How COVID-19 is transforming the education sector in India
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the healthcare systems worldwide. More than 4 million confirmed cases have been reported from across 187 countries, with close to 300,000 deaths.
Lockdowns issued by nations across the world have hit the heart of a globalised world. International trade and travel have all but nearly stalled, enterprises across verticals have been impacted, and the global economy has gone into a tailspin.
Education is one among the scores of sectors that have been severely affected by the lockdown. Typically, students used to witness a flurry of activity around this time of the year, but schools and colleges world-over have now worn a deserted look as they had to close on premise operations to protect students and prevent contagion.
However, this has not stalled academic sessions. Instead, schools, colleges, and educational institutions in India and across the world have been quick to shift teaching and learning online.
In fact, online learning’s relevance to a large and diverse country like India has been hotly debated for a few years now. Research done by non-profits in the education field over decades indicates that quality education is aspirational across income levels, regions, and communities.
However, the demand for good quality, outcome-oriented, and accessible education typically outstrips supply.
Online learning tools and platforms, with their unique ability to offer students a learning experience customised by budget, learning capacity, and interest, promise to address the interconnected challenges of access, quality, and constrained budgets.
With COVID-19, the education sector has found itself compelled to champion its own transformation. Educational institutions of every size and kind are finding it valuable to shift classes to virtual platforms. As a result, edtech companies have also surged to prominence to fulfil an exponential increase in demand for online learning tools, products, and platforms.
With more than 4,000 startups in the edtech space, India is uniquely placed to lead the way in how students across regions and geographies learn.
Let us take a closer look at five trends that will dominate the education space in the coming years.
Access to learning improves
At the top of the list is an immediate and extensive improvement around access to education. Edtech platforms provide millions of students living in Tier-II cities as well as rural clusters in urban locations an easy, affordable, and reliable way to learn.
Customisable by usage, frequency, and interest, virtual learning tools make it possible for students to enrol for a variety of grade-appropriate courses to help them augment existing pedagogical skills and acquire new ones.
Community-based learning catches on
A closely related second trend is the democratisation of information and knowledge. As student cohorts begin to enrol for online programmes, especially from underserved locations and communities, the imperative to share their learning and experience with peers will catch on. This is bound to serve as a trigger for an even bigger expansion of online education.
Large number of students, armed with a relatable knowledge of online learning’s value, will choose to join virtually taught programmes.
Content becomes free
As edtech players witness a steady growth in interest in online courses and an uptick in enrolment numbers, I foresee several players making some part of their content free for a certain period of time. This will help those who have already enrolled stay and spread the word to those who have not yet joined to consider signing up for an online programme without worrying about cost.
Even a temporary move to make online learning content free will help companies and providers in the edtech space widen their net and rope in students across location, income level, and community.
Learning grows inclusive
The fourth trend is parents playing a bigger role in serving as influencers for edtech companies. As the effects of customised, affordable, and accessible education become clear, families will see value in continuing to invest in it for their children and youth.
As a result, learning will become reciprocal and collaborative. Students, especially from remote locations and underserved communities, will share valuable information and knowledge with older generations. Parents will in turn enrich their children’s learning with insights from their own experience.
Parents enrich the online experience
This brings us to the fifth trend, a move towards far greater involvement from working professionals across cities and towns in structuring and co-creating online learning modules. With the novel coronavirus expected to ‘never go away’, the ‘work from home’ mode for offices will continue to be operative for some time to come. This will enable parents to proactively contribute in suggesting ideas to help further enhance courses, approach, and content.
There is no doubt the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed everything we have known about the world, our life, and our place on this planet. In this context, what our children learn and how they learn will become relevant. Schools, colleges, and other educational institutions that move to stay in step with these unprecedented times by embracing online learning can count on staying relevant now and in the future.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)