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    Impact Of Lockdown On Learning & Skilling Process

    In a bid to break the COVID-19 virus chain, the Government of India declared nationwide lockdown under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, due to which, along with people from all walks of life, particularly students from lower to higher education, skill trainees, apprenticeship trainees etc. are being intensely affected, as the present scenario across the country poses inimitable challenges to their learning & skilling process.

    If we look at the impacts of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic on various sections of learners, starting from school goers to college-goers, it will give us a panoramic sense how this lockdown interrupt their learning process.

    Firstly, going to school is the basic and foremost necessity for increasing students’ abilities in terms of gaining momentum in each subject as per framed syllabus along with the development of social and life skills. All these learning would not be fulfilled through learning by their own or with the help of their parents. Moreover, closures of schools also likely to increase inequality, as in many states, the final exams of Class 7 to 9 are being cancelled and promoted students to higher classes.

    Moreover, the Class 11 students under the Central Board of Secondary Education are being promoted to class 12 without appearing in their final examination. The Assam Higher Secondary Education Council is also declared on April 8, 2020, that, as many as 2, 31,238 students of  HS first year are being elevated to HS final year, the HS first year examination is supposed to be held from March 25 to April 10, 2020, which is postponed on March 21, 2020.

    Such kind of decision will definitely have a contribution in propelling inequality further as this lockdown does not give scope to conduct a final assessment to judge a student whether he/she is eligible to promote to the class 12 from class 11. Same time, it is worthwhile to mention here that, to counter an academic year loss of class 11 students, such kind of prompt decision from the education board & council is highly appreciable.

    Secondly, talking about the final year graduates and postgraduates including technical education run under AICTE, the impacts are more severe. All the mid-semester examinations are already postponed by most of the colleges & universities, and such kind of delay will undoubtedly affect their career.

    AICTE has recommended the final year B.Tech students to carry out their internship only in those companies, which are allowing work from home. AICTE has made internship mandatory to get the B.Tech certificate. Moreover, their final semester examinations are also postponed, which may subsequently delay the declaration of result. It may be mentioned here that, at the time, when they will complete their graduation and post-graduation, probably a global recession is likely to surface across the country and in the world. 

    The International Labour Organization (ILO) in its COVID-19 monitor 1st edition report tilled -COVID-19 and the world of work: impact and policy responses –  published on March 18, 2020, has clearly mentioned that- “the COVID-19 crisis has already transformed into an economic and labour market shock, impacting not only supply (production of goods and services) but also demand (consumption & investment)”.

    Further to this, the report pointed out that, “prospects for the economy and the quantity and quality of employment are deteriorating rapidly in the wake of the COVID-19”. In terms of the unemployment crisis in view of COVID-19, the report has estimated the rise in global unemployment of 5.3 million subjects to the low scenario of COVID-19 crisis and 24.7 million subjects to the high scenario from a base level of 188 million in 2019.

    If we go by these statements and figures, it would not be wrong to say that, we need to find out solutions immediately by chalking out a plan to help final year students to complete their courses and other academic activities in time without further delay so that, they get their degrees before surfacing major economic recession. If the lockdown, particularly for education institution continues, authorities must opt for online mid-term/final assessment and other mandatory assessments in the greater interest of careers of the students.

    Meanwhile, the government has on a priority basis stressing on skilling up the rural as well as urban youths to trounce the unemployment crisis. As all the skill development training centres are being closed down since the second week of March 2020 including Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), which result in potentially slowing down the rapidity of the skill training process. The prolong lockdown may also likely increase a high risk of drop out of trainees, as all will go back to their home; it is now a big question that, how many of them will return to the training centres, basically trainees that are enrolled for short term NCVT/SSC courses that taught as per National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF).

    Moreover, it also creates an additional challenge to counsellors of training centres to get back them to the centre. Hence, time to time phone counselling or video counselling is paramount necessary and to keep them motivated, need of the hour is to allow them to engage daily in various assignment and quiz session or initiating crash course approach through digital learning resources so that they won’t lose their interest and come back to the training centres as and when lockdown gets withdrawn.

    On the other hand, PSUs like OIL, ONGC, NRL, IOCL, ONGC, BPCL, SAIL etc. has been directed to engage apprentices for training in various technical & non-technical trades/disciplines as a part of the national policy on skill development & entrepreneurship for creating skilled manpower in India. For already selected apprenticeship trainees, the training duration must be increased on compensate ground due to the lockdown and notified more apprenticeship vacancies measuring the magnitude of the impact likely to emerge in terms of unemployment in coming days.

    Anticipating the length of the lockdown of educational institutions & skill training centres, its high time is to explore vivid innovative concept & methodology by mobilizing teachers and trainers to continue their services to learners. As the government and private offices implemented work from home approach, same way knowledge can be disseminated to the learners without blocking the learning process through “ teaching & training anytime from anywhere” approach. In the same time, it is pertinent to look at the scopes at innovative practice in the distance and online education and training.

    Meanwhile, the University Grant Commission (UGC) has formed a seven-member expert panel comprising of various universities Vice-Chancellors (VCs) to look into the issue of academic loss in higher education and to make a concrete way forward plan to start academic session 2020-21.

    In addition to this, a committee is also formed under the chairmanship of VC of IGNOU to promote online education and make advisories to implement online examination process as most of the mid-semester as well as end-semester examination are being postponed in view of the pan India lockdown.

    In this hour of crisis, online knowledge exchanging is one of the key solutions to continue the students learning process. While implementing e-learning windows, many challenges are evolved – a) in quality of resources/contents, b) hurdles in accessing and using e-learning by learners, c) standards of delivering of online training & skill development, d) adaptability towards the e-learning etc. Gauging the importance of web-based learning in this hour of crisis; experts from various fields may voluntarily help our future brigades’ to overcome the difficulties.

    Moreover, the Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA) has requested UGC to extend the submission of M. Phil & PhD thesis of research scholars for six months as during the lockdown period they are unable to continue their activities like- fieldwork, laboratory library activities etc.

     Furthermore, to mitigate the possible negative impacts after the opening of educational & training institutions, it is crucial to make a roadmap to fill up the gap in learning. Considering the prevailing situation, all stakeholders i.e. government, school boards and councils, universities, training providers, academicians, individuals, etc. need to come together by sharing their ideas to maintain continued learning and skill-building for students and underemployment youths.

    The views expressed by the author are personal and may not in any way represent those of TIME8.

    Photo credit: indianfolk.com

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