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Should COVID-19 be allowed to halt our educational progress?

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BY: Sameer Fida Hussain

Yet again we are finding ourselves in the midst of a crisis. Coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, has cut across boundaries to infect more than one million people across 203 countries. In India, the first COVID-19 patient was reported on 30th January 2020, and since then the number of infected cases is increasing steadily.

Many states took several preemptive steps to control the spread of novel coronavirus. The schools in Kashmir which had opened after a long winter break were abuzz with academic activities. The reverberating morning assemblies were infusing a new life and driving out the somberness that a prolonged winter had left. The melancholic recitation of prayers by boisterous/upbeat students was energizing lives.

Unfortunately, things did not last long and curtains had to be drawn on what could have been an exhilarating spring for students. Fearing an outbreak in Jammu & Kashmir, the authorities suspended the academic activities in schools as a part of many precautionary measures that were taken. The closure of schools was followed by the closure of colleges and universities.  Keeping in view the present circumstances, it was imperative to close the educational institutions. In a choice between survival and education, survival should take the lead. Things, as they stand now, do not look good as far as academics is concerned.

Presuming that things would fall in place as soon as the 21 day lockdown is lifted would be an exaggeration. Considering the ongoing scenario, the possibility of academic institutions coming back to life looks bleak. In such grim times, it becomes all the more important to search for alternatives. In this unprecedented Covid-19 juggernaut, education should not become the causality. Given the shrinkage in the academic calendar, the authorities might consider a syllabus relaxation at a later time but that will demean the very purpose of education. Seldom does education mean passing classes or graduating ahead without getting enlightened. If we sit back and relax considering that some concessions will be provided, then it will be ourselves that we are dispossessing with. Whatever has to happen will happen, but we must find a way to get out of this educational impasse and redeem ourselves educationally.

Education leaders around the globe are tackling the unexpected challenge of providing distance learning as the primary mode of instruction for weeks, months or possibly for the rest of the year.  We have to look for alternatives and attain our educational objectives through them.

Talking about alternatives, online education is one such alternative which might go a long way in realizing our educational goals. Online education is a flexible instructional delivery system that encompasses any kind of learning that takes place through the Internet. The beauty of this system is that it is available for every age and grade. Besides being cost-effective and flexible, it has become a necessity in the present circumstances.

A number of online platforms provide e-learning course content some of which have been given hereunder:

YOUTUBE: It offers a diverse array of programs as far as education is concerned. Just type a problem or topic and you will get hundreds of videos pertaining to that topic. Such was the diversity of educational videos on this platform that in 2009 YOUTUBE EDU was created, a place to put all the educational videos. Now with over 700K videos, students can find just about any topic they would want to cover. Many reputed teachers have their own Youtube channels and keep uploading content on the channel.

BRAINLY: It is one of the world’s largest learning platforms catering to the needs of about 20 million students, parents and teachers across India. It operates a group of social learning networks for students, parents and educators. Brainly provides questions and answers for students and parents looking for help with homework related tasks. Students use Brainly to strengthen their skills across core subjects such as Maths, History, Science, etc.

E-PATSHALA: Children from classes 1st to 12th can access digital textbooks and e-resources via this app which is a joint initiative of Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT). It hosts educational resources for teachers, students, parents, etc., which is available on web, android, IOS and windows platforms in English, Urdu and Hindi languages.

BYJUS: Like meritnation, Byjus is an online learning program for school students. It provides the students a learning platform and runs on a freemium (free+premium) model. It is commonly accessed through the mobile app (Byjus- the learning app) available on Playstore. It offers educational content to school students from primary to higher secondary level.

MERITNATION: Meritnation is an educational software which provides live classes, study material, solved sample papers, NCERT solutions, textbook solutions, revision notes and much more. All we have to do is select the class and sign up. It is also available in google playstore as an APP.

UNFOLDU: Founded by Harish Kumar, this is the most trending learning app for students between classes Kg and 12th. It features engaging video lessons and detailed analysis to improve the performance of students.

MYCBSEGUIDE: This app gives a free access to NCERT solutions, CBSE solutions, CBSE syllabus, sample papers, quick revision notes and chapter-wise important questions. It provides e-learning solutions to elementary, secondary and higher secondary students.

WIKIPEDIA: Wikipedia is designed to let its users discover and explore knowledge. It is an answer to our queries and doubts. It is a free encyclopedia having more than 39 million articles in nearly 300 languages.  It provides topics such as current affairs, trending topics and much more.

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are free education opportunities provided through various platforms and endorsed by notable research universities. Students perusing higher education can join MOOCs and get free access to various courses.

The advent and growing popularity of video-based learning have led to an unprecedented surge in Massive Open Online Courses. SWAYAM, UDEMY, COURSERA, FUTURELEARN, UDACITY, EDX, etc., are some of the platforms which offer free courses.

COVID-19 has derailed the educational set-up everywhere and Jammu & Kashmir is not an exception. We have to stand up and put a brave face to the current situation. Education must not suffer as we have already paid a heavy price owing to a multitude of factors.

All said and done, government must sense the gravity of the situation and restore high speed Internet (4G). Access to online education needs a high speed Internet connection and hence it becomes necessary to throttle the speed to 4G.

  • The author is a freelance writer.



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