WHEN the first case of coronavirus was reported in China in 2019, nobody had an inkling it will change the world; apparently forever. While the pandemic has affected all sectors equally, it has caused a drastic impact on education systems that have been forced to move on to the digital platforms.

Initially, when a surge in Covid cases was reported in Pakistan, the government suspended all business activities and imposed a lockdown in the country. Educational institutions were shut down for an unspecified time, but later online education system was introduced in the country in line with what was happening around the world.

Although online education was not a novel concept, it was relatively new at the school level, and it was challenging because of the electricity and connectivity issues. Also, online education is not suitable for students of every age group. Students who are 4-10 years of age, for instance, need more supervision, concentration, time and individual attention to learn, which is difficult to provide in online classes.

Parents who are well-educated or have hired tutors for their children manage to teach their young children properly, but those who are less educated or cannot afford a tutor, find it hard to adapt to the new system. Online education is expensive in the sense that one needs to have a smart-phone or laptop and a speedy internet connection to attend a class, and not every parent can afford such devices amid lingering economic problems.

Secondary students who were promoted to next class without the exams also missed the golden time of their life. Tertiary education is also affected, but not like the primary and secondary education, as some universities used to offer distance learning programmes before the pandemic, too.

Since the university students are grown-ups and do not need much supervision, like primary students do, they are much better off in this regard.

Online exams were another problem because of connectivity issues, especially in rural areas. Besides students, teachers also faced difficulties because it is very hard to explain something to a primary student online. Home tutors were expected to cover the course on behalf of the schools.

There is a huge contrast between pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic education and it has impacted students negatively. Students have become lazy and show non-serious attitude towards education. Many children have got easy access to mobile phones and that has led them to indulge in more unnecessary activities.

Online education has ruined whatever we used to have in the name of education, but it is the only way to continue educational activities as physical classes are still a threat to human health. There is no denying that contemporary education is the best way to impart learning. One can only hope that the pandemic ends soon and students can return to their educational institutions.

Malik Muhammad Hadi
Hyderabad

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2021

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