Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on Education Sector
By: Eric Nelson
In December of 2019, a virus struck in the rapidly developing Chinese city of Wuhan. Little did anyone know that this virus would take the form of a global pandemic that would claim more than 2, 75,000 lives and affect millions more. As the world reels from the shock of coronavirus (also known as COVID-19), uncertainty is prevailing, but even in these times of crisis, one cannot deny the determination by which it is dealing with the global crisis.
There is a famous saying that goes “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. This is particularly true if we consider the global education sector—which has continued on despite the virus. Proven to be the most dangerous virus to have struck the planet Earth since cholera, COVID-19 has badly affected all sectors of the world, be it business, medicine, hospitals, showbiz, justice, freedom, international relations, politics or education.
Let’s take a look at the ways this global pandemic has affected the world of academia.
COVID-19 and Online Education
The COVID-19 changed many things when it struck, particularly the ways that the masses were being educated. The pandemic shifted the academic world from books to online learning which has proven to be more informative, understanding, interesting, quicker and easier for the students, teachers and staff. The question is, will the same online system of education prevail after the threat of COVID-19 has subsided?
The answer lies in online technology. Even before coronavirus struck, a huge investment of 18.66 billion dollars was being made in 2019. This goes on to prove the interest of the masses regarding online and distance learning. After the spread of COVID-19 though, a huge jump was seen in the usage of online video conference tools, tuition, and learning software. Byju’s, a Bangalore-based firm is the most famous educational technology company which has been providing free online learning since its establishment in 2011. After the pandemic, Byju’s Chief Operating Officer, Minral Mohit reported a boost of 200% in the number of its online students. On the other hand, in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, approximately 7, 30,000 or 81% of students are acquiring education through online teaching, which is the biggest online activity in the history of education sector.
Where some people have shown huge appreciation for the current system of online learning, many of them consider it unmanageable, unsatisfactory, and a system of poor academic growth, as it requires more teaching experience, skills and training. Wang Tao, the president of Tencent Holdings, a Chinese conglomerate, believes that integration technology in education will bring a great change in the school education sector. However, online education comes with its own problems. For instance, in Australia, Norway and Switzerland 95% of computers are used for schoolwork only while in Indonesia 35% of computers are reserved for schoolwork. Also, it has been seen that students get easily distracted by online games and social media sites. Nevertheless, the ratio of online learning is 25-60%, whereas this learning ratio of students in classrooms is only 8-10%. However, all educational services such as teaching, scholarships, as well as e-learning translation services took the blow of the lockdown initiated due to the pandemic.
The Rise of Distance Learning
In a bid to stop the spread of COVID-19, governments of the affected states took the step to close educational institutes which badly affected the economic and financial position of countries and also teachers, students, parents and staffs internationally. As 90% of the student population was hit by this closure, it was reported that approximately 370 million children were not taking classes. Owing to lockdown the families of students could not work, which directly had an impact on economy, cost, food, healthcare and learning.
To combat this, many institutions shifted to online distance learning programs that gave the opportunity of learning while staying within the confines of one’s home. UNESCO recommended the teachers and the students to follow the “social distancing” practices through provision of remote classes. In USA, New York and San Francisco, 221 libraries were closed down to follow this practice. Other than that, websites for teachers “tips to teach online and webinars” are being provided for teaching online, while Netherlands has launched a website for teachers to have free access to music and videos for classes. In the wake of the pandemic, some countries have also opted to train their teachers on teaching and giving lectures online—something they are unused to do.
Changes in Global Higher Education
One of the many questions arising in the minds of students after COVID-19 hit was “Will it affect our scholarships? What about the commencement programs? How will admissions be settled? How can we extend our visas or can we stay without extending visa?”
To answer these questions, there is an urgent need for establishment of an organization that would offer a proper framework to address the issues of online teaching. A crisis response to deal with the issue should be enacted such as Integrated Nerve Center that would deal with the problems of safety, as well as acquire information from leaders, students, parents and staff. Tasked with the responsibility of making decisions for the education system, it would also assist in decision-making for education system along with designing an operating program that would help in making immediate changes in timeline, budgets and strategies while keeping the current circumstances in perspective.
Reshaping the Educational Sector of the World
COVID-19 changed many things when it struck—it reshaped the educational system as we know it. As students and faculty were restricted to their homes, the educational institutes came up with the solution of online learning and teaching. The new education system has granted certain privileges—all meetings are being held via video conferences. Where students bought pens, pencils, erasers and sharpeners as stationary, they are now using devices such as laptops, smartphones and tablets.
According to global statistics, approximately 72% of the student population is sitting idly at home. In 186 countries, more than 1.2 billion children are suffering directly because of the virus. To deal with it, UNESCO is encouraging the countries to opt for distance learning programs—a vital part of life in times like these.
Certain steps are a vital pre-requisite to online education—the availability of internet connection the most important of them. This is a problem since not many villages have internet connections, and as many of the teachers are not trained to deliver lectures online, it could take a few months for them to be fully skilled enough to handle online classes efficiently.
Reactions of Teachers, Professors, Colleges and Universities
The online education has led to many a problem, especially for teachers and professors. Unused to online teaching, these teachers are finding it difficult to deliver lectures online. Mindful of online bullying by the students, some of them have opted to not give lectures online but to post presentation slides, quizzes and exams on internet, while others have chosen to send video links to students which are visible for a short time. In the case of colleges and universities, it has become difficult for them to shift all their work online such as admissions, fees, counseling, lectures and career programs etc. At this stage, no one can predict what more changes this virus would bring to these institutions.
Effects on Students, Faculty and Educational Staff
The social distancing and quarantines are turning the campuses down. Students have been directed to leave the campuses which have created serious problems since many of them used to earn through their campuses. As faculty staff is shifting from classroom teachings to online teaching, their lack of experience is making itself prevalent—many of them are unequipped to take online classes. On the other hand, to deal with the issue of lost jobs for students, AFT joined hands with American Association to assist those students and help the staff by giving out loans, along with providing learning workshops for teachers as well.
The Last Word
COVID-19 may have struck in late 2019, but its effects are creating waves all over the world till now. As the world shifts from its old ways to new, unfamiliar ones, the people across the globe are finding it difficult to adjust to these new ways. The education sector has also been hit by the pandemic, making it difficult for students, teachers, and institutes to come to terms with the changes. While online education has many benefits to offer, it is still an unexplored and unfamiliar territory for many people. Nevertheless, in the wake of this pandemic, it is hoped that this education sector would continue its work despite all the challenges—as there’s no compromise on the students’ futures.
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