.725 billion students worldwide who are sitting at home without a clear opening date of their schools. Digital learning in schools can help give students a picture of the future which looks familiar if not similiar. Though the digital learning in schools is not an entirely new concept. It has been proposed and even implemented in some schools. But to have a socital impact on learning the entire system needs to move to digital.
Online Classes, Assignments, Tests and Evaluations need to move online. Teachers need learn to guide their students remotely and run their classes virtually. The technology is there, all that is needed is a resolve to reach out to students and guide them along through digital means.
It’s time to embrace digital whole-heartedly.
UNESCO has been relentless in its efforts to put the best bet forward. Its Distance Learning Solutions enlist all sorts of solutions and services that can come to the rescue of an otherwise stuttering education system.
From Digital Learning Management Solutions to Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Platforms, digital solutions are aplenty. Strong avenues that even work offline in addition to self-directed learning content available on interent can help upgrade the curriculums across the world and can streamline the knowledge base of countries with differing economic backgrounds.
With some institutions already offering verticals of digital solutions, it is time to make it all-encompassing and horizontal in its adaptation and implementation.
The Time is Now
The world is in suspended animation. This is the perfect time to take those steps that we have avoided taking. Particularly in India, there has never been a better opportunity to look beyond what merely works. Digital learning in schools should be looked at as an extension of learning. You don’t just make students learn their subjects but also the digital medium itself which, if pursued, provides great dividends in the future.
And remember, while most of us stay inside, some enlisted in the essential services still go out. With a lack of options, they often leave their children alone which can lead to behavioural dysfunction, stunted emotional growth and even substance abuse in extreme cases. The students need their teachers now more than ever.
Schools make for essential learning grounds of society. When schools are closed, the future of the entire society looks bleak. It’s time to take some essential steps towards making our education pandemic proof by incorporating digital learning in schools.