Off late, I am getting exposed to the tremendous harm Covid has done to the Indian education system.
For two years there were no classes, virtues of so-called online education were less said the better and online examinations were worse. Our children got accustomed to staying at home. Though undesirable, they had no other way out. They had to save themselves from the ravages of Covid pandemic.
Staying at home was like opting for the lesser evil. But it is also true that this prolonged unintended incarceration has affected not only their appetite for acquiring knowledge, but also hampered their growth in social interactions, logical thinking and ability to absorb the essence of the subjects.
These losses in academic world will not only produce disoriented and unemployable youths in immediate future, but also result in irreparable losses to our nation in the long run.
We are making a mistake of restarting offline classes and in-person examinations abruptly. What we need is a bridge period to bring them back to normal class systems after making them recapitulate their lost classes in fast forward manner. Even if it means losing one year of their academic life, be it. But it will augur well for their collective future and future of the nation.
I am witness to the lost generation of the early seventies in West Bengal. In the peak of the violent epoch of political turmoil, schools and colleges were completely dysfunctional for almost two to three years and copying was rampant in the board, school and college examinations. It took almost a decade to bring back the education system to its normal status.
I have experienced how it produced a generation of unemployable youths who became cannon fodder of political tug of wars in the following decades and led to sharp decline in West Bengal’s economy. My analysis says that Bengal is still recovering from that trauma and the relics of the lost generation are telling on West Bengal’s polity, culture and economic progress.
The effect of Covid on our education system is much more pervasive and pan Indian. No institution, including the famed and pampered ones, have remained unaffected. The degrees may differ a bit here and there. If we do not heal it now, it will cast a long lasting shadow on the innovation potential of the Indian youth and consequently on India’s journey towards better and more better economic prosperity.
Tapan Misra, the author, is a distinguished Scientist. He is founder of SISIR Radar and has been Director Space Applications Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)