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January 16, 2021 Saturday 12:47:54 PM IST

Pandemic Effect on Education

Guest Column

The world today is facing the biggest public health risk which is leading to one of the largest and the quickest reorganization of the world order. By the end of March 2020, the epidemic had spread to over 185 countries and resulted in the closure of over 90 percent of all schools, colleges, and universities impacting close to 1.38 billion students. The speed of the spread of the epidemic, the closure of educational institutions, and the transition to online teaching was so swift that it hardly gave any time to plan and to reflect on the potential risks or the potential opportunities that such a sudden change could bring. Given such a situation it is important to look at the impact and reflect on what has transpired and what is likely to happen as we move forward in the field of global education.

Negative Impact
Here are 4 negative impacts of Covid-19 on global education-

1. Sluggish Cross-Border Movements

Universities in many countries such as Australia, UK, New Zealand, and Canada are highly dependent on the movement of students from China and India. Some of the Indian Universities also receive students across the borders. It is becoming clearer that this cross-border movement of students will take a beating at least for the next two to three years and will lead to a major financial risk for universities in these countries.


2. Passive Learning

The sudden shift to online learning without any planning--especially in countries like India where the backbone for online learning was not ready and the curriculum was not designed for such a format -- has created the risk of most of our students becoming passive learners and them seem to be losing interest due to low levels of attention span. Added to this is the fact  that we may be leaving a large the proportion of the student population untouched due to the digital divide that is part of many developing nations including India. We are now beginning to realize that online learning could be dull as it is creating a new set of passive learners which can pose new challenges. Slower economic growth from the loss of skills in today’s students will only be seen in the long term and, as experts predict, run into trillions of dollars in GDP deficit.

3. Unprepared teachers

Online learning is a special kind of methodology and not all teachers are good at it or at least not all of them were ready for this sudden transition from face to face learning to online learning.


Thus, most of the teachers are just conducting lectures on video platforms such as Zoom which may not be real online learning in the absence of a dedicated online platform specifically designed for the purpose.

There is a risk that in such a situation, learning outcomes may not be achieved and it may be only resulting in engaging the students. Teachers also had to adapt to new pedagogical concepts and modes of delivery of teaching, for which they may not have been trained. In particular, learners in the most marginalized groups, who don’t have access to digital learning resources or lack the resilience and engagement to learn on their own, are at risk of falling behind. Having experienced this first-hand, and recognized the benefits during the pandemic, institutions will need to further harness available technologies in education to reduce the time spent by teachers on tasks such as paper-setting, evaluating and grading, etc. This will help teachers focus more effectively on teaching and course improvement.

Yes, the notion of an educator as the knowledge holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer relevant for the purpose of 21st-century education. With information readily available and students being able to gain access to knowledge, even learn a technical skill, through a few clicks, we will need to redefine the role of the educator in the classroom and lecture hall. This may mean that the role of educators will need to move towards facilitating learners’ development who will be contributing members of society.

4. Changing the Admission Process


Universities and colleges worldwide are facing a major risk in the area of student recruitment and retention. There is a debate going on among educators as to how to assess and evaluate the students effectively.  Hence, one of the trickiest questions for policymakers during COVID-19 is what to do about exams. The risk of losing students is so high that they will need to re-look at their admission practices, admission criteria, and the overall recruitment process which will include new methods of outreach and application process. All this has implications for education, which depends on tax money but which is also the key to tomorrow’s tax income. However, emergency funds are funneled into supporting increasing healthcare and welfare costs.

Positive Outcomes

Any change that is so disruptive is also likely to bring with it some new opportunities that will transform the higher education system worldwide and especially in a country like India which is planning to bring about a planned reform in this sector (NEP). In fact, as the new National Education Policy envisages India is not just going through a reform in the higher education sector, but now it will go through a major transformation in general.

Some of the key areas of post-COVID 19 opportunities are the following:


1. Rise in blended learning (Phy-gital)

Universities and colleges will shift to a model of blended learning where both face to face delivery, along with an online model (physical and digital) will become a norm. This will require all teachers to become more technology savvy and go through some training to bring them to the level that would be required. Teacher training institutes will have to pay special attention to this new blended learning format and the skills required for the same. New ways of delivery and assessments of learning outcomes will have to be adopted which opens immense opportunities for a major transformation in the area of curriculum development and pedagogy. It may have to be specially designed rather than transferring existing teaching methods to online platform.

As online/blended learning, as predicted, will become an integral part of school education, educators will have to include a lot of innovations to bring in the element of interactivity and collaboration in their e-learning modules to keep students engaged.

2. Learning management systems to be the new norm.


A great opportunity will open up for those companies that have been developing and strengthening learning management systems for use by universities and colleges. This has the potential to grow at a very fast pace but will have to be priced appropriately for use by all institutions. It is expected that there will be a massive rise in teleconferencing opportunities which can also have a negative impact on travel. A large number of academic meetings, seminars, and conferences will move online and there is a possibility that some new form of online conferencing taking shape.

3. Improvement in learning material

There is a great opportunity for universities and colleges to start improving the quality of the learning material that is used in the teaching and learning process. Since blended learning will be the new format of learning, there will be a push to find new ways to design and deliver quality content especially due to the fact that the use of learning management systems will bring about more openness and transparency in academics. Experts suggest that schools should now start adopting VR and AR technology to evolve from the traditional model and build a robust online infrastructure.

4. Rise in collaborative work


The teaching community to a large extent has been very insulated and more so in a country like India. There is a new opportunity where collaborative teaching and learning can take on new forms and can even be monetized. Faculty members/ teachers can deliver online courses to even students from competing institutions. Collaborations can also happen among faculty/teachers across the nation to benefit from each other.

5. Holistic vision of education

As envisaged by NEP, education must aim at the total formation of a student. An inclusive and holistic outlook is essential for success in life. We need to completely reimagine education. Instead of learning to memorize facts and figures, students need to ‘learn how to learn’  and how to solve problems. And they should be allowed to learn independently. We should bring the working world into education a lot earlier and take education into the working world.

Maintaining the pace at which people are gaining knowledge has been substantially growing, and so also the needs of students in today’s era. Hence schools and colleges need to adapt accordingly and they need to invest more in teaching and learning technology and incorporate it into their day-to-day work that engages and helps students to better solidify and retain knowledge. Let us take time to reflect on how this disruption can help us define what learning should look like for future generations, take advantage of this crisis and turn it into an opportunity.



Dr. Jose Cletus Plackal

Licensed clinical psychologist, BET-MRT, Jeevas Centre, Aluva, Kerala.

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