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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Impact and challenges of Corona Virus on Education


Corona Virus came as a lethal killer of human beings that was contagious and spread fast enough that it engulfed thousands of precious lives within a matter of months. This peculiar trait of Corona Virus, to spread randomly and fast, led to the policy makers, heads of governments and other international institutions to devise preventive measures to curtail the spread and transfer of virus. The world virtually went into global lockdowns, where the restaurants, markets, financial organizations, as well as the educational institutions were closed down indefinitely. The situation was so sudden and desperate that no country was immediately ready to process the next step. The face-to-face education programmes were disrupted and the schools were one of the most affected pillars of educational realm, as around 1.2 billion children were prevented from going to classrooms across the globe, according to UNESCO.

Schoolchildren classmates pupils students protecting against coronavirus Covid19
Schoolchildren classmates pupils students protecting against coronavirus Covid19

Education before the outbreak of Corona virus

Everyone is talking about the dire effects of closure of educational institutions. However, it is not as if the area of education did not have challenges prior to the outbreak of Corona virus. The situation of education was on the downhill journey in many underdeveloped and developing countries due to a variety of reasons such as rising poverty rates, growing social discontent, unequal distribution of teaching staff, inadequate academic infrastructure, unequal academic opportunities for people belonging from different strata of society, low budgetary allocation for education to name a few prominent factors. The situation was prevalent in some low income countries of Latin America, Asia, and Africa. 

Education after the outbreak of Corona virus

The educational institutions such as schools, colleges, universities etc could have become the hub and super-spreaders for Corona virus had they not been closed in the early days of 2019. the college and university campuses act as the places where the individuals from different nations are brought together to learn and share their unique cultures. Corona virus impacted such places of learning and deprived the students from experiencing crucial life changing platforms provided by colleges, universities and even schools.

Many countries had to cancel the face-to-face classes, exams, programmes, trainings, orientations, new enrolments and virtually every educational field came to a stand still for a while. Foreign students from America, England, Germany and other countries had to return to their homes. However, the strategies were quickly developed to meet the challenge head-on. The first strategy was to make a shift from traditional classrooms to virtual classrooms. Some American and British universities were already employing the online teaching systems. Therefore, it was relatively easier for them to make the switch. However, the online learning system comes with its own opportunities and challenges, which are being explained below.

An elementary school student sits at a table with a laptop, doing homework.

Use of modern technology

The absence of traditional face-to-face learning programmes meant that the focus would be on transmitting knowledge online. It implied the use of modern technology in the form of virtual classrooms, online learning software and digital presentations, and online conferences. Many online platforms were being employed in different countries for this purpose.

Remote learning

Remote learning was considered to be one of the best options for imparting knowledge to students in the midst of the deadly pandemic. However, the implementation and facilitation of remote learning systems and strategies was a big challenge for the countries and regions, where the idea of remote learning had not gotten traction earlier.

Audio-Video conferences

Audio and video conferences provided the students with classroom-like learning environment. The most popular video conferencing application, Zoom, attracted the attention of academics and students alike. Its free version can host upto 100 participants, while Skype’s free version can accommodate 50 participants simultaneously. Students and teachers started making Zoom accounts in order to facilitate online learning and teaching. The users can use different features like sending messages, pictures, slides as well as making calls.

Virtual tutoring

The academies and other teaching as well as training centres were also closed. It popularized the concept of virtual tutoring, where the tutors all around the world and sometimes within certain geographical locations started offering their services online. Such tutors could be hired on daily, weekly as well as monthly basis. For instance, the workshops of B.Ed programme in Pakistan are being conducted online via virtual tutors.

Free online programs

Due to disruption of traditional learning systems, many companies and websites came up with the offers of free online programmes. Governments also came forward with skill-based online training programmes. The companies like Scolastic and Coursera had been offering free online courses and programmes, whereas UNESCO and Openculture started publishing and arranging the lists of such websites for the access of everyone. 

Educational challenges in Post-Corona world

The challenges of online learning are as follows.

Issues for students

The students as well as their parents were extremely stressed in the beginning. Most of the students did not have prior exposure with the online learning software, and other technical implications. Their parents had to purchase costly tools such as laptops, notebooks, computers and internet packages etc. It was difficult for the jobless parents to arrange technology-based products.

Issues for management

The management of educational institutions had to face the challenge of shifting the database on online learning software, which required the expertise of tech experts.

Issues in maintaining concentration

Online learning system was new among the students, where they did not have strict teachers constantly scrutinizing them. Additionally, poor internet connection also contributed in interfering with the concentration of students.

Internet connectivity issues

The students of low-income countries, where quality internet devices were not easily available, faced worse internet connectivity issues. Moreover, the students from the far-flung areas such as mountains and less-developed regions had to face constant disconnection of internet, and overloading of servers etc.

Closing thoughts:

Corona virus greatly affected the education system globally, yet the recovery strategies and methods employed by almost all affected countries led to discovery of new opportunities and a paradigm shift in more than 190 countries of the world, according to UNESCO. The online learning systems are now talk of the town and the future of education.

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