COVID-19 Has Interrupted Education. Have We Learnt Any Lessons?

The worldwide impact of Covid-19 is intricate and is clearly manifested in most sectors, especially in the education, economic, and health sectors. Every country’s first purpose is to alleviate its effects on society and help in diminishing the spread of the virus in general, particularly in extremely vulnerable areas. In contrast to other countries, Pakistan is among those countries that are facing health illiteracy and a relative lack of medical resources.

As of 15 March 2021, Pakistan has reported 58,500 confirmed active cases, 4,220 patients currently hospitalized, and the recent deaths stand at 14,697. Based on global consensus, the medical researcher and public health officials suggested limiting the traditional mode of teaching (face-to-face) as a means of lessening the number of students and prevent the community at large from the spread of the virus.

The quality of education can’t be improved unless its populace is educated and literate. An illiterate population can neither understand their role as an individual nor can contribute to nation-building. The progress of any country is linked with education, both at individual and national levels.

In response to a potential outbreak worldwide, all public and private educational institutions were advised to shift from face-to-face to online learning as a replacement for on-site teaching platforms. Along with this, the government of Pakistan announced other alternatives for public schools (e.g., TeleSchool and Taleem Ghar) to involve students with their academic work from home and keep them in touch with the schooling process. On the other side, the private educational institutes have the freedom to plan according to the suitable mode of learning, using several e-learning platforms such as Google meet, Google Classrooms, Schoology, Moodle, Seesaw, Blackboard, and Zoom.

Use of technology in education is mandated by Coronavirus

Anyhow, for the first time in the province of Punjab, the ministry of education has announced a strategy of “Revolution in access to education” that will help more than 27,000 public schools in up-gradation and retain 4,000,000 (million) students in schools to control the dropout rate and access issues. However, due to the exponential spread of coronavirus, in the year 2020, the Ministry devised a strategy of “Promotion-to-next-class” based on the past year's results of students’ performance. Conversely, this year, several appropriate interventions are made for students’ assessment from grade I-XII. Nevertheless, the universities will implement the assessment methods endorsed by HEC (Higher Education Commission). Additionally, various initiatives are taken with the purpose of quality education and assurance in implementing the Ministry plan at both provincial and nationwide.

However, in Pakistan, most educators and stakeholders are dissatisfied with government policies and argue that each educational policy has been unsuccessful at the stage of implementation; so how anyone can determine the revolution at any level concerning its progress. And the reason is that the decisions are made on wrong footings; disparities, chaos, fanaticism, and sectarianism. Prior to implementing the “Revolution in access to education” plan, the government has failed in implementing equal education throughout the country. Although, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the second-highest country where approximately seven million children are not receiving even the basic education; most of them are from deprived families. Concrete arrangements for quality education don't seem to be enforced.

Coronavirus has fundamentally shifted learning

On the other side, government school associations are protesting for their right against the approach of 'education is business' - in terms of non-government educational institutions offering low risk and high return. In addition, the other major prominent issue is the curriculum that has no uniformity. Therefore, constant changes in constitution and laws can never improve education; despite this, there should be practical intentions to improve education. A nation-wide drive to bring awareness about this important cause under the banner of “Education for All”, designing a closed and controlled virtual system for learning, using social media forums and collaboration with educational institutes or a mix of these steps can prove as a successful strategy.

Joining hands to support government vision instead of criticism, will not only help our nation to come out from the darkness of illiteracy and ignorance but tame it, help it prosper, and ensure a peaceful, developed, and educated Pakistan.

Studies in the related literature demonstrated that knowledge contributes to the individuality of a person which is the basic unit of any society. The world is at the tip of our fingers these days. Internet and access to information have integrated us and resulted in globalization. To make this opportunity result-oriented in developing countries like Pakistan, we can develop learning apps, videos, games, and demos on different topics targeting different age groups and addressing different issues. These programs can be aimed at promoting tolerance and pluralism as this is the most important thing, we as a society need. The cognition and enlightenment deep-rooted in contemporary knowledge are the only tools that can cut the roots of extremism and make Pakistan a progressive and modern state.

Education is the only remedy that can transform this human capital of almost 90 million into a developed and skilled stock, and change the outlook of the society by re-hauling it from the very core. These ideas can be materialized to help them groom, build civic sense, learn moral values and their societal responsibilities in an individual and collective capacity. Providing education and imparting cognition will help them see this world in an objective and realistic manner.

Unless and until we plan and reform our education system, Pakistan will keep facing the tides of anarchy and keep lagging behind in the comity of development. We will have to impose a uniform education system for all provinces. We will have to implement our national language as a medium of instruction, especially at the elementary level. The government should announce an education emergency and provide basic resources to each school at the rural and urban levels equally. As soon as we reach a 100 percent literacy rate, our economy and defense will automatically be strengthened. There is infinite determination, and untapped resources, we can sum on for the restoration, not only of education’s basic services but of its fundamental aspirations.

It is not only the responsibility of governments but also the education stakeholders and educators to stay stick to principles and help the government in conducting reforms. Doing so, not only the students but the country as a whole will regain promised future.