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Challenges and Opportunities in Education Post COVID- 19

Tek Nath Poudel

May 21, 2020
Last updated July 15, 2021
KMC Lalitpur


The world is facing an unprecedented health crisis which might even lead to the breakdown of the current world order. The world has recorded 4,628,903 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 312,009 deaths by May 18, 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Similarly, Nepal has registered 402 confirmed cases with 2 deaths. The fast-spreading pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have led to the closure of 90 percent schools, colleges, and universities affecting 1.3 billion students.

Closure of educational institutions forced education providers to shift to digital education. The shift to online learning was so swift that stakeholders did not have time to plan and reflect on potential challenges and opportunities that digital education might bring. Against such a backdrop, it is important to look into what has transpired and what might happen as we continue adopting digital education.

Challenges

1. Digital divide

Handful of colleges and academic institutions can run online classes smoothly since most of the students from public schools, community colleges may not have access to the uninterrupted internet facility. While affluent students from private institutes can continue with their education while low income students will be deprived of their right to education for lack of internet facility. Scheduled exams and tests have to be put off due to outbreak of the pandemic. Only a few educational institutes have been able to deliver online teaching while majority of the low income and community college students are outside the domain of the e-learning in Nepal.

2. Cost and speed of Internet

Internet facilities in Nepal are ranked the most expensive in South Asia. A popular magazine “The Economist” recently published a report “Inclusive Internet index 2019” which suggests that internet services in Nepal are quite expensive as compared to that being used in other countries of the world. In a list published in the report comprising of 100 countries based on the cost of internet services, Nepal was ranked 84. Likewise, Nepal ranks at the bottom in terms of the affordability of the internet service in South Asia.

Nepal has 4G coverage in all 77 districts, but it ranks way down in speed test, occupying 127th position among 140 countries in the Speedtest Global Index by Ookla, a broadband speed analysis company.

3. Untrained and unprepared teachers for online education

Online education is fundamentally different from classroom lecture methodology in the physical classroom. The majority of teachers and mentors are not prepared and well-trained to go for online teaching immediately after the pandemic erupted. Many are using ZOOM and Google Meet to teach students. They are still not trained and used to using dedicated online models and designs for digital teaching.

4. Passive learning

Online teaching is sure to make students passive and dull as it lacks class and group interactions and discussion. Without direct guidance and watch of teachers, students lose their interest and just take classes to keep their parents happy. Students might join the class and might keep being busy playing games and videos.

Opportunities 

Disruptive change in education is likely to bring with it some new opportunities that will transform the education system worldwide and especially in a country like Nepal which has planned to bring about reform in this sector.

1. Blended learning

Universities, colleges, and schools will shift to blended learning where both face to face delivery in the physical classroom and an online model will become a norm. This will require all teachers to become more techno-savvy and go through some training to bring themselves to the level that would be required. New ways of delivery and assessments of learning outcomes will have to be adopted which opens immense opportunities for a major transformation in the area of curriculum development and pedagogy.

2. Digitizing resources

The digital education will surely encourage educational providers to implement the digital library. Every institution will create an online library and train students and mentors to adapt to the new model of information absorption. The establishment of a learning management system will bring openness and transparency in the education sector. Teachers will start creating their online resources and provide them to learners accordingly.

3. Development of communication and professional skill

Students in online classes are required to participate in interactive online activities, such as communication through email, instant message, hold discussion sessions, and complete online assignments. Online classes allow students to develop many of the most desired skills and professional skills for today’s demanding and competitive workplace. Communication skill, computer literacy, and writing ability are developed through the digital learning.

4. Government policy

The government launched the new National Education Policy 2076 in November. With the country adopting the federal model of government, the policy was unveiled to make it compatible with the federal structure and the provision of education as encapsulated in the federal constitution of the country.

The government has stressed the provision for the introduction of information and communication technology (ICT) in education and emphasizes the need for such technology for its schooling to align with global practices. The government policy and program for 2020/21 passed by the federal parliament envisions providing online education to all public schools and colleges through high-speed internet service.

Crises take us by surprise. They put us in trouble. But, they also force us to pause and think to reinvent ourselves. Coronavirus pandemic has left us with uncertainty. But, people will still continue to exist post-COVID-19. There will be schools and colleges even after the pandemic is over. Students will be eager to learn and teachers ready to offer their lessons. The virus has also exposed human limitations. But, education has to continue and will continue. Despite having some flaws, digital learning will be a new method of education. So, it is better if educational providers start working to adapt to a new method of teaching and learning.

Tek Nath Poudel is the Head of Academics at Malpi International College. He can be reached at teknathp@gmail.com. The views expressed in this article are his own.

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