COVID-19 has brought a complete change in learning patterns and education of people. Every action has some effect. As per the Indian scenario, the lockdown was declared at a very crucial time. At that time, students were preparing for and giving their exams. Due to lockdown, many schools were declared to close to avoid spreading of the virus at a large scale. About 91% of the world’s student population is positively affected.
Education system not only consists of exams but physical teaching as well and in various universities was stopped entirely. With this, there was a significant need for redesigning and remodelling of the education system to bring out a new normal. Dr Francisco Marmolejo also stated this, advisor, to Qatar Foundation in India, during his webinar, held by the Jio International Institute, India.
Many ed-tech firms have tried to leverage the occasion by offering free online classes or attractive discounts on e-learning modules. These measures have been met with overwhelming response by students with some start-ups witnessing as high as 25% uptick in e-learning. This has created a new framework for students for remote learning. But how much e-learning would be helpful, could e-learning be a permanent solution and what could be the drawbacks and probable solutions to those drawbacks should also be discussed.
ADVANTAGES OF ONLINE LEARNING
All the students starting from pre-nursery to postgraduates are studying online using various platforms. Students could gather a plethora of knowledge from all around the world; they could sharpen their skills and learn new skills. Online learning has no boundaries. Students can learn at their comfort level and their own pace. They can learn from various experts from different fields of imparting quality education.
There is no need for building big infrastructures. Due to the development of technology face-face interactions is possible. People are turning towards a digital age. Online learning provides for a lot of costs- cutting, for example, travelling, cost of staying in the hostel, etc. which will tend to lower the extra cost required for education, i.e. expenses paid besides the fees. Various kinds of international conferences are being organised online, which would help students to learn.
DRAWBACKS OF E-LEARNING
Every coin has two sides now let’s flip the coin and see the other side. Let’s answer an important question: are all the students who were going to schools can study during this situation? The answer is NO! Unfortunately, not all schools or colleges can adapt to the online platforms, some government schools and some low-income private schools are not able to adapt to these platforms and missing the opportunity of learning could cause a lot of social and economic stress among those children.
Not only this but, many countries have a problem managing equal access to education/services for employees/students with disabilities. His would lead to a large number of students dropping out.  In this regard, the State Government of Karnataka bans online classes for students from Kindergarten to class 5th first and class 10th later. It was alleged that as not all students can avail facilities like online learning and this would deprive them of their rights. Court held that the ban prima facie violates Article 21 and 21A of the constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to life and personal liberty and absolute right to education.
Distant learning through online modes is the only way available at present to impart knowledge to the students because of the closure of schools owing to COVID-19 pandemic, the court said. The bench made it clear that students have the right to online education, and fees can be charged while online teaching. During this time, it becomes the duty of the government to create an infrastructure to give education during this period. The bench also said that the decision has no rational basis to altogether banning online education for pre-primary classes.
But this is not only an issue; there are many issues faced by students involved in e-learning as well. Online learning does not have any personal touch, just like a teacher has during the physical class. Students tend to get more distracted at home.  Low data connectivity seems to be a big concern that students will be able to access classes but will not be able to attend.
SOLUTIONS TO DRAWBACKS
Not every problem can be solved; there are a few steps taken by other countries and recommended by various organizations to solve such problems. Access to mobile devices and optimizing accessible solutions to those should be the main emphasis. There are plenty of free resources available online. Collaborating with some private agency to provide for already developed resources.
In New Zealand, many publishers consented to readings of their materials from libraries and classrooms. They also agreed to be aired through televisions. A similar kind of agreement can also be seen in Australia where librarians were asked to provide educational content.
RE-OPENING OF SCHOOLS
The process of reopening of schools could be more complicated compared to the closure of schools. In many rural areas, public schools may be the only public building available, and they were converted into quarantine centres for COVID-19 patients. This would lead that the building would not be available for education purpose for long. Many precautions are to be taken for schools to reopen. Some could be compulsory thermal screening, mandatory masks. No sharing of personal belongings, not allowing more than ten students in the class, these are standard precautions that are used by many countries.
COVID-19 has led to a drastic change in education pattern. The new methodology so adopted had its advantages and limitations. Some students are not able to avail these facilities; here it becomes the duty of the government to build infrastructure so that these students are also able to help these services. We cannot adapt to this online learning permanently. So, there will be a need to reopen the schools so that other students can also enjoy learning.
Author(s) Name: Palak Gupta (Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur)
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