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LOCKDOWN VERSUS SCHOOLING IN INDIA: EDUCATION IN DILEMMA

This article has been written by Ritika Sharma of Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies, GGSIPU, Delhi.

                             “He who opens the school door, closes the prison”- Victor Hugo

Introduction

The ordinary scenario of education in schools has always been of the classroom teachings taken in the schools itself. The recent education system in India has seen to be evolving and the age-old traditions have undergone a new makeover bringing about the whole new concept of online classes. Moreover, it not only the schools which are witnessing the new form of teachings but the colleges and universities are also under the sun. It has been observed that the Government of India has been constantly putting in a huge amount of effort in this field so that the objective of inclusive growth can be achieved as soon as possible. Gross enrolment ratio in higher education has increased from 25.8 per cent in 2017-18 to 26.3 per cent  in 2018-19 while in absolute terms the enrolment increased from 3.66 crore to 3.74 crore students according to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE). Thus, in the present situation of the pandemic, it becomes urgent to realize that the students of the schools require the utmost attention so that their education does not suffer.

The present condition of schooling                                      

The present condition of schooling is such that the classes are running online and even online exams are being taken. According to one of the comprehensive report which was being prepared by online KPMG, it has been provided that online education and the market of online education will are slated to witness an eight- fold growth by 2021. In the present scenario, it was seen that the infamous application named Zoom came to be used widely and a huge amount of controversies too began to surround the same. The transformation in the education sector has been made exceedingly and there have been more rooms for the stoppage in such changes so happening. With the advent of online classes being carried out for the school children, a drastic shift has been made due to the well-known pandemic, Coronavirus. However, it is worth noting that a decline in moral values and ethics as well as the reduction of the discipline and etiquette have been at the peak. Students and teachers both have been facing difficulties and the rudimentary form of education has been thought of making a return time and again. The pedagogy has seen a drastic transition.

Delimiting the limitations 

During the ongoing situation of the COVID-19, the need for online classrooms has emerged in order to manage the studies of the students at large. However, there seems to be a huge amount of pressure upon not only the students but also upon the teachers. In the initial times, there used to be a philosophy of prohibition of the internet sources for the studies and students must avoid online platforms for studies at any cost as textbooks used to be the Bible. However, the pandemic Novel Coronavirus has not only brought the term “novel” in its name but has also brought novice changes and transformations with itself where trends have taken a shift from complete offline teaching to a whole new scenario of online classrooms and study materials, thereby, delimiting the limitations. 

There are a good amount of advantages of the whole pattern of online education as it seems to enhance the flexibility and convenience of the students and the teachers as well. It also lessens the pressure on the students and they can actively participate and study at their ease and pace. The customization is one of the biggest perks of online learning as each and every student has his or her own pace of learning and due to this; there are many students who tend to lag behind their peers. Thus, catering to each and every student’s needs, online learning can be proved to be highly fruitful and beneficial. Students get a good amount of time for their hobbies and can achieve their goals with proper management. Hence, online education has loosened the shackles of restrictions upon the students.

There are certain drawbacks to the online classes as well. The major one is that it has proven to be a curse for the underprivileged students as due to lack of access to even the basic needs where these students are barely able to meet the two ends of the day, it is highly irrational and illogical to think of them possessing a Smartphone or a laptop with a good internet connection. It takes education away from students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds as not everyone has equal access to the Internet and then, although kids are widely held to be more tech-savvy than adults, there is always the exception as well as an assessment over a digital platform vastly varies from physical assessment. In the recent case of Kerala, a girl of Class 9th committed suicide due to no access to television and Smartphone at her home to attend online classes undertaken by the school. Although about 78 percent of India’s 1.3 billion populations have mobile phones, tele-density in rural areas is around 57 percent, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

Perceived Legality

According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), more than 1.5 billion school children around the world are using online education, following the global lockdown and the schools in 165 countries around the world have closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak, according to UNESCO. The Cyber security remains a concern with extra use of online education, telemedicine, and e-commerce and it will be soon witnessed that there will be a transformation in the way law is interpreted. The Madras High Court has recently taken a serious note of the reported absence of the statutory rules and regulations or the guidelines to as regards to the regulation of the conduct of the online classes taken by the schools amidst the lockdown in the case of Saranya S. v. Union of India and ors., wherein a petition was filed and it was stated by the petitioner that the conduction of online classes without any presence of adequate laws and orders to regulate the material being circulated thereon to the students is unwarranted and congenial for the purpose of the education and the future of the children. No interim relief was being granted to the petitioner. Thus, there is no legal provision in law in order to control, manage, and regulate the online classes being carried out in the schools.

The Economical Realms

Amidst the lockdown, it has been noticed that the schools have begun to hike the fee of the schools. The schools are providing the online classes during the entire period of pandemic and the hike of the prices of the school fee is extremely unreasonable that too when most of the parents have lost their jobs or are facing an acute financial crisis. The widespread protests against the fee hikes have been undertaken and petitions have been filed. In Mumbai, recently, parents groups protested against the fee hike by a national school chain that runs six schools. During these circumstances, even the parents are dubious regarding the fact that whether the fees should be paid to the schools or not. The legality of the demand of fees can be seen through the fact that when the students are only studying through the online classes then what is the need to demand the fees at a hiked price? The demand of fees cannot be denied as the students are still studying even if it is through the online class platform. The teachers are still putting in the utmost effort in organizing the online classes.  It is not only against legality to demand the hiked fee out of the students but is also an immoral and inhumane act on the part of the private schools. The Delhi Government has ordered that the private schools will not demand the hiked fee from the students.

The upcoming trends of education in India

Keeping in view the present circumstances, it is essential to note that the future of education in India seems to be novel as compared to the conventional scenario. The online teachings can take over the traditional methods of teachings of the physical classrooms in the schools if the situation persists. Considering the situation of the present education trends, if it persisted, the education will take a huge and a new paradigm of education will be seen with regards to the studies of the children. The school students of the primary classes who have just begun going to school have seen the education in a whole new manner from the very beginning and thus are not even aware of the physical classrooms in the schools. This will prove to be a whole new experience for both students and the teachers if the online teachings take over. However, the possibility of this situation is more or less confined to a few upcoming years but will not become permanent.

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