There is much in common between agriculture and education sectors and if only education had the kind of organized voices that farmers have, it would have impelled into another mass protest by children, parents and even the providers and teachers like farmers.
Education today is a means of disempowerment than the other way around. Quality education has become a commodity even as government is silently moving out of education. In the recent months, the union government has conveniently and perhaps stupidly shifted focus to New Education Policy (NEP) when it should have addressed the challenges of school and college closures due to covid pandemic. There is enough time for NEP discussions, planning and rollout. The disruption and economic crisis that Coronavirus pandemic has brought about on education system is colossal. It has literally swept the education landscape. More so for a vast majority of children living in rural areas. Girls are missing. Decades of persuasion and tons of hard work done to bring girls to school are getting quickly reversed. There are reports of increasing child marriages and child labor. All this needs urgent mapping and stopping.
The states like Delhi, which have attracted global attention on education and school improvement in recent years, is failing students in another way. On paper, online education is regular and the whole system is engaged. But, no learning is happening. Teachers have become conduits of pushing third party content, videos, worksheets and passive facilitators. Government has not allowed teachers to teach their own way. Bottom up approach of imparting online education has completely missed the attention of the authorities. Studies have shown that teachers who are freed from shackles of centralized content supply chain, do better. In effect, it is becoming zero academic performance despite the whole system synchronizing to do its best. The students aren’t learning. And pandemic has just been a pastime engagement.
It also translates into a worrying situation. If country’s best education-modeled state has not understood and figured out how to give effective online education, then the state of nation is anybody’s guess.
Education is not just an individual choice but actually a public good.. Education disruption is not as normal or small discontinuity that we would like it to think it to be. It is in a sense a wheel in the web of interconnected manpower supply chains be in terms of doctors or other healthcare workers, technicians, workers, teachers and other professionals we need to keep services and socio-economic activities of all kind going as a matter of replacement for those retiring or those needed for newer expansion. Our governments must know that education ecosystem is the breeding ground of social and economic progress. It is like mandatory steel, which is needed in varying levels almost everywhere. And, nobody should discount the positive role that education has in civic sense, respect for diversity and harmony with fellow humans and nature.
The education landscape has to build back better in coming months once vaccination commences. The governments need to act and plan expeditiously to bring back every child to the school. For this the need is to mobilize resources and policy environment to mainstream lessons that all of us learnt so hard way in this pandemic.