The number of COVID-19 cases across the country is rising exponentially daily. The longer this crisis continues, the worse it is going to impact the economy. On 13 May, The United Nations (UN) warned, the pandemic could lead to a loss of USD 8.5 trillion in global output over the next two years and push more than 34 million people into extreme poverty due to this crisis – the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
An immense sector which has been considerably affected by the COVID-19 crisis is the education sector. Students in our country have been demanding the cancellation of exams. Online classes have commenced in some places and some exams have already been cancelled. Parents are demanding that private schools should not hike their fees. Schools, on the other hand, say that they do not have money to pay the staff and teachers.
Impact of COVID-19 on education
As of 15th July 2020, the data of UNESCO has revealed that there have been nationwide closures of schools and colleges in more than 114 countries all across the world which has affected more than 1 billion (60% of the world’s student population) students. There were very few countries like Australia, Sweden, and Greenland where the schools were not shut down.
As per the UNESCO report, more than 32 crore students in India have been affected by the pandemic. Some of the schools have closed teaching completely while others have resorted to online classes.
For people who have access to internet facilities, online classes are a great solution for the short run. But it also creates a digital divide because a lot of people do not have internet available to them.
You might be wondering how many people in India do not have the internet.
The problem further exacerbates when you realize that several families out of these ran their daily affairs through the day-to-day earnings. They have lost their livelihoods after the lockdown. Most of them have been propelled into poverty due to the economic impact of COVID-19. Now the question arises what such families would do, neither would they have money to send their children to school nor would they want their children to go to school because they would want them to work to sustain daily living of their families.
According to 2017-18 National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data boys in villages dropout of school midway. The top two reasons behind this are- Financial coercion in their families and economic stress. The same two reasons would be applicable in COVID-19 crisis. Therefore, when the schools reopen, the children of financially stable families would be able to rejoin the school, but the children in families like this will not go back to school. They would be compelled into child labour.
Fees Hike in School
Along with students, parents are also subjected to mental ordeal by the fees hike in schools. In our country, some private schools are not conducting any kind of classes whereas some private schools are only conducting online classes but in both cases, they are still charging fees from the parents. And in some places, fees are being hiked which is an even more huge issue for the parents.
As per 2014 NSSO data, a common family (a husband, a wife and two school-going kids) spends 20% of their entire annual income on the education of their children. This proves the value of private school fees to a common family.
Several parents have even approached the Supreme Court for a moratorium on the fees hike. State governments like Delhi, Assam, and Maharashtra have already taken action against it. For instance, the Maharashtra government has declared that no private school can hike fees this year or else they would be penalised.
In response to this, several private schools say that they need the money to pay their teachers and staff. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report published in 2010, 50% of the total fees normally charged by a private school is unjustified.
In 2017, Justice Anil Dev Singh committee checked the accounts of 1,100 schools in Delhi. More than 80% of them were indicted there was no need for them to raise fees based on the 6th Pay Commission, but they did so anyway.
The High Court and the Supreme Court have already set several parameters to regulate school fees. For instance, nothing can be taken for capital expenditure; charges should only be for revenue expenditure and that too, only for spending on the students. But it doesn’t happen that way.
Under such circumstances, the Indian government needs to do a serious intervention because the problem is that the children who go to private schools do so out of helplessness when the government schools do not function properly.
Stress on Students
In the last few months repeated postponements and cancellation of exams, as well as the reigning uncertainty, has put students under humongous pressure.
Regular online classes, prolonged exposure to the screens with headphones on is a very stressful scenario and leads to an increase in anxiety and depression and in some extreme cases, students have also committed suicide.
Read here about the impact of online classes on students https://thesecondangle.com/virtual-classes-with-strained-eyes-or-schools-with-risks-of-community-transmission-what-will-parents-choose-this-pandemic/
Unfortunately, nobody talks about the interests of the students for whom the entire travail is done. Most of the discussions and decisions are made to benefit parents or schools or the government.
Schools in Denmark were reopened with precautions whilst maintaining physical distancing, this is something that would need to be evaluated in India in the coming months.
Several Universities across the world decided to hold open book exams. The questions in open book exams force the students to think critically rather than rote learning and writing the answers.
Some exams in India are completely cancelled like the CBSE and ICSE board exams of class 10th and 12th. However, the students allege that the evaluation criteria is unfair. Similarly, the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) are postponed. JEE will be conducted between 1st to 6th September and NEET will be held on 13th September.
As per new guidelines issued by the University Grant Commission (UGC) on 6 July 2020, final year/semester exams are to be held by the end of September 2020. Read more about the revised UGC guidelines here, https://thesecondangle.com/key-takeaways-from-ugcs-fresh-guidelines-for-final-year-exams/
Mr Ashok Agarwal, head of All India Parents’ Association said that under the prevailing circumstances, it is no problem to declare the entire year as a ‘Zero Academic Year’.
The news isn’t great from the teachers perspective either. Reports are drenching that some teachers have been ousted from their jobs and some are not even being paid their salaries in private schools. The teachers are also complaining that online classes are increasing disparity among the students, which isn’t good.
There is a petition regarding the fees hike and you can sign it to mount pressure on the government so that the fees of the private schools can be regulated https://www.oxfamindia.org/petition/private-schools-for-increasing-knowledge-not-profits.