Sultan Alam (M.Phil/M.Sc/M.Ed)
The Aga Khan University- Professional Development Center North
The sudden outbreak of COVID-19 has definitely left a direct impact on human health, but its indirect implications are seen in all aspects of human life. Education, one of the key pillars of human development is severely affected by this menace since last six months or so.
The unprecedented worldwide pandemic has jammed the wheels of business, education, tourism, organization’s working patterns and trades for an indefinite time. This crisis has confined more than 1.8 billion students within their homes, causing certain level of discomfort, anxieties and other psychological disorders. According to UNESCO (2020), around 80% of the learners are the direct victims who otherwise have been engaged with their studies in various educational institutions.
For real learning, attending face-to-face classes under supervision of the teachers is the best strategy to develop required knowledge and skills. The learners develop various skills including social, psychological, and moral and knowledge-based skills. If a learners spends even a shorter time in schools, they can improve these important skills. In contrast, even a relatively short period of missed school will have consequences for skill progression. So, we can easily imagine that how much learning capabilities of learners have been affected during this half-year’s period.
It is rightly said that every challenge creates opportunities for eye-openers. Besides so many negative effects, this crisis has provided certain opportunities to revisit our customary practices. In short, it has established a new paradigm shift in teaching and learning processes. In this unpredicted situation, online schooling has shown some rays which somehow have been able to start the wheel of education across the world. Currently, the mode of learning has been shifted towards visual classrooms and various institutions have developed certain strategies to involve students in learning processes through online modes.
The technologically-driven learning approaches have shifted the mode of learning from teacher-centric to student-centric. As students have no direct face-to-face interface with the teachers, hence they pay their efforts to search for various literature sources to complete their assigned tasks and ultimately improve their learning stand. The learners are engaged with technological assistance, which is an important learning tool these days. They are more inclined towards using technology in their learning by searching online means to accomplish the given chores.
The prevailing pandemic has shown a positive effect on parents’ attitude towards their children learning. Currently, parents are more sensitized for their children learning who otherwise rely only solely on teachers’ classroom-based teaching to develop learning aptitudes among students. Now, parents are directly involved in teaching and learning tasks at homes, do their best to create a learning environment within homes and assist their children in various content areas. They also provide the pertinent resources for their children to involve them in meaningful learning. This is a new learning opportunity for parents and by helping their children, parents also improve their learning capabilities.
Another important aspect, the COVID-19 has created is the bonding between parents-to-teachers and learner-to-learner. Being interactive with online modes of communication, parents directly interact with the teachers, share their children progress and discuss various learning areas. Similarly, students are formally connected with their classmates to seek assistance, share the learning material and pertinent literature to support each other.
Besides various positive implications of COVID-19 for introducing new learning opportunities, there are certain challenges, particularly in Gilgit-Baltistan context. The major challenge is the availability of internet services, especially in the remotest parts of GB. Secondly, the available internet service is non-reliable, as the connectivity fluctuation remains persistent due to various reasons. There are very few service providers in valleys who offer internet facilities, ultimately children face difficulties to attend online modes of learning. The electricity breakdown is another challenge, directly effecting the connections between learners and teachers.
Students’ assessment, one of the leading measurement tool to gauge the children’s learning is compromised. Through face-to-face interactive classrooms, the teachers directly monitor learners’ learning aptitudes, and provide needful assistance to overcome the learning gaps. In contrast, the visual classrooms and other online interactive modes didn’t provide similar prospects where the teacher can assess students’ learning. Under such situations, students are unable to develop the required learning which could be achieved through direct interactions with the teacher in a real classroom setting.
To conclude with, the current crisis evidently seems to have negative implications in education sector has opened new windows for learners. On one hand, the schools are closed and no direct interaction prevails in schools, but it has pushed the leaners towards technological tools to seek for learning. It has sensitized parents to adopt innovative approaches for their children learning by providing alternative platforms to interact with the teachers. Though, this whole different paradigm shift is engulfed with numerous challenges, but a drastic change in thought process is required in the mindset of policy makers, students and specially the teachers and other educationists. The contemporary situation demands selection of Faculty sound in technological skills. Hence, the authorities should redesign their action plans, aligned with technological parameters. The policy-makers must ensure technology as important addition in various syllabi. Similar steps can help in strengthening our country’s digital learning infrastructure in the long run. By and large, the prevailing pandemic has really accelerated acceptance of technologies to deliver education.