Amid the coronavirus crisis, educational systems are affected worldwide leading to the near-total closures of schools, universities and colleges. Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions and shifted their classes online using the technologies to the fullest to contain the spread of COVID-19. Students are learning and keeping their minds fresh despite the hardship the whole world has been facing. E-learning is the new face of modern-day education and it has created a greater opportunity for us to start a new era of learning and communication. If we see a bigger picture of E-Learning in the world, it is not as pleasant as it seems. In underdeveloped countries like ours, development of information technology and its application is education is lacking. Many parts of our country do not have suitable telecommunication and internet services. The growth of Information Communication Technology (ICT) has remained relatively restricted and centralised. If educational Institutions in Nepal initiate online classes it would be creating discrimination among the students who can access and who can’t. This pandemic has exposed the existence of digital divide. For some, the new technology would be a hindrance rather than help. In this current situation, only way to pursue education and also control the spread of the virus is distance learning. How can Nepali students continue their education during this crisis? This is a big question. As long as we don’t take necessary course of action timely, future of youths would be in uncertainty and it is a matter of big concern. Now is the right time for Nepal to transform the conventional system of education and adopt new system making the use of technology. It’s a great opportunity to revolutionise our education and give due priority to the field of science and technology. We must modernise our education system not only to contain COVID-19 but also to produce globally competetent human resources. It will make the learning process more effective and interesting for the students by boosting participation, encouraging engagement and making a way for better context-based learning. Teachers will significantly improve teaching with the countless online resources and having virtual learning environment in schools will enhanced collaboration and knowledge sharing between them. It will help provide education to people in rural areas through digital technology and will lower the cost of textbooks and tuition fees. Also, it can be a major solution to check brain drain from which we have been suffering for a long time. The Internet is the first technology since the printing press which could lower the cost of a great education and, in doing so, make the cost-benefit analysis much easier for most students, says John Katzman, an American educator and author. “It could allow schools to serve twice as many students as they do now, and in ways that are both effective and cost-effective,” he adds. Recently, Nepal Telecom has initiated the “e-Shiksha Package” and Ncell has brought an offer called “Mobile class data pack” with the objective to help people conduct online classes of schools and universities during the lockdown period. These are only some examples and obviously it’s not enough. The government and the private sector must push forward and invest in tech education. A survey of teachers across the United States by an independent market research company found that 86 per cent of teacher-respondents agree that technology must be used in education. As of March 2019, the government of India is taking initiative to encourage colleges to offer online courses in rural areas to ensure education for all. The Indian government is also planning to raise a huge amount of money from private companies and high net worth individuals to finance the improvement of education infrastructure. I our neighbour can make a major breakthrough in the use of technology in education, then why not us? In some developing countries unsustainable plans on development of technology have resulted hardware billed solutions, creating expensive burden on themselves. There have been programmes such as one laptop for one child but the teachers lack skills and digital training to use them. So the computers end up locked inside drawers. As a consequence, they face unnecessary financial burdens and such investments spread misunderstanding of how best to invest in technological solutions. We should focus not just on hardware, but on the content, data sharing and system-wide connections. Many of us know Mahabir Pun’s work on self-sustaining educational system to address the scarcity of qualified teachers through technology. He took steps to ensure the success of the projects by providing computer training courses to teachers, supporting students by conducting economic projects and engaging hundreds of volunteers with wide ranging skills. To achieve this dream of progressing our nation towards education and technological prowess we need visionary leaders with systematic and effective plans. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made me realise how far Nepal is lagging behind in ICT. As they say,” Recognising your limitation is good but ignoring it is the worst”. Technology simply helps everyone to access education and the benefits are endless.
(Palikhe is a Bachelor’s Level second year student of computer engineering at Kathmandu Engineering College, Kalimati.)