Off to online

November 29, 2020

When schools are closed again, everyone — from teachers to students — has to suffer some disadvantage

Photo by Rahat Dar

I still remember the last lockdown — in March this year. There was a rush to shift education to online mode as soon as possible. In doing so, many schools and universities created a situation to the students’ detriment.

In this new environment of online learning, there were several hurdles to be faced which, owing to the short notice of it, could unfortunately not be overcome. However, there was hope that should this situation recur, with educational institutions shifting to online mode of education once again, the mistakes made earlier would not be repeated and a better environment for education would be created. Alas, that has not been the case.

I remember the night before the government was to announce its decision regarding the closure of universities. I could not help but feel anxious about what would happen.

The closure of educational institutes across the country this time around has again been detrimental for all stakeholders. Everyone, from teachers to students, has to suffer some disadvantage. After all, the disadvantages and problems associated with online education are well known at this point, and for all its advantages, it ultimately results in more harm than good.

However, despite the absolute need for closure of educational institutions, I cannot help but think that there could’ve been a different action plan, perhaps developed during the weeks and months leading up to the second wave of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown. It might have helped make this shift a less frustrating one. After all, it was not too difficult to imagine a few months ago that we might encounter a second wave of the pandemic. Steps could have been taken accordingly.

The stark differences in educational styles of schools and universities should have meant that the two were treated to different methods of closing. The difference in level of maturity and understanding should also have been a factor in the decisions.

A school-going child does not fully comprehend the seriousness of Covid, and cannot seriously be expected to follow the stringent SOPs.

The stark differences in educational styles of schools and universities should have meant that both were treated to different methods of closing. The difference in level of maturity and understanding should also have been a factor in the decisions.

Their relatively flexible and lower education level also meant that an online mode of education, damaging as it is, would still not have as big an effect on their education as it would on university students. There is no denying that the closure of schools was perhaps the best possible decision in light of everything that has taken place. It can even be argued that schools should not have been opened in the first place, as they could easily have continued in the online mode following the first lockdown.

While the situation with schools seems relatively straightforward, things are not so easy when we talk about universities. The major reason is the hands-on and practical nature of education. With most courses having some form or the other of labs or practicals, an online and off-campus mode of education simply does not cut it for universities. Add to that the various research projects and presentations that make up a part of university education, as well as how academic dishonesty found in online education is much more problematic at the university level, it is easy to imagine the problems that closing of universities poses for students.

And when it comes to universities, I feel a better approach could have been to continue with the hybrid practice at a majority of universities where the SOPs were being followed to a great extent. And if universities had to be shut at all costs, it would have been better for the government to coordinate with them to allow for examinations to be held properly, or education to continue in a proper manner without disrupting things across the country.

In short, I do not believe the closing of educational institutes was handled in the best possible way. There were definitely steps that could have been taken to improve the situation.


The writer is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering at NUST, Islamabad. He can be reached at    [email protected]

School closure in Pakistan: Off to online