Tuesday, 3 October, 2023

Impact Of Pandemic On Academic Sector

Prasun Sangroula


After the emergence of Covid-19, a lot of sectors have been highly affected, and the academic sector is one of them. 
In the context of Nepal, let‘s begin with Secondary Education Examination (SEE) which is considered as an iron gate in the Nepali education sector. The exam which was scheduled for March 20, 2019, was postponed on March 19 due to the risk of coronavirus, has finally found its way out. On the 10th of June, the government canceled the 2019 SEE examination and has decided to promote students based on an internal evaluation that will be carried out by respective schools.
The decision of cancelling SEE examination was well received by most of the people. This will be a new practice in regards to SEE but, the new practice will have a high chance of inviting new challenges. Since the schools have got full authority to promote the students based on an internal evaluation, we can’t deny the fact that some parents will even try to bribe the teachers so that their child can secure good grades. 
Reportedly, the guardians have started pressurising the school’s authority to provide first-class grade for their child. This can be a serious threat to the entire education sector. Let’s hope the monitoring body will strictly look after these things.
Akin to SEE there are other exams of different levels that are postponed due to the risks related to coronavirus. There is no any clue when those exams will be held. As per reports, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Giriraj Mani Pokharel and other concerned bodies have been holding talks with stakeholders and experts to prepare for the exams.
Globally, the education sector is having a harsh time in the present scenario. To contain the virus most governments around the world have temporarily closed their educational institutions. The UNESCO states, the nationwide closures are impacting over 60 per cent of the world’s student population. To restrain the situation, online classes have been launched by various schools and colleges in Nepal. Similarly, to support the initiation telecom companies have facilitated various options in education package so that students can benefit from the online class at an affordable price. 
The privilege of online classes cannot be similar to everyone. It can be accessed by only those who have proper access to the internet, but someone who resides in a remote area with poor access to the internet will be deprived of it.  
I am personally attending online classes on a regular basis but some of my friends are detached with it, they are having hard time to attend the virtual classes. Likewise, they even complain that the educational data packages are not worthy as it was supposed to be. The concerned authority should immediately look after it and address the issue as soon as possible.  
Undoubtedly, there are a number of students who have been deprived of education in this pandemic due to unavailable internet access. So in this regard, after the end of academic closure, will the academic institution revise the course and extend the assignment submission deadline for those students who were underprivileged to attend virtual classes? This is a very serious question that hundreds of students have raised in their minds.  
Another big issue related to online class is unavailability of books and other reading materials in digital version. This can seriously hamper in student’s education. The universities and other concerned bodies should immediately work on facilitating reading materials digitally.
The closure of academic institutions has not only affected the students, but the teachers and other officials. The teachers and other employees haven not got their salaries for the last couple of months. Schools and colleges have sent bills to the guardians, but paying fees in time like this is not in the priority of most of the guardians. The UNESCO also reports, around 63 million primary and secondary teachers around the world are affected by school closures in 165 countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  
To make the classes effective and educate a large number of students at once the Government of Nepal from June 1 started classes of grade 1 to 10 via TV, radio, and internet which is an appreciative move. 
Nobody knows for how long this will continue, and to tackle the situation the concerned authority must keep working on exploring alternate ways to educate the students.
For now, the major problem to operate online classes is the digital divide prevailing among the students which needs to be removed as soon as possible. To overcome all these issues the government, telecom companies, student union, teachers’ union and internet service providers should coordinate with each other and find a way out. 
Once the problems of the students are resolved, the problems of the teachers and other staff of academic institutions will also be gradually resolved.  

(Sangroula is currently pursuing Master’s Degree in Journalism at the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, TU.)