Covid-19 Challenges and Responses to Online Education: Study of an NGO
In this post, Kajal Kumar Dutta writes about the methodology and findings of the study that he conducted at an NGO that provides education to children in Vadodara, Gujarat. He shares the insights into the challenges and responses of the NGO in handling the crisis of online education in the times of Covid-19.
Rapid changes in technology in the last few decades have brought significant development and growth in many parts of the world in terms of improved productivity, reduction in cost, multiple features, speed of communication, and so on. Technology is now being used in the education system to support both teaching and learning. (NEP, 2020). The classrooms are equipped with advanced digital technological learning tools such as smart TV, projectors, computers, tablets, smart mobile devices, and the internet. Schools and universities are offering a variety of online courses, experiences, and learning materials. (Cook, 2014). Such digital technology-based learning apps are building 21st-century skills, increasing student & teacher engagement and motivation, and accelerating learning (US Department Of Education, 2020). The web can increase educational productivity by accelerating the rate of learning, reducing educational costs associated with instructional materials or program delivery, and optimising teachers' time. (Ruth Reynard, 2017). Online and digital education can be reaped through digital literacy, digital pedagogy, and online examination. This will enrich the teaching and learning process. (NEP, 2020). However, it is important to ensure that open educational resources meet standards of quality, integrity, and accuracy—as with any other educational resource—and that they are accessible across geographies, languages, levels. (Purdue University, USA, 2020). (NEP, 2020).
Students' Need for Technology in the Classroom
In modern times, students are largely relying on technology in their everyday lives. They frequently use smartphones and tablets outside of school hours from a young age. Integration of technology in the classroom is, therefore, becoming a necessity in the education system. It helps students stay engaged during class by using a familiar tool for academic learning. By incorporating modern technology like artificial intelligence, for instance, teachers can develop more creative and innovative lesson plans to hold the attention of their classes. (Cook, 2014). (University of The People, USA, 2020). E-book technology enables online education, distance learning, and access to up-to-date information. (Cook, 2014).
How Technology is Removing Barriers in Education
The cost of education has significantly reduced, with options like online degrees and by eliminating the need to buy physical textbooks. Many academic journals offer full digital versions of books, scholarly articles in the university database, one need not travel to other places or countries for their study. Because of technology, education is becoming more flexible and accessible. (Mathur,2020, Reynard, 2017). In recent years, there is a growing popularity of online certification /degree courses, mobile learning, etc. which has removed the physical boundaries in education. (Cook, 2014). Various online technology like Kahoot, Trello, NearPod, Prezi, ClassDojo, etc., are facilitating effective interactions between students and teachers. (University Of The People, USA, 2020, Frezzo, 2017). Government Of India (GoI) through its New Education Policy emphasises the application of online e-learning platforms and tools such as SWAYAM, DIKSHA, SWAYAMPRABHA (NEP, 2020).
Covid-19 Pandemic and Online Education - NGO Initiatives
NGOs are gearing up their educational activities for the underprivileged children, by adopting new technologies in education and giving them access to a computer lab with internet connections, providing tablets, smartphones to meet their online educational needs (The CSR Journal, 2020, Education World, 2020). GoI is facilitating learning for all students, with special emphasis on Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Groups (SEDGs), by broadening the scope of school education with multiple pathways to learning through a digital repository, online assessment & examination, blended model of learning involving both formal and non-formal education modes (NEP, 2020). Though the arrangement of necessary digital devices required for attending online classes in the Covid-19 pandemic is easily accessible to mainstream children, it is imperative to understand how underprivileged children are getting access to the online education system and digital learning. With the above-mentioned background, a study of one Vadodara based NGO was conducted to understand how the NGO is responding to the challenge of online education in the Covid-19 pandemic.
Study of a Vadodara-based NGO
Srotoshwini Trust, a registered Vadodara, Gujarat, India based NGO as per the Indian Society Act was, visited for the study. The Trust was established in the year 2010 by like-minded empowered women of Vadodara. In the year 2013, the volunteers of the Trust started “Footpath Pathshala”, a mobile learning center for the educational development of street children, slum children, children of EWS, children of construction workers. The hostel campus with an accommodation capacity of 50 girls and 50 boys was established in the year Sept’2019 in Village Lasundra, Savli Taluka, Dist: Vadodara. Presently 79 underprivileged children are staying in the hostel along with resident functionary/teachers/staff. The children are enrolled in a School in Vadodara city which follows the Gujarat Board syllabus and examinations are held as per the National School Of Open Schooling (NIOS) system.
