Shuchi Sharma, Secretary, Higher and Technical Education, Rajasthan addressed the Summit on ‘Challenges & Opportunities in the Education Sector During COVID-19 Situation’. “No doubt COVID has put up a lot of challenges, however, the pandemic has given opportunities to come up with innovative solutions as well,” she said while opening her address at the summit.
Speaking of various challenges surfaced in Rajasthan in the higher and technical education sector, she said, “There were a few existing challenges like overall admissions have reduced in engineering colleges as less number of students are opting for B.Tech courses and admissions in general, have also reduced. The COVID pandemic has weighed on the existing challenges. Now the situation has turned grave and we are facing issues like how to rate the students, how to conduct exams, etc.” There are guidelines from UGC but the line of action is not clear, she added.
Mode of examination has posed a major challenge ahead of the students and the authorities. Earlier, students were waiting for March for their examination but March opened doors for the unprecedented crisis. Next, a decision to conduct the examinations by Septemeber end was taken which added to the existing challenges. Hence, “we raised this with the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD) to review the decision”, Shuchi said.
“Offline exams were not possible as social distancing norms were likely to be violated if exams were conducted. Also, many students have returned to their hometowns and have to come back to appear for the exams which will open up a new set of challenges altogether,” she added.
Further, she pointed out, “In Rajasthan, the digital infra is not up to the mark for conducting online examinations. And, to an extent, the situation is the same in most parts of India and worse in rural areas.” Fluctuating network speeds, power cuts, inapt digital infrastructure, are some of the hurdles in the way for implementing online education and examinations in the state.
“However, e-content is the solution to overcome such challenges but a need to develop capacity do exist… In Rajasthan, we have started using YouTube as a platform for uploading apt e-content to help students during the COVID-induced lockdowns,” Shuchi mentioned. Adding on she said, “I asked all the teachers/lecturers to record one lecture on every working day and upload it on YouTube. So, in many colleges, this practice was started… I had emphasised on converting all the written content into e-content so that students can keep up with their studies. The possible issues were that one to one online lecture as not feasible, also siblings sharing the smartphone or laptop was another such issue. Hence, uploading of the e-content was one of the possible solutions we figured out.”
To inform students about the incoming lectures or the time when lectures were being uploaded, WhatsApp groups were formed through which the information was propagated.
Resting her words, she said, “Shortly, as the digital learning setting in as the new normal for the education sector, there is a need to upscale the digital infrastructure. Also, capacity building programmes need to be conducted for upskilling the teachers n terms of delivering lectures effectively through digital media. And, e-content should be kept in focus as it is one of the easily available and accessible forms of content.”