Impact of Covid-19 on Education Sector
-By Riya Jain
Even hearing the dreaded six-lettered word sends shivers down our spine: CORONA. Amidst the unprecedented and unpredicted circumstances that Corona has brought with its spread, one sector that the virus has hit directly is the Education sector.
It has been estimated that, in the coming two years, the global output will face a loss of approximately $8.5 trillion and nearly 34 million people across the globe will be pushed into, if not absolute, extreme poverty. But that’s not all. According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, by April 2020 itself, about 27 million youth between the age group of 20-30 years had already lost their jobs and this number is unlikely to stop any time soon. Hence, we’re being aroused with questions that are simply phrased, yet, finding their answers is daunting: What does our unforeseen future hold for us? And is Higher Education an investment with such bleak prospects?
To go to colleges or not, that has been a question that was put into the forefront a decade ago. The fact that Corona has only made already existing problems even worse (like inadequacy of health infrastructure and labour issues) has not spared this question. Let us first associate ourselves with what students are thinking. Despite all the efforts, students haven’t been inclined to continue their education after 12th grade. In a survey conducted by Studyportals, 49% of students wanted to postpone their admissions into colleges until the next year or even the year after and 41% reluctantly agreed to enrol into an online course/degree. Only 11% were still inclined to study abroad while the numbers opting for a domestic college grew to 21%. And a staggering 12% decided not to study at all. Will this be fruitful for our future? Education isn’t only opting a course in a college and then doing the syllabus, education is a process of inviting truth and possibility, of encouraging and giving time to discovery, of attaining exposure to the workings and people of the world. It is, as John Dewey (1916) put it, a social process – ‘a process of living and not a preparation for future living’. So, what happens when our torch-bearers aren’t inclined to such terms of Education?
As per the data provided by UNESCO, around the world, schools and colleges in more than 114 countries have been shut down, affecting more than 1 billion students. And this is where digitalization comes in: Classes on Zoom, Cisco Webex, Google Meet, Whereby and god knows what other mediums, project submissions via Whatsapp and a rapid increase in e-mails. We’ve been stuck to our screens like moths to light. With the online segment still comprising a small fraction of the $2.2 trillion global higher education market — less than 2%, according to market intelligence firm HolonIQ — the market is ripe for disruption. The appetite of students for online offerings will likely grow because of COVID-19. But we can’t neglect the digital gap it would create. Even if it’s hard to believe, 4 billion people across the world don’t have access to the internet. What, then, happens to these 4 billion? Easy, they are unable to reap the benefits that they already had limited access to, pushing them further towards the edges of the world, reduce their living standards and in brief, creates a crisis.
Not only this, but there are also chances that the 2020 placement season may witness a dip as the World Economy is going through a massive decline. With more and more companies requesting an 'outplacement', wherein support service is provided by some organizations to help former employees transition to new jobs or are deferring their joining dates, it will not be aggressive to assume that globally, we are heading towards a major recession in 2020.
The effects can be compared with the Great Recession of 2008. In the year 2008-09, students opted out of colleges, whose admissions fell to a staggering 40% to what was earlier. But it reaped positive benefits as well. After the Great Recession, colleges started to lure students in droves with bigger discounts on the sticker price. The average discount rate for first-time freshmen — the share of tuition revenue schools gives to students in the form of scholarships — has risen 10 percentage points in the past decade, to a record 50 per cent, at private colleges, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Because the Great Recession led to a significant decline in state taxpayer appropriations to public colleges, they put their tuition on sale, too, particularly to attract out-of-state students who already paid higher prices. The average discount rate for students at public colleges was 16 per cent in 2017, according to a study by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a higher-education consulting company. For out-of-state students, it was even higher: 23 per cent. The increase in the discount rate has been the result of an all-out pricing war among a broad selection of public and private schools, leading some to simply cut their tuition to the price students are essentially paying after the discount anyway. Thus, we may say that Covid-19 could reap some similar benefits.
The switch to online education has been ensuring that students suffer no loss of studies and their progress is being tracked simultaneously with timely evaluation. It is probably a first for India to experiment with the education system and make a paradigm shift to the virtual world, blending classrooms with online learning. And this may further lead to an increase in creativity, something that colleges sometimes lack. Boosting retention of the syllabus by using innovative technology, the universities are also engaging students to learn by choice and not just by their physical presence in a classroom. Courses on sites like Udemy, Edx etc. are being offered by colleges on a subsidised rate, something that colleges have never done. Some of the universities are also offering courses related to the fourth industrial revolution, which will stimulate the minds of the students and inspire them to bring a change in their respective fields. Gaining popularity worldwide, online education is nourishing a lot many inquisitive students, instead of giving in to the circumstances. COVID-19 has struck our education system like a lightning bolt and shaken it to its core. Just as the First Industrial Revolution forged today’s system of education, we can expect a different kind of educational model to emerge from COVID-19.
One of the opportunities to focus amidst the crisis is the virtual internships, which are allowing the students to go beyond their curriculum and learn about the practicality of their professions. After the Great Recession, internships (paid and unpaid) increased to a booming 57%. Another value addition for the field of education and thus students is the way universities are encouraging them to observe the current scenario and understand the need to automate. This will further allow them to digitalise their fields shortly along with preparing them for any such situations.
Furthermore, as already mentioned, colleges would be more inclined to attract students. This could lead to not only lead to deductions in price but also a cut in admission cut-offs and expectations, an increase in scholarship availability as well as an upsurge in the number of seats.
The primary thing we ought to focus on is how to help the underprivileged, the group that would be the most affected in such circumstances. Hence, we come to a cessation; Covid-19’s impact on the Education sector in respect to students is Herculean. Although it can be made out that Covid-19 has shaken up this sector and poured out both good and bad from the lap of this industry, the results can be determined by us, the students, only. Whether we use this time to reap more than we sow or come to a standstill with the crisis, that’s for us to decide.