The Future of Online Education in India (Updated 2023)
Lately, a lot of changes are being introduced into the education system and more than 1-year students have relied on online education that raises the question, how will be the future of online education in India.
The COVID-19 pandemic and consecutive lockdowns have affected the education system of India. Since people were stuck inside their houses for months, there was no way for kids to continue their studies. What they assumed to be holidays and were happy about, turned to be a disastrous mess. They were deprived of their knowledge so the government needed to find an alternative, and that alternative was online education.
According to UNESCO, since the outbreak of COVID-19 began, 1.37 billion students in 138 countries all around the globe have been affected by the closure of schools and universities. Nearly 60.2 million school teachers and university lecturers are no longer held in the classroom.
Since the whole country is under lockdown, e-education is the best and the only option left. University faculties are setting up accounts on online video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype, Google Classroom, Meet, among others to engage with students.
This new media holds out the possibility of on-demand access to the content at any given time or on any digital platform but this turns challenging for both administration and the students. Digital media today is the blend between the classical and conventional way of learning like books and notebooks and digital software like eBooks and pdfs.
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The major drawbacks of Online Education
1. Socioeconomic divide
India is a diverse country and within these diversities come wide varieties of cultures and beliefs, and because of it, India suffers a huge socioeconomic divide – the division of classes like high, low, and middle and that is a major drawback. Not even one-third of the population receives online education.
In rural areas, lack of internet connectivity, less to no power supply, and inability or unaffordability to buy relevant devices are the major concerns. Many teachers had complained about the non-reachability of study materials to lower class students because they are unable to attend live sessions due to a lack of network.
As an alternative to this, many classes are done by sending prerecorded videos through WhatsApp or YouTube so they can study at their convenience but even these have their own set of difficulties like lack of understanding the lessons. As a result, they are still deprived of the knowledge they should be provided with.
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2. Gender differentiation
Another drawback is the differentiation between girls and boys in our country. According to a recent survey done in the government schools of Bihar, out of 733 children, only 28% of the girls had smartphones compared to 36% of the boys. And in the majority of the cases, these smartphones belonged to male adults; often lesser accessible to girls than boys.
Half of these families couldn’t afford internet packages and their children had to rely on the lessons that were aired on televisions. But in those cases, girls were found to spend more of their time completing the household chores than boys, which often overlapped the time of telecast.
Another factor was that in most of these cases, parents denied talking to their girl child and offered to survey on their behalf. In some cases where they were able to reach the girl child, the conversations weren’t forthcoming as they had to talk in front of the male member of the family which made them understand how difficult it is for them to study with online resources.
3. Internet drawbacks
It’s a big challenge to use the internet as a source of online education. Google, Firefox, and other web browsers are good sources of information but using these platforms for online education isn’t easy. For teachers who had always worked in schools and universities, expecting them to be up to date with creating digital content and delivering it effectively online and for the children to easily adapt is completely unfair.
For them, two main factors, body language, and eye contact are difficult to perceive in an online class. Many questions arise, are students paying attention in the class? If they are, is the session understandable for them? Is their pace alright? These questions are common for traditional classes too but they are harder to address in an online session.
4. The mental health of students
It’s a mental strain on children of young age group (5-10 years old) as their period for concentrating is small and it needs physical activities to keep them engaged. But it’s not just confined to the younger generation, college-going students have complained about the same.
They seem to value the physical and practical way of learning than the virtual one. Subjects like science and technology need more practical laboratory sessions, thesis projects, and field trips to complement the theoretical aspects which are severely limited and almost impossible in online education.
5. Excessive screen time
Excessive screen time also becomes an issue to the parents whose children attend these classes. With class works, home works, assignments, everything going digital, children will be engrossed in their smartphones/laptop screens and it’s not good for their mental health. It puts a strain on their eyes and brain. With the slight ease in the pandemic guidelines and increase in online classes, the government had capped the duration to 30 minutes for preprimary students and two sessions of 45 minutes for standard one to eight.
