The COVID-19 pandemic is a medical emergency but it has triggered multiple troubles in the society. The nations across the globe have been forced to go into lockdown to contain the transmission of the deadly virus with strict social distancing measures. As the prolonged lockdown compelled the people to stay indoors, all normal activities related to economy, administration, education and sports, among others, were affected. In Nepal, scheduled exams of SEE, Grade 11 and 12 were postponed. This was a blow to the students ready to sit for the examinations. Though the government decided to cancel the Secondary School Examination (SEE) exams for this year, the decisions on the exams of 11 and 12 are yet to be made. The school-going students have also undergone traumatic experiences as they could not attend the classes. Although the government has drastically eased the lockdown and allowed conducting economic activities with necessary precautions, the students can’t go to schools and colleges to continue their study in the existing condition because they risk transmitting virus from one person to another. Schools are the communal learning places where teachers and students gather for teaching and learning, which can pose a virus threat to all involved in it.
Against this backdrop, the government has launched the alternative learning for the school-going students through online, radio, television and other communication means so that they will not be deprived of classroom education until the pandemic’s threat subsides and schools reopen. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will arrange learning materials to those who have access to radios and offline materials to those having computer facilities. Students having access to internet and all kinds of communication facilities will join the online classes. This is the appropriate approach to mitigate the impact of lockdown in learning pattern. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has urged all school-going students to participate in the alternative learning and saying that the schools will resume the pedagogic activities once the COVID-19 pandemic is taken under control. Stating that the pandemic has inspired the government to look for alternative to SEE, the PM noted that the alternative learning method will play an important role in educating the students and preventing the waste of entire academic year.
To implement the idea of alternative learning, the government had unveiled ‘Directives on Student’s Learning Facilitation through Alternative Media, 2077’ two weeks ago. The Directives stipulates that the federal, state and local governments should reach out to all students and facilitate them for effectively participate in the alternative learning process. Compared with brick-and-mortar education, the alternative learning lacks physical interaction and interpersonal relations between the students and teachers essential for their intellectual growth. For example, students studying science can’t conduct experiments through the online instructions. Speaking frankly, practical skills and knowledge offered by the traditional classes are not available in the alternative learning activity. Still we do not have alternative to the alternative learning at the moment. In addition to enabling the students to keep abreast of curricular contents, the alternative learning inspires students to cope with new societal challenges posed by the pandemic. With the embrace of IT technology, the new generation will be more competent, educated and professionally able to meet the needs of abnormal and specific circumstances.