The current pandemic has left more than 1.6 billion students out-of-school. Similarly, over 220 million post-secondary students of universities and other tertiary education institutions in 175 countries have had their studies ended or significantly disrupted due to COVID-19. In this pandemic, the global educational landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation wherein many educational institutions and training centres have transitioned towards the online mode of teaching, learning, and training to mitigate the impact of the Corona Virus on education.
In India too, the ‘new-age’ education system is preparing itself to the learning needs and challenges of enterprise 4.0. The penetration of digital education into the hinterland/rural market is evolving fast and the proliferation of digital tools and applications has further transformed the learning communication practices. It has a re-defined teacher-learner interface, training pedagogies, instructional design and educational curricula.
The roadmap of independent education institutions (rather all the educational institutions) is up for a drastic change post-pandemic. The new age schooling format calls for measures that encourage the transition from rigid campus and attendance-based systems and will move on to:
• Hybrid model of schooling – The integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and online education will eventually become an integral component of school education. A blend of ‘in school’ face-to-face and on-line forms of teaching will emerge with significant benefits where the online component can be delivered through both synchronous and asynchronous modes and will enable students to learn at different times in different locations.
• Home Schooling – Home Schooling was a thing of the past and will now be the thing of the future. Scared by the outburst of the virus, many parents may opt for this format of schooling on the pretext of health and safety of their wards. At present, homeschooling is not regulated by any of the Government authorities. As a result, homeschoolers do not have to be registered with any of the present Government agencies or authorities. Children who are homeschooled can appear for board examinations conducted by NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) after the age of 14 years or IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education).
• Changed role of the teachers – The teachers of the future will no longer just be the knowledge holders as the students will have access to unlimited information and knowledge through few clicks on their phones, tablets and laptops. There will be a switch of teachers’ role as facilitators of young people’s development as contributing (and employable) members of society, rather than just lecturing.
• AI will personalize learning – Artificial Intelligence (AI) will bring many opportunities and challenges to the sector. The traditional ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education will be ineffective and lead to higher dropout rates. But if utilized properly, big data analytics and artificial intelligence will create personalized learning experiences that will help in resolving some of these challenges.
• Examination and grading – AI will offload teachers from the burden of paper evaluation, assessment, markings, etc. With these tasks taken care of by AI, Teachers will be able to pay more attention to relevant tasks like new teaching pedagogies, course improvement, aptitude development, curriculum innovation etc.
To adapt to the changes in the future and heading on to the great unknown, educational institutions will have to be agile and undertake the following measures:
- Schools, higher education institutions and training providers should promote and encourage focused capacity building programs for their faculties/teachers/trainers.
- Develop a facilitating environment for teachers so that they can in turn support learners in a new learning environment; can develop high-quality digital learning content and assessment tools.
- Integrate AI and data management systems for effective monitoring and evaluation of learning outcomes.
- To prepare the workforce for a post-COVID world, institutions should focus on skill-oriented content and pedagogy and promote continuous learning amongst working professionals through the deployment of short-term up-skilling courses.
- Organize digital educational content to align with existing curricula can be critical in providing users and teachers easy access to relevant information.
- Provide supplemental guidance and support to parents on how to use and access remote and online learning content.
- Credible ed-tech companies (with criteria like those with greater than Rs. 50 crores of revenue or more than 10,000 students) should be permitted to offer online diploma programs and grant recognition to such programs.
- For all ed-tech learning solutions, digital content, e-books, testing tools, and technology platforms for all schools, colleges, training centres and students, GST should be exempted.
- Skilling and training providers should work in collaboration with educational institutions to develop skill-oriented content/courses.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has undoubtedly demonstrated the importance of technology but at the same time, it has shown the value of being resilient to face various threats and being agile enough to quickly adapt to changes. The pandemic is a reminder for always being prepared for an unpredictable future in terms of knowledge, skills, problem solving, creative thinking, technology and collaboration.