Education in New Normal Age
Outlook Money|September 2021
Change is the only constant. And as the world embraces this phrase amidst the pandemic, the education sector in India, which is digitally divided, has a long way to go before
UJJWAL CHOWDHURY

Digital education is surely a valuable add-on, but education must primarily be face-to-face, encouraging collective peer learning, a sense of bonding and discipline, ensuring the mentors’ support and practical aspects being done productively. A prepandemic study in the US showed that students in online schools lose between 0.1 and 0.4 SDs (standard deviations) on standardised tests compared to students in traditional schools. Learning is a socio-human behaviour and engagement with peers is compulsory, aided by the mentors in a physical space, further amplified digitally.

Youngsters, on the other side of the spectrum with digital access are being pushed towards too much screen time without much thought for the repercussions this has on their health or the development of social skills. We are thus in a state of an education emergency.

Urgency to Restart Campuses

The Assam Education Minister, Ranoj Pegu, has announced the opening up of campuses on September 1. The West Bengal Chief Minister has called for reopening after Durga Puja by the end of October. The Telangana government has allowed schools to open with few restrictions. Delhi government has been collecting suggestions from students, teachers and parents on reopening, and shall take a decision suitably.

The most recent recommendation to open up schools comes from the Devi Shetty Committee Report, which uses international evidence and guidelines of the American and Indian Paediatric Associations to recommend the opening of schools and colleges wherever the positivity rate is low. Centralised decision-making won’t work here. Gram Panchayats and corporations must take localised decisions based on state government guidelines.

While it is indisputable that campuses must open now in the context of an education emergency, it needs to be done by maintaining physical distance.

New Education Policy Imperatives

The government of India, in the past, announced a New Education Policy, which focuses on transforming higher education institutions into large multi-disciplinary universities, colleges and HEI clusters/knowledge hubs.

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