Objectives of the Study
1. To study the set-up of the hostel
2. To study how the NGO has responded to the challenge of online education in the Covid-19 pandemic
3. To study the initiatives taken by NGO and the benefits of online education as perceived by the resident teachers/children of the hotel
Design of the Study
The design of the study is a case study. One Vadodara-based registered NGO was selected using the purposive sampling technique for the study. The NGO satisfied the stringent conditions of transparency, governance, and demonstrated impact on beneficiaries, and represented the most mature Vadodara-based NGO in the sector in terms of size and scale. The study was conducted at the Pathshala hostel campus.
Sampling Technique, Tools, Nature of Data Collection and Analysis
The sources of data were the functionaries & teachers of the NGO and the documents of the NGOs. The nature of the data was descriptive and quantitative.
The participants of the NGO were selected using the purposive sampling technique. Participants included functionaries, management committee members, teachers & students. The total number of participants were twenty-one.
Image 1: Sample Size
The tools for the study were unstructured interviews. Two-way data collection was made:
a) Primary data collection by un-structured interview
b) Secondary data collection from annual reports, brochures, web site.
The data collected in the study was analyzed using the technique of content analysis.
Findings of the Study
The class wise distribution of Pathshala hostel children is represented below:
Image 2: The class wise distribution of Pathshala hostel children
The graphical representation of the class wise distribution of Pathshala hostel children given below:
Image 3: Graphical representation of the class wise distribution of Pathshala hostel children
The list of teachers (school teachers not included) imparting coaching to the children at Pathshala hostel is represented below:
Image 4: The list of teachers (school teachers not included) imparting coaching to the children at Pathshala hostel
Image 5: Graphical distribution of resident and non-resident teachers
75% of the teachers are non-residential and hence, depend on on-line teaching to cover the school syllabus as per Gujarat State Education Board (GSEB)
79% of the students are from junior section to 6th class. They are not exposed to computer applications.
21% of the student represents 7th class to undergraduate class who are given training on computer applications.
The major challenges faced by the NGO during the Covid-19 pandemic are presented below:
The present computer set up in the hostel is not adequate to meet online education.
NGO never anticipated the Covid-19 challenge and hence any digital technology, online education system, etc. were not envisaged while developing the hostel infrastructure.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the school started providing online education for students of class 7th and above which covers only 21% of the student population of the hostel.
Due to the funding crisis, limited numbers of tablets and smart mobile sets were augmented to attend online classes.
In the absence of separate classrooms, the students of all classes attend the online classes in one room.
79% of the students are deprived of online school classes.
Due to Covid-19 lockdown, the visit of teachers at the hostel was reduced. The resident teaches/staff are teaching the students to cover the syllabus.
The teachers appointed by the NGO are not skilled/equipped enough to take online classes.
The NGO is facing additional financial impact due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Operational cost increased by 15-20 %.
Initiatives taken for an online education system:
New online classrooms and digital learning centre is being set-up
Computers, internet with higher bandwidth, headphone, smart TV sets are being augmented
This facility will cater to students of class II onwards which will cover 57% of the students.
Planning to subscribe to various digital learning tools
Teachers' and students' training in online class/digital learning etc. is planned.
The participants think that though there are substantial benefits of online education, for underprivileged children, face-to-face teaching is also necessary to address their emotional needs. A blended model of teaching may be a better option.
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GOI (2009). The right of Children to free and compulsory Education Act 2009, Ministry of Law and Justice, Government Of India.
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Kajal Kumar Dutta is a Bachelor of Engineering - Mechanical, the year 1982 from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal, India. He did his post-graduation in Statistical Quality Control and Operation Research from Indian Statistical Institute. He has 37 years of professional experience in the Power Sector. He retired from Larsen & Toubro Limited, an Indian multinational company in the year 2019. He is presently working as a freelance consultant in the field of Power Sector, Project Management, and Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO). He is also Associate Professor at GSFC University, Vadodara, Gujarat, India and a research scholar from Navrachana University, Vadodara, Gujarat, India. His research is related to the education organized by NGOs.