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The Good Factors
Even though online education has many bad aspects, there are many good aspects too. Due to the global pandemic, online education has fallen into the most basic level- schools and colleges. For the students who have long-distance commutes, they find it a more flexible and easier option as education is reaching them and not vice versa.
For the working groups who wish to continue their education or learn something new, online education is a good option for them. It is more flexible, can adjust to their existing schedules and they can complete the assignments without sacrificing hours from their existing jobs or important chores of their household.
Comparing to the expenses of colleges, online education is more affordable and is helpful for aspirants who wish to go to college but couldn’t. Also, they can continue earning while gaining the education they needed.
Some key benefits of online education are listed below:
- Saving extra expenses- with the implementation of online education, we will be able to save the expenses of travel, lodging, and boarding and these fee reductions will mean lower fees for the online classes.
- No limitation- in contrast to physical classrooms, digital classrooms don’t have limitations.
- Flexibility- In physical classrooms, there’s a limitation to the local population of the students but if we talk about digital classrooms, faculties will be able to address not just the local population but also the global population. Even in terms of faculty, we will not be confined and will be able to hire an expert professional from around the globe.
- Nature friendly- by going digital, we are actually doing the earth a favor. Trees are used in the construction of paper, so if there would be less production of textbooks, the number of cutting down of trees will significantly decrease.
- Time saver- traditional methods of teaching includes years of studies and months of waiting for the final examination results but with the digital implementation of the classes we are getting the content on spot, can give examinations with the ease of sitting at home, and can get the results instantly (or within few days) on our smartphones and laptops which is less stressful and saves a lot of time.
Major Challenges while incorporating online education
- Incorporating online education in the general education system isn’t an easy task, with the new set of rules comes many challenges.
- If we take the example of rural India, almost 30% of them are not computer literate and many don’t even know how to start a computer. Having basic computer knowledge is important if we want to provide online education in every part of the country.
- Unaffordability is a big issue. For the low-class community like farmers, maids, household staffs, sweepers who have low income, affording a laptop or computer is a really difficult task.
- It is a big challenge for teachers too. It’s not important that a classroom teacher can be good at teaching in online sessions.
- Practical learning is not possible in online classes. Even if teachers can explain the theoretical aspects, students still need practical training to grasp what they have learned, which is most common in subjects like science and practical arts.
- To conduct an online examination, India has only a limited number of resources available and moreover, the numbers of questions asked are also limited.
- Conducting live sessions and streaming them for the children who belong to the rural part of India is not possible because of the poor network connectivity. Even if the rural areas are gaining knowledge about new technologies like smartphones, laptops, or tablets, and are doing everything to afford it, the lack of internet network supply is still a big issue.
New Education Policy (NEP) 2020
Recently the ministry of human resource development has been renamed the ministry of education and this education ministry has released a new education policy with a vision to reshape the education system of India. They aim to transform the education standards of India by the end of 2040.
According to this new education policy,
- The existing 10 + 2 structure will be replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure, i.e. it will start from the age of 3 and will last till 18. (3-8, 8-11, 11-14, and 14-18 years.) This will brings early childhood education under the ambit of formal schooling. The mid-day meal program will now be extended to pre-school children.
- The Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will set up a single overarching umbrella body for entire higher education(excluding the medical and legal education).
- Students will have the liberty to choose from the variety of subjects they would like to study across streams. Vocational education will be introduced in schools from Class 6 and will also include the concept of internships.
- Students will also be given the choice of multiple exits within this period. The government will establish an Academic Bank of Credit for digitally storing academic credits earned from different Higher Educational Institutions so that these can be transferred and counted towards the final degree earned.
- National Educational Alliance for Technology (NEAT) a regulatory body will be created to use technology for better learning outcomes. According to a learner’s requirement, NEAT aims to use artificial intelligence to make learning more personalized and customized.
