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Reshaping the online education

  • Category
    Economy
  • Published
    5th May, 2020

With the coronavirus creating havoc globally closing down schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions, the education sector is under tremendous pressure. However, this is a major opportunity for technology-based education organizations and online education.

Context

With the coronavirus creating havoc globally closing down schools, colleges, universities and other educational institutions, the education sector is under tremendous pressure. However, this is a major opportunity for technology-based education organizations and online education.

Background:

  • In the wake of COVID-19 and evolving situation, given that the universities and the schools are shut down, more and more students are opting for online courses.
  • According to UNESCO monitoring, more than 100 countries have closed their educational institutions, impacting half of the world’s student population.
  • In what amounts to a grand global experiment in remote learning, schools and colleges around the world have cancelled in-person training and moved to online instruction. 
  • Daily watch minutes are almost doubled in the past two to three days as students are at home and attending regular classes.
  • Many students and professionals are also signing up for online classes, for entrance exams like the JEE, NEEET, UPSC, SSC or for upskilling.
  • Professionals are thinking beyond the traditional notions of learning to further excel their careers, using the power of Internet and advanced tools and technologies.
  • This signals a massive opportunity for education providers to reinvent learning to meet the needs of a new economy.

Analysis

Scope of online education in India:

  • India holds an imperative place in the worldwide education industry. The nation has more than 1.5million schools with more than 260 million students enrolled and around 751 universities and 35,539 colleges.
  • India has one of the biggest advanced education frameworks on the planet.
  • Online education goes beyond the realms of secondary, post secondary and tertiary education.
  • It also includes courses and modules for competitive exam preparation, professional skill enhancement, and other non-academic subjects.
  • The online education in India is evolving at a swift pace. The number of internet users is expected to reach 730 million by 2020, almost double from what it is today at 432 million.
  • India may replace China to have the second largest users after the US.

Constitutional provisions about education at a glance:

Education was sole responsibility of state till 1976 but constitutional amendment made it concurrent subject.

Fundamental Rights

  • Article 21A: Right to Education
  • Article 28: Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.
  • Article 29: Equality of opportunity in educational institutions.
  • Article 30: Right of minorities to establish and administer educational institutions.

Directive Principles:

  • Article 41: Right to work, to education and to public assistance in certain cases
  • Article 45: Provision for free and compulsory education for children and Provision for early childhood care and education to children below the age of six years
  • Article 46: It provides for special care to the promotion of education and economic interests of the scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and the weaker sections of society.

New National education policy:

  • At the launch of India’s 2020-21 Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman spoke about the need to make India’s young people more employable through better higher education opportunities.
  • By 2030, India is set to have the largest working-age population in the world. Not only do they need literacy, they need both job and life skills.
  • The government is currently working on a new national education policy. A draft version of the policy outlines the important role online learning could play in reforming India’s education system and expanding access to higher education.
  • The policy encourages Indian institutions not only to develop their own online programs, but also to recognize and award credit for online programs offered by foreign institutions.
  • The policy proposes that some foreign institutions may be invited to operate in India -- something the country has long resisted.

Government initiatives promoting online education in India:

Digital India initiative in mind, the government is aiming to give online education a big push, in an attempt to widen the reach of higher education. Following are the major initiatives taken by the government to promote online education in India:

 

  • SWAYAM: The ‘Study Webs of Active Learning for Young Aspiring Minds' (SWAYAM) is an integrated platform for offering online courses and covering school (9th to 12th) to Post Graduate Level. 
  • SWAYAM Prabha: SWAYAM Prabha is an initiative to provide 32 High Quality Educational Channels through DTH (Direct to Home) across the length and breadth of the country on 24X7 basis.
  • National Digital Library (NDL): The National Digital Library of India (NDL) is a project to develop a framework of virtual repository of learning resources with a single-window search facility.
  • Free and Open Source Software for Education (FOSSEE): FOSSEE is a project promoting the use of open source software in educational institutions.
  • E-Yantra: e-Yantra is a project for enabling effective education across engineering colleges in India on embedded systems and Robotics.
  • Other major initiatives include:
    • UG/PG MOOCs for non-technology courses
    • e-PG Pathshala or e-content containing modules on social science, arts, fine arts, natural and mathematical science
    • CEC-UGC YouTube channel
    • Vidwan – a database of experts who provide information to peers and prospective collaborators,
    • NEAT – an initiative by AICTE based on the PPP model to enhance the employability skill among students, in collaboration with Education Technology Companies and National Digital Library (NDL), a repository of learning resources with single window facility.
    • Many noteworthy initiatives have been taken up like Spoken Tutorial, Google Classroom and so on.

Significance of online education:

  • Cost effectiveness: If online education becomes a norm, no doubt the benefits are many, including cost effectiveness.
  • Quality education for all: Students may also no longer travel to other countries to attain a quality education that they are not able to receive in their home country for socio-economic or political reasons.
  • Access to everyone irrespective of location: Online learning helps to eliminate borders and barriers, both social and physical. Online courses are a great solution to the challenges that these people face as they are provided with high-quality education and on their own place and time.
  • A wide field: Increase in employment is another important aspect of this revolution. With Online Education, skillful trainers and teachers can expand their reach. Students in India can receive education by the top notch professors and instructors in the world.
  • Updated knowledge: Online Education provides professionals with the flexibility to improve and update their skill set while working simultaneously. This helps them in staying updated about the existing advancements and technologies.

The perils of online learning:

  • Not considerable as a permanent option: Despite the high momentum, online options are still not considered permanent alternatives to classrooms. The sector can at best make a useful supplementary learning system.
  • Lack of cultural experience: It needs to be understood that it is not just the classroom that prompts many to study internationally, but also the irreplaceable cultural experiences that international study offers.
  • Uncertainty & quality issues: Other issues, such as uncertainty over accreditation and quality control also remain unresolved.
  • Lack of infrastructure: Lack of proper IT infrastructure in smaller education centers can be a deterrent as well.
  • Issue for poor households: A sudden shift to online learning is bound to worsen the learning gap for low-income households, poor districts, and poorer countries. Online education is an elite concept that will only work well in developed countries. In India, where midday meals have great appeal to school children, setting up online classes is not a feasible idea.
  • Online education in India faces many practical issues, like:
    • stable electricity
    • a reliable internet connection
    • lack of awareness on cybersecurity and other technical glitches
  • The above challenges could easily impede a student or teacher’s ability to get the most out of the education experience. Overall, moving the physical education to the virtual world is a mammoth task, but with policymakers and leaders in the education sector taking the realm, overcoming these challenges is not insurmountable.

Conclusion:

 Summing it up, at this stage, online education is all set to transform the education scenario in India and the world. However, it would require a significant change in pedagogy to take advantage of innovation in this space.

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