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Pandemic resilient education system

A prolonged second wave of COVID-19 has kept alive the apprehension that it may not be possible for Assam to fully unlock before the third wave. India’s top health experts have


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 July 2021 4:02 AM GMT

A prolonged second wave of COVID-19 has kept alive the apprehension that it may not be possible for Assam to fully unlock before the third wave. India's top health experts have sounded cautious that the third wave may hit the country sometime in August-end or in September. Their worries stem from the fact that people have started travelling as several states have started unlocking after a decline in daily positive cases. Even though the experts have not pressed the panic button, they have been reminding citizens not to move out unnecessarily and strictly adhere to COVID-appropriate behaviour which speaks volumes of the risk of fully unlocking when the second wave is still not over. The experts may have come up with different viewpoints regarding the severity of the third wave but the rider all of them have used is common. Their prediction depends on how the people behave in public during unlocking by the states after the second wave and the pace of COVID-19 vaccination. Detection of new cases still being on the higher side, Assam and neighbouring states will require continuing both clinical and containment measures to prevent the spread of the virus and fast-improving the recovery rate. The prediction by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that the vast majority of people in the region will be vulnerable in the event the third wave hits the country has set off the alarm bells for the state governments as well Central government. ICMR has reportedly cautioned against north-eastern states fully unlocking without stepping up mass vaccination in the region. For a development-deficit and resource-deficit region like the northeast, prolonged partial lockdown is devastating for its economy. A few cash transfer schemes cannot offset the livelihood loss on account of disruption in income-generating activities during a pandemic. This calls for taking a fresh look at COVID-management beyond the capacity of the health systems. Augmentation of the health system in the states in the region has placed the states in a much better position with more beds, intensive care units, trained health personnel and improved oxygen supplies available. Such improvement of the health systems has reduced the worries of the respective state governments in the region as far as COVID-management is concerned. Detection of new cases has kept the active caseload from reducing fast to the desired level which will allow the states in the region to unlock. The worst affected by lingering COVID-19 is the student community. The closure of educational institutions has adversely affected the teaching-learning process. Despite best efforts by teachers and students, who have access to the internet, to make the best use of technology to overcome the challenge of disruption in offline classes, key lessons learnt is online teaching and learning has not been able to match the quality of offline classes. The level of deprivation of those without access to the internet can be well imagined. Challenges of taking recourse to the evaluation of students on their performances in examinations of previous classes and periodical tests instead of physical term-end or final examinations exposed how the existing gaps in Assam's education system have widened due to disruption caused by the pandemic. Lessons need to be learnt from such practical experience and Education Department is expected to be more innovative in their approach. The solution to the problem of a pandemic affecting the quality of teaching and learning cannot be reduced the Education Department issuing a directive to all educational institutions to hold timely examinations. While the opening of educational institutions and holding offline classes is dependent on the prevailing pandemic situation and is to be decided by the Health Department, the Education department can undertake a comprehensive review of online classes and examinations if these have served the primary objective of teaching and learning. Feedback from students, parents will be important inputs for such a review to be done by educationists and it should not be a task left to bureaucrats. Assessing the quality of online teaching and learning bears great importance from the perspective of human resource development. The state cabinet's decision to provide smartphones to students of Class IX and X is laudable as it will ensure a level playing field for students belonging to different income groups. The lessons must be learnt that more than the access to technology, access to quality teaching assumes greater significance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Making the teaching-learning material interesting for students is important and this can be ensured by producing quality audio-video learning material to replace the monotonous, dull, and unproductive online classes of lectures or reading out notes or video streaming of classroom replicas. As long as offline classes continue to be disrupted due to the COVID-19 situation, the importance of online classes cannot be wished away. Making online classes productive to ensure the quality of education will help build resilience against prolonged COVID-19 pandemic disruptions.

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