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The Future Of Education Post The Corona Pandemic

Wars and pandemics always give rise to scientific discoveries, inventions and most importantly –new methodologies.

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The closure of educational institutions worldwide has severely hit students, parents and teachers. Reeling from the shock of this unprecedented disaster they may be wondering what is the future of education? 

When the war against the corona-virus will finally be won, we may realize that not every aspect of a pandemic is necessarily dysfunctional. When the Great Plague in the 14th Century wiped out half of Europe’s population causing a sudden shortage of farm-labor, it led to farm-mechanization and ultimately industrialization. The Spanish Flu between 1918-1920 that claimed about 100 million deaths worldwide led to the recognition of nursing as a profession for women, the use of masks and the invention of the influenza vaccine.

Wars and pandemics always give rise to scientific discoveries, inventions and most importantly –new methodologies. World Wars I and II led to the invention of plastic surgery, zips, stainless steel, wrist watches, radars, walkie-talkies, night-vision devices, duct tape, missiles and nuclear technology. The oil crisis of the early seventies led to a search for alternative sources and renewable energy.

This time too, one key area of transformation will be the area of education. Remote education will become a recognized alternative to conventional education. It is less capital intensive and synergizes with the need to improve the digital competence of students. Virtual education will revolutionize higher education because such students have a higher adaptability to technology and online portals. Even for school education, from physical classrooms, education is being forced to move online – this may henceforth just become the norm. Virtual education will be a great social leveler for those who are economically disadvantaged and cannot afford to commute long distances. 

Already many companies have jumped into this field. One example is the company edX that has been founded by Harvard and MIT and already has 20 million users. It has courses for all categories – with technical topics ranging from technical ones like computer science to liberal arts ones like leadership and literature. Another such global company is Coursera. These companies feed a market need for modular credentials that will allow students to study from wherever they are – in a flexible manner in real time.

Recently Harvard University (which has a huge campus and a university-city of its own – Cambridge) announced that all teaching would go online until further instructions. Students were asked not to return from Spring break and those already on campus were given packing grants and asked to leave residential facilities immediately. Harvard’s program for virtual education is to be served with, in the words of its President Lawrence Bacow, “creativity, flexibility judgement, patience and resilience.” Teaching faculty and students have been exhorted to adapt quickly to this new pedagogy. Of course, students can argue that having paid a hefty tuition fees they will be denied the opportunity to get the authentic physical experience and network benefits of studying in a top class university. However, keeping in view the need to stay ahead of the innovation curve, this is likely to get established in due course as a fundamental requirement with a reduction in on-campus curriculum length and the likely shifting of some elective courses online.

Even in India there are dozens of start-ups and Universities that have begun to offer online courses. Structured and regulated properly, online education will enable the association of scarce and talented outside faculty necessary to make a difference. However, those educational institutions that do not adapt to digital teaching may even be rendered uncompetitive and operationally unsustainable.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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coronavirus outbreak coronavirus pandemic Wuhan Virus

Raghav Chandra

Former Secretary Government of India

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