The coronavirus pandemic has brought an uncertain pause in everybody’s life with no knowledge of when the normalcy will resume. Even before we reach the end of the nation-wide lockdown in India, there are already speculations about it being extended. Curfews and emergencies are being declared in various parts of the world to fight the war against the virus. Amidst the strategies to contain the virus, there are speculations over which turn academics will take. One of the measures against the spread of the virus was that all the schools and colleges were shut down. But now since Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chief Ministers of several states have signaled in favor of extension of the lockdown, one is bound to wonder how the academics will cope further. Since there are now possibilities of some states least infected by the virus to have a partial lockdown, it is still unclear whether the schools and colleges of that area will open as well.
The HRD minister of India, Ramesh Pokhriyal has announced that the final decision about the re-opening of the schools and colleges will be done on the 14th of April based on the situation of spread and containment of the virus till that date. Until the government gives us the final decision, let us analyze what could be the consequences of academics resuming and it not resuming.
If The Schools And Colleges Open
As soon as COVID-19 started spreading in India, the state governments took immediate steps to order the closure of all the schools and colleges. While this was a quick and imperative response, the unplanned halt affected the schedules of examinations and classes. All the board examinations and competitive tests were postponed. To continue the process of learning, colleges and schools shifted to online classes. Now, since it has almost been a month of closure and also because it is time for the semester exams to begin, resumption of classes will certainly put education back on track. There would no longer be wastage of time and further delay in completion of degrees, especially for the students who are at the end of their school or college degrees.
However, considering the spread of the virus in India with the number of infected cases crossing 5,000 and around 149 people dead, the danger has not yet subsided. The lockdown was announced to contain the virus but unfortunately, India is on the verge of entering into the third phase of the spread of COVID-19. In this situation, even if the lockdown is discontinued due to the pressure of the declining economy of the nation, the opening of the schools and colleges can prove to be a major risk. Schools and colleges are the ground for public gathering where following social distancing can be an impossible task. In that case, students can be at the risk of getting infected or spreading the virus further.
Besides, if the colleges and schools open, outstation students will have to face the risk of traveling via public transports. There have been reported cases of infected and quarantined people traveling and infecting people in trains and buses. As a result, if outstation students get infected, containing the spread in school, colleges or PGs will be very difficult.
If The Schools And Colleges Do Not Open
There is a higher possibility that the schools and colleges will not open considering the spread of the virus. The government has ensured that academia will not face any loss if lockdown extends. According to India Today, if the lockdown extends, the government has drafted a plan to continue the academia by conducting the classes and exams online. Consequently, Delhi University has created a google group of students and teachers where all the lectures, notes and information will be shared.
However, the question that arises is how will the exams be conducted? Can all the written papers be conducted online? The schools and Universities have not issued any notification of how they are planning to go about the examinations. Yesterday, DU announced that all the semester exams have been postponed until further notice. However, there is no clarity yet whether they will conduct the exams through online mode.
In this situation, when the future is engulfed in uncertainties, education has certainly taken a back gear. Even if the exams and semesters are postponed, do we have any idea when will it be conducted? When will the new academic year start? There are chances of a delay in the entire process of academics, from end to the start of semesters.
Besides, even if the academics shift completely to an online platform and avoids the delay, not all students can be benefitted. Students living in areas where there is slow internet connection lose their focus on academics. Even if exams are conducted online, not all places in India have online examination centers. Consequently, those students will have to go to nearby states or cities, exposing themselves to the same danger which has to be averted.
Therefore, if the schools and colleges remain shut, there needs to be a well planned and inclusive idea about how academia will cope with the spread of COVID-19. It is important that COVID-19, that is already claiming a lot of loss, should not give students a reason drop-out of schools or leave their education incomplete. After all, an educated India is the base of a powerful country.
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