- The proposal to set up a national assessment center, the PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) is to keep a regular check on the education system.
Strengthening the Teaching-Learning and Results for States (STARS) project will include CERC (Contingency Emergency Response Component) will help the Government tackle the learning losses due to School closures or any such emergency that will arise in the state.
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The new education policy has recommended the following initiatives.
Pilot studies for digital education
Colleges and universities like, NITs, IGNOU, CIET, NETF will be asked for conducting researches to maximize the benefits of digital learning which will include finding the most preferred format of E-content to decrease the risk of device addiction in students.
Tools and Methods
E-learning platforms such as DIKSHA will be extended for teachers to provide a user-friendly interface. They will be updated with tools like a two-way audio and video interface that can help with conducting the classes and monitoring the progress of students.
This will include investment in the creation of public digital and interoperable infrastructure that can be utilized by multiple platforms. It will be designed in a way that technology-based solutions do not become outdated.
Training for Teachers
Training will be given to the teachers so that they can gain the additional skill to manage the online platforms by themselves. It will focus on improving student-teacher engagement through various resources.
E-learning platforms like DIKSHA, SWAYAM will be asked to create virtual labs where students will be able to practice the theoretical knowledge. These labs will have tools for improving hands-on experiments-based learning.
Availability of Courses in Different languages
For the students of rural areas, television radios and community radios will be used to telecast prerecorded classes in their regional languages. This will make it more convenient for the students to access the study materials. Even the online content will be available for students and teachers in their medium of instruction.
Online Assessments and Examination
A framework will be designed which will be based on 21st-century technology to examine the performance of the students as per the updated standards of digital education. This framework will be designed by government bodies like School Boards, NTA, or PARAKH.
Digital repository, Content creation, and Dissemination
This will include Learning Games & Simulations, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality. The user will provide a rating system for the public to analyze the quality and effectiveness of the soft wares. Moreover, fun-based learning tools like gamification of Indian art and culture will be created with operating instructions that will be available in different languages so that everyone can understand them easily. A secured backup system will also be provided for the dissemination of e-content to students.
Standards of Online Learning
The standard of the content and technology for digital education will be set by the NETF and other appropriate bodies. These will enable the government to set guidelines for classrooms, E-learning, and methods for digital learning in India.
Blended models of learning
The traditional ways and modes of learning will not be compromised while promoting the growth of digital learning and education. Different modes of blended learning will be analyzed and the ones which the most appropriate method will only replace the traditional mode of learning.
Creating a Dedicated Unit for Digital Education
This will be established in the MHRD. It will look after the digital learning needs of both schools and colleges. It will comprise experts from the field of education, educational technology, administration, e-governance, digital pedagogy, and IT. These experts will work on delivering high-quality education to the students and resolving their queries.
Slowly and steadily, digital education is spreading and reaching out to the rural population of the country and we could see a high jump in online courses and students.
COVID-19 pandemic and consecutive lockdowns have caused a lot of disturbance in the education system of India. With the closure of schools for months and the loss in the business of school owners and trustees, people are leaning towards the digital platforms of learning. With the emergence of a new set of rules formed by the Indian government in 2020, we can say that digital ways of learning and education are going to be the new normal. But this is going to come with lots of challenges as I have mentioned.
At least 50% of the Indian population is confined in rural areas and is deprived of basic needs like electricity, water, shelter. If we want to educate that fraction of society we need to first fulfill their basic needs. Government need to take actions to provide them proper shelter and 24 hours availability of electricity, only then the new guidelines of NEP will have any effect on that sector of our society else only upper-class people will be beneficial from it and the rest of the population will still live in darkness and illiteracy.
In the upcoming future, online education is going to be a part of every person’s life and we need to be prepared for the changes. It’s not just an option anymore but a need. With the help of new technologies, the government needs to reach out to every village and provide them with the necessities of water, shelter, and education.