Covid-19: Obstacle or Opportunity in Education?


I am in the future.

It’s the year 2050, and I am at a museum. Behind one panel lies a curious conglomerate of paper, pens and pencils, while another exhibit displays the archaic remnants of a chalkboard upon which a hint of ancient diagrams, markings and inscriptions still remain. I lift a dilapidated textbook, examining the scarcely discernible words of yesteryear. Suddenly, my surroundings dissolve before my eyes; my trip to the museum has finished, and I am returned to the comfort of my virtual classroom. Equipped with sophisticated AR headsets, 3D printers and flexible displays, I soar through the day’s lessons, safe in this flawless utopia of the future.

I am abruptly jolted back to consciousness. I’ve fallen asleep in my Maths class - again!

Such was the reality of my initial experience with school online. My classes fulfilled their academic purpose, but they were accompanied by a laborious monotony that often left me daydreaming during class hours. Maintaining attentiveness at home was an arduous task - it was alarmingly easy to shut off my camera or pick up my phone and lose track of time. And yet I am unequivocally, indisputably privileged: my struggles with boredom pale in comparison with the 53% of my country’s children that will be affected by learning poverty this year. The predicaments brought about by COVID-19 have exacerbated inequalities throughout India and the world, and can seem hopelessly insurmountable.

But are they?

Facing the consequences of a debilitating worldwide pandemic, it’s easy to feel hopeless - but it’s time to dismiss that mentality. I harbored no shortage of apprehensions when lockdown began last March, and my initial experiences with school online were exasperatingly dull. Nonetheless, I forced myself to attend every class that my school had to offer, ranging from personalized lectures in Biology class to worldwide conferences for Model UN - and slowly but surely, I began to see the truth. With the ability to learn from experts, professors and students from all across the globe, I gradually began to grasp the true gravity of my newfound discovery - that this new lifestyle had the potential to change the world.

Today, my education is more efficient than ever before, with online tools enabling a refreshingly coherent structure for my classes that invariably outweighs the boredom that I fought months ago. Ideas concerning virtual schooling and universally equitable education have been circulating for years, but, fascinatingly, the pandemic has forced them into motion.

The unexpected opportunities brought about by the pandemic indisputably eclipse its consequences - and it is our responsibility to harness them. With the help of educators, policy-makers and governments, we must work towards standardizing internet access, technological infrastructure and problem-based curricula for students worldwide, regardless of their social or financial backgrounds. Overall, in fact, if we choose to fully embrace the challenge presented to us and harness its opportunities rather than bemoan its burdens, who knows? Perhaps our future will not look too different from the vibrant utopia that I dreamed of in my Maths class.