Virus crisis has exacerbated pre-existing educational inequalities: N. Ram


On 6 &7 August 2020, Sacred Heart Institute of Management Studies (SHIMS), Sacred Heart College (Autonomous), Tirupattur, Tirupattur District organized “EDUSIGHTS”International e-Colloquium “Emerging from the Virus Crisis:Disruptive Challenges in Higher Education”
As the world is struggling to cope up with Covid-19 crisis, big changes have taken place in education.Should schools, colleges, universities and educators adapt or be life behind? Issues and themes commented by the speakers are: National Education Policy 2020, Conduct of university exams for final year students, inequality of Internet access and connectivity, new self-management skills for educators, parents and students to cope up with the crisis, paradigm shifts in teaching and learning, power of social media and disruptive technologies, the rise and fall of student motivation.

    Over 1400 registered faculty members and researchers from 11 countries participated in the colloquium conducted through GoToWebinar online platform.

    Mr. N. Ram, Wholetime Director, The Hindu Publishing Group delivered the keynote address.Hesaid, “The unprecedented disruption of the educational system, and the consequent loss of learning at all levels, caused by this pandemic is a matter of the gravest concern. This coronavirus is not going to go away easily. We need to manage around it, striking a balance between protecting lives and health on the one hand, and protecting livelihoods and the economy on the other. Admittedly, this is not an easy balance to find. However, some other countries have done better than we have in this respect and we need to learn from them.” He further stated: “The virus crisis has exacerbated pre-existing educational inequalities, which in turn reflect grim socio-economic realities. This is a most distressing aspect of the pandemic’s impact across India.
    In reply to the question raised by Dr. Praveen Peter SDB, Controller of Exams, Sacred Heart College on university exams and National Education Policy 2020, Mr. Ram said: “There is over-centralisation in the regulation of our higher educational system. There is also arbitrariness in decision-making on issues that are best left to colleges and universities to resolve in accordance with their specific conditions. In particular, the examination system is in urgent need of change and reform. The UGC’s diktat to conduct final-year undergraduate and post-graduate examinations by the end of September 2020 is most unreasonable. It has caused a great deal of uncertainty, anxiety, and distress to students and their families across India. This issue must be resolved quickly and decisively, so that hundreds of thousands of students can finish their course of study and plan to go on to careers, whether they be jobs or higher studies.”
    Dr. John Alexander SDB, Rector & Secretary, Sacred Heart College delivered the special address on the new self-management skills required for parents, educators and students to successfully emerge from this crisis. He said, “What we should count on and cultivate during the times of adversity is the power of human resilience. It is the ability to bounce back even from the worst tragedy and something we should take advantage of. Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our livelihood and jeopardised the education of our children and youth to unimaginable proportions. And yet, we can emerge out of this crisis, with renewed sense of hope, collective intelligence and building up resilient systems of economy and education.”
    Presenting the results of the survey of 1000 students and teachers “The Attitudes and Challenges of Students and Teachers on Online Classes” conducted by Sacred Heart College, Dr. Maria Antony SDB, Principal, noted that the majority of students and teachers have willingly adapted to online teaching and learning. However, there is a big hurdle of good internet connectivity and affordable data for most rural students. Nearly 50% of the students have only one smartphone for the entire family which makes it difficult to use it for regular online learning. “Online teaching cannot be a permanent feature. A hybrid system of online and face-to-face interaction will be the most effective method for learning. Government and private organizations should come forward to free or affordable internet connectivity,” he concluded.

    Other speakers included Dr. N. Pachanatham, Vice Chancellor, Tamil Nadu Teachers Education,Mr. Anand Jagannathan, Associate Vice President, HCL Technologies, Mr. Sashi Kumar, Founder & Chairman, Asian College of Journalism, Ms. Clara D’Silva, President & Founder, Korcomptenz Inc., USA and Dr. J.P. Pachauri, Dehradun University.

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