Our country holds an important place in the global education industry. The education system is comprised of four levels i.e. lower primary, upper primary ,high and higher secondary. With a large network of higher education institutions ,India is the second largest market for E-learning after the U.S . Significant changes are being brought in by initiatives like Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Right to Education Act .The Indian Government has valued the importance of education as reflected in our economic policies over the years. According to a report of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India conducted a survey on higher education and observed that there are 993 universities, 39931 Colleges and 10725 Stand Alone Institutions listed on their portal, which contribute to education. These institutions further reflect the student density of India as the total enrolments in higher education every year are nearly 37.4 million, reflecting the expanding horizons of the education industry.
This pandemic named COVID-19 shook the world to its core. In India, the government closed each academic institutions a part of the nationwide lockdown. Consequently learners right from school-going kids to postgraduate college were affected. The pressure on students and higher education institutions turned very high. Schools and universities have been closed for a very long time and exams postponed. Classrooms are going virtual and admissions for the upcoming academic year are fraught with confusion. Among the Indian college going students ,many chose to pursue higher education abroad. As per reports, India is the second-largest source of international students in the world. Given the travel restrictions and health risks, this exodus may transform -at least in the immediate few years -to an influx into Indian institutions . This option will provide boost to our education sector.
The economy also took a severe hit during the pandemic era. The job ready students were left in a limbo. As unemployment is predicted to increase and the financial incomes of Indian homes come under stress, an expected drop in enrolments and challenges with tuition fees will emerge. Even the Public Institutions may face a threat of reduced funding. On a brighter note ,the pandemic could also prompt reform in fee structures and creation of more cost-effective programmes.
Some research findings suggest that online learning does increase retention of information, and takes, less time, meaning the changes brought about by COVID-19 might be here to stay. Such a shift away from the classroom leaves us wondering whether the adoption of online learning will continue to post -pandemic period.
Even in the pre-pandemic period ,there was already high growth and adoption of language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools and online learning courses in education sector, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19. This unplanned and rapid move to online learning -with no training ,insufficient bandwidth and little preparation will result in a poor user experience ,that is unconducive to sustained growth in this area. There are speculations of emergence of a hybrid model , that will combine both approaches of remote learning and in-person learning , to improve student experience and ensure learning continuity, in preparation for partial reopening and potential virus resurgence.
In the times to come, we will see the emergence of multidisciplinary and modular pedagogy that can afford transferable skills and customised learning. An amalgam of e-learning and mainstream face-to-face teaching may get a boost from traditional universities and the ed-tech sector. Student mobility and practical exposure through exchange programmes ,internships ,participation in conferences may see a temporary halt. Global sharing of knowledge between institutions through joint-teaching ,virtual guest lectures, the e learning platforms and various Learning Management Systems will see growth.
Even the role of educators as effective knowledge dispensers is undergoing huge change. They need to gain regular insights on their lecture delivery, frequent assessments to gauge the effectiveness of student learning and their ability to interact with students through technology-based media. In India the new remote teaching has rendered most of our students becoming passive learners and a section being disadvantaged due to the digital divide that is a part of many developing nations .
Post COVID-19 is thus an opportunity to transform the higher education system by rethinking, redesigning a sustainable framework of curriculum design, collaborations with ed-tech sector ,skill development and faculty involvement – keeping the development and well-being of the student community as well as their employability ,in mind.