Answer. Education is empowering and redefining. For hundreds of millions of the young in India, education is also about discipline, development, curiosity, creativity and a path to breaking the cycle of ignorance and poverty leading to employment and prosperity.
The COVID crisis has shown that hoping for the best does not help. We must plan for the worst and hope for the best. The migrant labour crisis was a recent example of our inability to execute. Education is in crisis at the moment. Most probably, schools and colleges campuses will be closed through 2020 due to an increasing number of COVID cases. This could even extend to 2021.
Our answer to the education crisis during the pandemic has been to offer online education. However, there are serious issues related to access, devices, content, curation, teachers, training, testing, exams, grades, funding, facilities, salaries, parents and fees. It is estimated that only about 25 per cent of Indian households have an internet facility. For rural households, that number drops to 15 per cent. The worst affected, as always, will be the marginalised, rural and poor populations.
Digital education is not about videos of lectures on blackboards by teachers on the internet. It is about appropriate platforms, technology, tools, interactivity, curation, content and a lot more. We are completely underprepared. Government schools and colleges do not have the resources to provide digital education. Private schools and colleges are no different. However, they all want parents to pay full fees to be able to pay their staff and maintain facilities. The financial model for education is falling apart everywhere during this pandemic. In India, the situation is even more complex because of the lack of a proper policy on digital education, infrastructure and multiple languages.
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