Covid — A catalyst in education

This is what a traditional classroom looks like in a Pakistani school.–File photo

Covid-19 has created a multitude of problems for the world and education is one of its casualties due to forced shutdown of the institutions. This is alarming due to the fact that 1.2 billion children are already out of schools the world over. But at the same time it has proved itself a catalyst in many ways.

The digitalization of education is no more a novelty in the world. Many developed countries have been successfully operating e-learning system, but in developing countries like Pakistan where a large number of public schools are already struggling with traditional methodologies of education, it is nothing short of a Herculean task to overcome the challenges digital learning poses.

Digital or remote learning has its own benefits; many educators and people believe that e-learning should become an integral part of what has become a ‘new normal’. Students retain more when they learn online compared to learning in a classroom. They can learn faster at their own pace, going back and forth with full concentration. The effectiveness of e-learning varies amongst age groups. To get the maximum benefit of digital education, concerted effort is required.

The pandemic has brought a huge impact on education sector worldwide. The prompt shift from traditional classroom to online platforms has created many challenges.

There is a significant gap between privileged and under-privileged sections of society. It has created digital divide. Learning modern digital technologies and benefitting from these are easier for the resourceful who have access to relevant technological tools but difficult for those who hardly maintain sustenance. Education is an important means of socialization and has been adversely affected by the shutdown.

Many private schools in Pakistan have started online classes, though they have their own share of problems. For one, many teachers are not conversant with constantly evolving technologies and therefore lack competence. This phase is very laborious for them as learning new technologies and planning online lessons take much more time than what normal classroom teaching requires. It is both challenging and time-consuming.

A private school teacher states, ‘These are hard times indeed, on one hand we are struggling to get ourselves accustomed to sudden shift of events, trying our best to learn new methods of online teaching. On the other hand, we are facing problems from students’ side. Many students are not reachable; students from rural backgrounds go back to their villages during shutdown, there they do not have access to digital devices’. In extended families there is one smart phone for 10 children. Moreover, there are internet problems in remote provinces like Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Educators maintain that students without help can unlearn many basic things and the educators will face tough time when schools reopen to get the students on track. A great burden is placed on teachers, pupils and their families to possess a variety of skills, competencies and resources.

It has been almost a year since we have been facing and trying to cope with this dilemma of schools closure. In a struggling country like Pakistan where there is a magnitude of problems, Covid-19 has aggravated the matters. One hopes the pandemic would recede soon but the burning question is what measures we should take to improve our education sector in order to meet the requirements of present times.

The younger generation needs to understand and utilize digital technologies in meaningful ways. There are multiple innovations to facilitate educators and pupils to continue their educational journey but what would happen to those students who have only one device per household or students with learning disabilities? It’s high time the education authorities in Pakistan rise to the occasion and provide an enabling environment to teachers and the taught to embrace technology and make strides in education.

The writer is a freelancer based in Lahore.

One thought on “Covid — A catalyst in education

  1. Interesting article, i also believe that we have already discovered during this pandemic that we can make use of e-learning and remote work for corporate sector in a practical and realistic way, to minimize risk factors and to keep up with our educational or work requirements.
    This is something that must be encouraged for not only safety but to increase productivity and performance, as it has been proven by research.

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