India has been striding towards development with the growing technology, businesses, health, pharma, education, and more such sectors. However, COVID-19 pandemic has hit the industries hard but has also opened doors to opportunities. Addressing such aspects, Elets Technomedia organised India Transformation Summit from July 10 – to July 12. Anju Sharma, Principal Secretary, Higher and Secondary Education Department, Government of Gujarat addressed the summit on ‘Challenges & Opportunities in the Education Sector During COVID-19 Situation’.
Ms Sharma began by projecting an image of the changed scenario after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She said, “The COVID pandemic brought forward a large number of issues which were unheard, unseen, unimagined. Situations like most people are working remotely, 70 to 80 per cent of or day to day work has been now kept aside, and the definition of normal has been revised and social distancing has become the trend.”
Speaking on the impact of the pandemic on the education system, Ms Anju said, “When the lockdown was announced in March we came on toes to plan how things would go ahead. A lot of challenges surfaced and one among the most prominent ones was students could no longer be called to the institutions. With this came another challenge of testing and conducting examinations remotely.” Guidelines were issued by UGC, however, there was not much consensus and this posed another challenge. In addition, content in online teaching turned out to be another hurdle as institutions were not prepared for online teaching on such a massive scale all of a sudden and the staff, teachers were facing issues initially. However, with time processes got streamlined, staff and teachers got used to remote operations and no online has posed a major platform for the new-way teaching, she added.
Further, on the adoption of online education, Ms Anju said, “We started conducting a large number of webinars to keep the students engaged during the vacation period. The focus was on subject-specific learning and soft skills. For soft skills, we did a 50-hour course online and students can benefit out of this.”
Talking about startups, the principal secretary said, “We are doing a lot of online work for startups other than the COVID challenge that we did. Moreover, a lot of online mentoring and webinars on innovation. Also, another significant initiative we took was we started a course on IPR which has been subscribed by over 51,000 people. These people are taking paid classes twice in a week for this 70-hour course. Also, a lot of other engagement with the startups were also taken up during this period.”
When the academic year started, an important challenge was how to start regular online classes. We started a program called ‘Udayam’. Under this, using Microsoft software, regular online classes for the students were started. So, the regular timetables were drafted and accordingly teachers were given the freedom to take classes either from the institution or from their homes. “We also started a ‘buddy college’ wherein if your college does not have apt infrastructure then a nearby college is assigned where he/she can impart the online classes”, told Ms Anju.
“Besides this, we developed a platform called ‘Cogent’ which is a part of Udyam and is a monitoring platform consisting of students’ details, teachers details for attendance, marks, tests, etc. We have also ventured into online content development and teachers are being trained to develop content online”, added Ms Anju.
Speaking of the opportunities, she stated that as more and more people are moving to the online domain for studying there is an opportunity wherein physical learning can be focused on difficult areas of study or where practical knowledge plays an important role. So, segregation can be made with easy topics and subjects going online and difficult and practical subjects taught physically, said Ms Anju.
Ms Anju added, “Another opportunity of going online is a larger audience can be covered in a single lecture.”
Concluding her session she said, “Though COVID-19 posed a major challenge ahead of the education sector with leveraging technology and implementing online education hurdles have been overcome and the new online education trend is setting in. The pandemic also opened immense opportunities especially covering a huge number of students as many as 5000 in a single lecture through online media has turned up as a boon, fruits of which we have just started reaping.”