E-learning in India, a case of bad education

Paper:

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Context:

In poorly performing educational systems as in the country, online learning may not usher in a revolution.

Indicator of the quality of education:

  • Equality of opportunity to all is one of the basic principles of our Constitution.
  • From an educational point of view, John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer, strongly argued that “[A]n environment in which some are limited will always in reaction create conditions that prevent the full development even of those who fancy they enjoy complete freedom for unhindered growth.”
  • Another point he makes equally strongly is that for good education, one must lead the child’s current interests and abilities organically to logically organised human knowledge.
  • This second point is an indicator of the quality of education.

The key issues

  • Education system in India was never very efficient even in the best of times.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has rendered it extremely biased and faulty.
  • The main thrust of providing learning opportunities while schools are shut is online teaching.
  • The Internet space is teeming with learning schemes, teaching videos, sites and portals for learning opportunities.
  • The content of all government sites and schemes is primarily the NCERT-issued Alternative Academic Calendar videos of teaching, digital editions of textbooks, and links to other such material.
  • There are three pertinent issues in this whole effort of online education and schemes that need serious consideration.
  • An exacerbation of inequality
  • The pedagogical issues leading to bad quality education
  • An unwarranted thrust on online education, post-COVID-19.

Exacerbation of inequality

  • The plight of millions of migrant labourers, many of who walked thousands of kilometres right in the beginning of the lockdown, proved the point adequately.
  • The COVID-19 shutdown has affected this opportunity for the poor even harder than their counterparts from well-to-do sections of society.
  • The government began plans for students with no online access only by the end of August.
  • These plans assume semi-literate or illiterate parents teaching children, community involvement, mobile pools, and so on.
  • Anyone with an understanding of rural India will immediately note these to be imaginary.
  • As a result, whatever online or digital education is available is for students with only online access. Thus, digital India may become even more unequal and divided than it already is.
  • The NCERT declares in its Learning Enhancement Guidelines or LEG that 60-70% students, teachers and parents consider learning satisfactory.
  • However, its survey asks a single question on the feeling of students using the criteria of ‘joyful to burdensome’.
  • The happiness or otherwise of the student while learning is, of course, important, but it says nothing about the quantum and depth of learning.
  • Listening to lectures on the mobile phone, copying from the board where the teacher is writing, frequent disconnections and/or having blurred video/audio can hardly and organically connect the child’s present understanding with the logically organised bodies of human knowledge.

No focus on concepts

  • Now a days, the emphasis is more on ‘tricks’ to remember for success in an examination than laying the stress on conceptual understanding
  • The secondary students are in a better position still because of their relative independence in learning and possible self-discipline.
  • The beginners in the lower primary can get nothing at all from this mode of teaching.

The thrust, post-COVID-19

  • IT has been presented as a harbinger of a revolution in education for more than three decades now.
  • The NCERT’s LEG states that “COVID-19 has created a situation which demands transformation in school education… the transaction mechanisms in school education may go through a drastic change.
  • This transformation of schools in the current understanding of pedagogy, suitability of learning material and quality of learning provided through IT will further devastate the already inadequate system of school education in the country.
  • IT can be used in a balanced manner where it can help; but it should not be seen as a silver bullet to remedy all ills in the education system.

Institutional environment

  • The importance of an institutional environment cannot be overemphasised when one thinks of online teaching.
  • Even when the institutions function sub-optimally, students themselves create an environment that supports their growth morally, socially and intellectually in conversations and interactions with each other.
  • The online mode of teaching completely forecloses this opportunity.

Conclusion

The implications of school closures in the country are not just about education ; they are manifold. An unprecedented social disaster can be avoided if more entities — Government and private — pitch into short-term and long-term futures of the children in this digital divide.