In the second week of March, state governments across the country began shutting down schools and colleges temporarily as a measure to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. More than 4 months have passed and there is no certainty when they will reopen. This is a crucial time for the education sector—board examinations, nursery school admissions, entrance tests of various universities and competitive examinations, among others, are all held during this period. As the days pass by with no immediate solution to stop the outbreak of Covid-19, school and university closures will not only have a short-term impact on the continuity of learning for more than 285 million young learners in India but also engender far-reaching economic and societal consequences.
The structure of schooling and learning, including teaching and assessment methodologies, was the first to be affected by these closures. Only a handful of private schools could adopt online teaching methods. Their low-income private and government school counterparts, on the other hand, have completely shut down for not having access to e-learning solutions. The students, in addition to the missed opportunities for learning, no longer have access to healthy meals during this time and are subject to economic and social stress.
The pandemic has significantly disrupted the higher education sector as well, which is a critical determinant of a country’s economic future. A large number of Indian students—second only to China—enroll in universities abroad, especially in countries worst affected by the pandemic, the US, UK, Australia and China. Many such students have now been barred from leaving these countries. If the situation persists, in the long run, a decline in the demand for international higher education is expected.
Needless to say, the pandemic has transformed the centuries-old, chalk–talk teaching model to one driven by technology. This disruption in the delivery of education is pushing policymakers to figure out how to drive engagement at scale while ensuring inclusive e-learning solutions and tackling the digital divide.
A multi-pronged strategy is necessary to manage the crisis and build a resilient Indian education system in the long term. In addition, a well-rounded and effective educational practice is what is needed for the capacity-building of young minds. It will develop skills that will drive their employability, productivity, health, and well-being in the decades to come, and ensure the overall progress of India.