By Vinayak Barot
Ahmedabad: Prolonged nationwide lockdown in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to revive ‘home schooling’. It may be a paradigm shift in India’s educational system.
Until a century ago, home schooling was quite popular among the rich and the famous families in British India who preferred their wards to be home-schooled rather than sending them to formal schools. Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore was home-schooled all his young life in Calcutta (now Kolkata) until he was sent to England for formal education at the age of 17. And due to security threats, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s children Rahul and Priyanka were also home-schooled in New Delhi.
With the spread of formal education in post-Independence India, interactive school and college education became more popular than private tutoring as students found it better to learn through interaction and intermingling. Outdoor education also gave them an opportunity to learn the world around and realize their full potential.
The ongoing lockdown may have, however, put the clock back. It forced many educational institutions and coaching centres to go digital with teachers and students interacting online from their homes rather than in regular classes. Students preparing for various competitive examinations also switched over to e-learning platforms in many cities.
Amid uncertainties about if and when the pandemic would go away, home schooling may return, at least in schools where children are vulnerable due to lack of isolation .Experts have warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is unlikely to end any time soon, even if vaccines hit the market as the ‘smart virus’ is capable of mutating itself.
Concerned parents may, therefore, prefer their wards to be home-schooled. Some pre-school and playschool chains have already started home-schooling via digital platforms.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), students in Hong Kong and China started learning at home, via interactive apps during the lockdown. In China, 120 million students got access to learning material through live television broadcasts.
“As of March 13, over 421 million children are affected due to school closures announced or implemented in 39 countries. In addition, another 22 countries have announced partial “localized” closures,” said the OECD report.
According to a World Economic Forum report, these risk-control decisions have led millions of students into temporary home-schooling situations, especially in some of the most heavily afflicted countries, like China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran.
Home-schooling, normally meant for school children, is a backward integration of e-learning for senior classes’ students. Around 20 apps are available in India for e-learning, including Meritnation, Byju’s, myCBSEGuide and Vedantu, Vidyakul, Toppr, which promote online education.
With the penetration of the Internet across India, these platforms have also spread their nets far-and-wide. Byju, for instance, found its registered users rise from 35 million in 2018 to 50 million in 2020. Similarly, more than 5 million and 1 million people downloaded the Vedantu and myCBSEGuide applications for online learning.
The online education system may benefit more students in comparison to regular college or school studies. The government can add more students in digital education and reduce the extra burden of students in schools. This education technique can reduce transport expenses, save time, and other regular expenses of students.
These reasons may inspire the government to look for an online education system for students. On Sunday, Finance Minister Nirmal Sitharama hinted at it when she said a dozen TV channels of Doordarshan were being pressed into this.
The state governments across the country had shut down schools and colleges on March 25 when the lockdown began. And nobody knows if and when they would reopen normally. This is a crucial time for the education sector as entrance tests of several universities and competitive examinations are held during this period.
The lockdown has also triggered uncertainty in the cycles of examination. Student internships and placements, lower fee collection are also likely to be experienced.
Home schooling via e-learning on digital and electronic platforms may also solve the problem of scarcity of teachers in the rural areas.
According to a report, India had 97,273 single teacher schools in 2018, or 8.8% of the total number of schools. They offer only poor quality of education and contribute to high dropout rates in rural schools – nearly 50 percent by the age of fourteen. The ratio of rural and urban enrolment is school is 7:5.